Apparently, quite a bit. We have learned anecdotally that birthmothers often ask before or during a match what the adoptive parents intend to name the child. This makes sense to me, as names can be such an important part of an individual’s identity. I suspect that knowing what a child will be called helps to fill in a vision of his or her future.
...Which makes the question of what M. and I will name our child all the more troubling. What will a potential birthparent think if she asks and learns that we not only don’t know our kid’s first name, we don’t know his or her last name either?!
When M. and I began contemplating a life-long partnership, I brought up the question of changing my last name to his. I was somewhat surprised by our respective positions. Here I was - a proud feminist who emphasized in her undergrad thesis the importance of women retaining their family names in marriage to preserve independence – sharing that I’d be willing to take his last name as my own if it was important to him. And here he was - the only male descendant of his generation - indicating that he always assumed his wife would keep her name and that his family name would die with him. (Another example of why I love him.)
Fortunately, neither of us is so attached to our names – or was overly concerned about what our own families would think – that it became a big, contentious issue. But, we both do like our last names, particularly because they are evidence of our own dim cultural heritages.
So, when we made it official and got hitched, we didn’t do anything. We both happily (read: lazily) retained our own last names and chuckled (okay, sometimes we ground our teeth) when mail would arrive addressed to Mr. and Mrs. HisLastName.
Of course, the topic raised its head again as soon as we began planning to have a child. I expressed the preference that our nuclear family all share the same last name, to which M. concurred. We debated hyphenating, and also agreed that it isn’t ideal, as it usually just defers the naming dilemma to the next generation. We debated determining in advance that, say, if our child is female, she have M.’s last name, and if he’s male, he have mine, or vice versa. But then there’d be one person left out of our "family" name.
The solution that now seems most attractive to us is to create a whole new, original last name that we all could share. But which? I know of one couple that selected the name of the National Park where they met as their new last name. Unfortunately, Match.com just doesn’t work as well for us as Yellowstone did for them. The idea we like best at the moment is to combine the first syllable of his last name and the last syllable of mine. It makes a nice sounding last name that works pretty well with both of our first names. Truth be told, though, we are both a bit intimidated by the idea of announcing this change to our professional colleagues, not to mention the rigmarole of legalizing it.
So, we’ve got to come up with a good way of explaining all of this to a prospective birthmother without scaring her off. Any suggestions?
And then there is the issue of first names. This is something I spend more time thinking about than I probably should. It’s fun (most likely for the same reason it is a common question asked by birthmothers). When I hear of a name I hadn’t considered, I squirrel it away on a little list and wait to bring it up with M. after he’s had a glass of wine and seems in the mood to dream a bit about this child who is so late to arrive in our arms.
Fortunately, we are on very similar pages on this one. Matt expressed an early preference for avoiding: trendy names (like Ava), names that are spelled cr8tvleigh, and “made up Irish names like McKenzie and Declan.” I agreed…although I’ve noticed what we each think is too trendy hasn’t always matched, and some of the names he thinks fit into the last category, I think would be a nice tribute to his heritage, like using his very nice middle name: Quinn.
I suspect that if we had to this week (and I really wish we did!!), we could narrow our list to a half-dozen names for either gender that would be acceptable to both of us.
But then what? Should the birthfamily have any input? What if a birthmother is REALLY attached to a particular name, and we hate it? What if she just can’t stand any of our top contenders? And if we see names as a way to pay tribute to heritage, and birth heritage is an important part of an adopted child’s identity, how should the birthparents’ culture(s) influence our child’s name? Would it be just too weird to name our little Black son Lars, for example?
In most cases, birthparents determine the names that will go on the child’s original birth certificate, and adoptive parents determine the names that will go on a child’s amended birth certificate. I know of a few families, however, in which naming was well negotiated in advance, and everyone was happy about what name would go on the first document. That sounds really ideal.
I can tell you that if the names are determined and agreed upon before our baby arrives, they will NOT be widely shared until our kid is home with us. I know I’ve wrinkled my own nose reflexively too often upon learning a name of a loved one’s anticipated bundle of joy to risk the disappointment in opinions that advanced scrutiny might bring.
At least there is one (seemingly) simple part of this whole complex naming issue for our kid: we’ve determined the middle name! If it’s a girl, it will be Marie, like M.’s sisters’ middle name. If it is a boy, it will be Martin, as my mother and father both oddly share this middle name
….I’m glad I can’t see you wrinkling your nose.