First of all, I know I haven't posted in FOREVER, but Blogger for some reason isn't uploading my pictures! And posts without pictures aren't any fun! I don't know when I'll be able to upload them again though, so I figured I better just do a post without.
Okay, on to the topic of my post. One of the many interesting things about international adoption is the whole naming issue. When you receive a referral for a child or children, they already have a name. Maybe their name was given to them by birth parents, or by a caregiver, or by the person who found them if they had been abandoned. Regardless, they come with a name.
There is a lot of debate within the adoption community over whether adoptive parents should keep the child's given name, change it, keep it as a middle name, etc. Many things play into a parent's decision--the age of the child, who named them, what their given name is.
When Kevin and I received our referral for twin boys back in December, we waffled back and forth on what to do. Our sons were relinquished by their birth mother as unnamed, and were named Yosef and Biniam by a volunteer at Layla House, AAI's facility in Ethiopia. From the getgo we liked their Ethiopian names, but also wanted to give them names ourselves. We loved the names Ezra and Isaiah and made the decision to keep their Ethiopian names as middle names, and so they would be named Ezra Yosef and Isaiah Biniam. We felt once the boys were old enough they could choose which name to go by.
While we were in Ethiopia though we called them Yosef and Biniam. Some nicknames also emerged: Yos, Yosie, Bin, Binny. We planned to switch over to their new names once we got home.
Interestingly though, the name Ezra Yosef "stuck" more than Isaiah Biniam for most people. As for myelf, I could never seem to make the switch for either of them. I have rarely called them Ezra or Isaiah. To me they were Yosef and Biniam. A lot of people couldn't keep the names Ezra and Isaiah straight--I think perhaps the names are too similar. I've had different people ask me in a surprised voice why we switched the names. AND, perhaps the biggest issue we have come across, has been the few times where I have gotten the impression that people are against anything more ethnic-sounding than the name Bob. That made me sad because while we had good reasons for our initial choice, Kevin and I NEVER wanted, nor want, to gloss over or erase any part of our sons' heritage or past. I want my kids to have a healthy sense of self and identity. Part of that means being comfortable with where you came from, with who you are, and with where you're headed.
After a LOT of discussion, we have made the decision to keep Yosef and Biniam as the boys' first names. We aren't sure what we'll do for middle names, but we have a couple of ideas and a couple of months to decide. We have such fond memories of the caregivers at Layla House kissing our boys and holding them, going "Yosie! Binny!" We even got to meet and spend some time talking with the volunteer who named our sons while we were there. Sometimes I look at Yos and Bin and think, how crazy that they spent over a year of their lives in a place so far from here! How strange that they had a life before us Heldts, filled with other faces, other experiences, a completely different culture. What a gift that they spent their first year of life in a place that loved them, cared for them, and sought a family for them. What a gift now, for us, to get to have these boys as our sons.
SO, that is our journey with the names. (I would love to hear other adoptive parents' thought processes on this with their own children. From what I've observed, it would seem most parents have changed their child's name.) In case any of you are wondering, the boys respond to either name and know them both, so there won't be any confusion in dropping Ezra and Isaiah. Once our sons are older, if they are uncomfortable having "different" names, we can certainly figure something out. But for now, Yosef and Biniam they shall remain.