“Oh! no! we never mention her”

Oh! no! we never mention her, Her name is never heard; My lips are now forbid to speak That once familiar word. (Thomas Haynes Bayly, Melodies of Various Nations)

It has recently come to my attention that at one point in your teenage years, you believed your parents gave you the weirdest name ever.

This broke my heart, because…well, because I thought you were being raised with the knowledge of where your name came from and how it came to be. Indeed, not knowing the origins of your particular name would leave most people thinking the same thing: weird.

See, the truth of the matter is this: Your name, the name on your amended birth certificate, is not the name I gave you at birth. The name on your amended birth certificate, the name your adoptive parents entered into the records, is actually a derivative of my first and middle names.

My middle name was passed down to me from my grandmother. When you were born, it was passed down to you as your middle name.  Everyone started calling you a shortened version of  it, a nickname of sorts. Granted, the nickname is a totally made up name but if you know it is derived from a (quite lovely) middle name, it would make all kinds of sense and immediately cease to be weird.

So when your parents adopted you, they (gratefully) continued to call you the nickname you had known your whole little 9-month old life.  They also gave you my first name as your middle name, complete with its unusual spelling. For some reason, I thought you were being raised with knowing the origins of your name.  I mean, why would they keep your nick name as it is and then give you my first name as your middle name if they were not planning on doing exactly that?

At any rate,  I decided at church the other day I was going to change my FB profile to show my middle name as opposed to my maiden name.  I don’t know if you look at my FB page or not, but my hope is if you do, you will understand your name is not at all weird. It is actually part of a lovely name passed down to you from your great-grandmother.


13 thoughts on ““Oh! no! we never mention her”

  1. When I found out the name my Mother gave me, I was elated. I was given a new name by my ap’s…a name which never “fit”. A name which meant nothing…had no importance…no meaning.

    The name my Mother gave me means something. More than a few of my ancestors have my name.

    Im not sure if I would have understood the importance of my name as a teenager…but I do now, and I cherish my name. My name is Claire.

    • What a lovely name! For me the name Claire evokes a lovely June day spent wandering through a flower-laden hillside. When you say it out loud, it is almost like a sigh. Lovely, truly a lovely name.

  2. Oops. I forgot to add that even if my ap’s would have given me a name from my adoptive family, it would have meant nothing to me…the name would have come from THEIR ancestors, not mine. So in hindsight, I am glad they did not do that. Although it was a smack of reality to my 6 yr old face when they had my a sis, their bio child, and named her after both of their parents, lol.

    • I hear of this same experiences often, of adoptees who are not given a family name by their adoptive parents. Then a biological child of their adoptive parents join the family who is given a family name. What a friggin’ insult to the adoptee. It is a not-so-subtle way of saying, “You aren’t good enough” even if they don’t intend it to be that way.

      • Linda – Just reread this and wanted to clarify – my response was directed towards you and what it must have felt like as a 6-year old to have this happen. I know that my 6-year old is a precocious, witty child who is quick to ferret out irony & inconsistency in others’ behaviors. For some reason I imagine you were like him when you were 6-years old. Nothing is lost on that kid, even when I think he isn’t paying attention. It’s a tough gig as a parent, let me tell you.

        In no way did I mean to imply that EVERY time a child is given a non-family name by a parent (adoptive, natural, step, whatever) does it mean they aren’t “good enough.” If that were the case then I would have some ‘splainin to do to my son!

  3. I was given a name steeped in history – my adoptive parents’ family history. It means nothing to me.
    My mother gave me a first name before she relinquished but I cannot find evidence of any bio-relative with the same name. I wonder if THAT were a not-so-subtle way of saying, “You aren’t good enough.”

    • Jimm – I don’t know, as I do not know your story…I cannot speak for your mother. Do you have contact with her? Have you asked her why she chose that name for you? Most first mothers I talk with about this issue of names have disclosed that the names chosen for our relinquished children were very carefully selected for personal reasons, regardless of it is family or non-family name. I am more than willing to allow the same for adoptive parents as well who may choose non-family names for their adopted children.

      My comment about the “not-so-subtle way of saying, ‘You aren’t good enough ‘” was in reference to Linda’s experiences and how she might feel as an adoptee to have the biological offspring of her adoptive parents be born six years later and be given a family name when she was not. Perhaps it would feel similar to discover that your birth name was not “steeped in history.” I don’t know…

  4. I missed meeting my mother by ten years (another BSE system success) so it’s just one more question never to be answered. What is a name to someone without a history, anyway? For a small filing fee, I can change it to match my mood at the moment.

    I understand your intent in your response to Linda and did not mean to belittle it. I’m sorry if it came across that way.

    • Oh no, jimm! I am so very sorry to hear you were not able to find her before she passed. 😦 Adoption certainly is the gift that keeps giving, isn’t it? And no need for apologies, k?


  5. My nmom didn’t name me. I was legally “Baby Girl” for my first 15 months. Weird. I was also in the hospital for six weeks and in foster care (?) for four weeks. I wonder what they called me during that time? “Hey, you”?

    My name, Kara Jane, is meaningful, although I hate the “Kara” part because I am a Kar-ah, not a Kare-ah, but pretty much no one gets it right. My dad picked “Kara” because he is Norwegian and it’s a Scandinavian name–one of the Valkyries. Watch out!!! And the “Jane” is after my maternal agrandmother, the only grandparent I ever knew. She was lovely and a spitfire. I wear it with pride.

    I am happy that my aparents considered me enough one of theirs to give me a name that was planned and meaningful to them, with family history.

    I am the only granddaughter (and cousin) in my maternal nfamily. They have interesting, relatively rare names. My nmom’s name was something I’d never heard of before, but seems to be a derivative of Lucinda (although not Lucy). My maternal grandmother is Vivian Jean, but went by Jean. I love the Vivian! Her mother was Jessie, which I also love, and my grandfather’s mother was Neva.

    I asked my nmom if she’d thought about naming me, and she said she hadn’t. She was in denial about my coming for a very, very long time, and then thought it wasn’t her place to give me a name. That task was for my aparents.

    I am very sad to have been nameless for so long.

    It is sooo wonderful that your daughter is named after you and knows the origins of her names now. I would be thrilled. THRILLED. So very cool.

    • Kara – Thank you for sharing your experience with me. I have heard of some mothers from the BSE being encouraged to not select a name for their child for the exact reasons your nmom stated – she didn’t think it was her place (or was told that by some “well meaning” social worker). 😦

  6. I can kind of understand where you are coming from. I named my daughter and while it didn’t come from any family names. I really loved it and felt like it was all that I was being allowed to give her. So, I asked her adoptive parents if they could keep her first and middle name the same and they agreed. They also said that she would know how much I loved her. So, I guess I was just imagining that would include her knowing why she was named what she was. After all, my sons know how and why they were named, but my daughter didn’t have a clue that I had named her.

    • So, I asked her adoptive parents if they could keep her first and middle name the same and they agreed. They also said that she would know how much I loved her. So, I guess I was just imagining that would include her knowing why she was named what she was.

      So, it isn’t just me that has had this experience? I didn’t even ask them to do it – they did it all on their own! That leaves me even more baffled. While I am not angry at them for not telling her necessarily, I am very sad that she grew up thinking she had this weird name.

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