What Should I Do with My Child’s (First) Name?

because1If you’ve been following EMN for any length of time, you know I’m a fan of birthmother counselor Patricia Dischler. Today her KIDSAKE newsletter (Feb 09) has the following article, which I’m reprinting here with permission. (If you’d like to subscribe, see below).

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Naming your child is a big event in the process of becoming a parent. It ranks higher than deciding how to decorate their room, buying the outfit for their first trip home and being sure you have enough diapers on hand. There seems to be so much pressure on making this decision. Do you pass on a family name? What will the initials be? Can it be rhymed with something bad that other kids will use to tease them? Your mind is constantly trying new ones on for size and then analyzing it from every direction in order to decide if it will make your “list.”


While this pressure to find the perfect name is a standard for any parent, for adoptive parents there is a door that opens up to a whole new set of questions that can become completely overwhelming. The birthmother. Will she choose a name first? If she does should we keep it or change it? If we have the opportunity, should we discuss it with her and decide together? What if we have a name we’ve always wanted? What if she doesn’t like the name we do? The questions can flow over and over into an adoptive parents mind like waves crashing on the shore, erasing each idea that was written in the sand and washing it out to sea.


As an adoptive parent how do you face these questions? As a counselor, what kind of advice can you offer them, or the birthmother? Is there a “right” way to do this? We are unique individuals. This is why each adoption is so unique, and also why making a decision for a name will be unique as well. But understanding what some of the options are, and taking the time to discuss them openly will be your keys to finding the answers that are right for you. Most importantly, understand that your opinion DOES count. Talk about how you feel, be open and honest. On the other hand, also be respectful of what you hear from others and how they feel. When everyone approaches this with respect and honest emotion, the answers will come. When I placed my son for adoption in 1985 I was told that if I wanted to name him, I could, but that it was likely the adoptive parents would change it. I was okay with the idea of them changing it, they would be his parents and I understood how important naming your child can be and didn’t want to take that from them. But I also didn’t want my son to be called “the baby” for two weeks. So, after much thought, I named him Joseph Paul. My little gift to him, it would go on his original birth certificate and always be a reminder of his beginnings. And that was enough for me. Then, later that year when the first letters from his parents arrived, they extended a gift to me. His mother wrote that they decided to keep the name I had chosen because they felt that I must have had special reasons for choosing it and it was their gift to me. He wouldn’t be leaving his “beginnings” behind, but rather would keep his time with me forever – represented through his name. They said it also represented names within their family so it was the perfect blend between my family and theirs. I could not have been more honored and happy. At that moment my heart totally broke open with love and trust for this couple. Their sign of respect for me came full circle as I then became full of respect for them. This became the foundation for an amazing relationship.


Today, there is typically more communication between birthmothers and adoptive parents in the beginning. Adoptive parents who let the birthmother know they respect her opinion and would like to hear it will do much for building a respectful relationship. If the birthmother’s suggestion is something that works with your family (such as in my case) then it would be a wonderful symbol to agree to keep the name. If not, you may wish to use it as a middle name instead, or suggest something close to it.


When choosing names it is important to “remember the why.” Adoptive parents who understand why a birthmother chooses a particular name will have a better foundation for making their decision. For example, if a birthmother picks a name simply because she likes the sound of it, it may be there are other names she will like as well. But, if she picks a name because of the significance to her or her family (as I did) then the adoptive parents may wish to give it more careful consideration before choosing to change it. Anytime you can show respect for BOTH families in the choosing of a name, the better.


Even when there is no contact with a birthmother, as in many intra-country adoptions, your child may have been given a name already. Consider incorporating this into the name you choose as a sign to your child of respect for their heritage.

The focus should always be the child. Sometimes, a name is just a name. And that’s okay! Sometimes it holds great importance, and that’s okay too. Take the time to discuss it, share expectations and respect what you hear from each other. With the thousands of possibilities of names in this world it seems incredible that both parties wouldn’t be able to find one that everyone can agree to – especially if their focus is on the child and not themselves.


Names reflect who we are, what our parents were thinking about at the time of our birth, our heritage, and so much more. Taking time to respect these issues when choosing a name for an adopted child will give them a story of love – and a name – they can carry with pride!

Reprinted from KIDBIZ Newsletter, an ezine by child care author and speaker, Patricia Dischler. Subscribe at www.patriciadischler.com. If you like this newsletter, please pass it on to your fellow colleagues.

If a colleague passed this on to you and you would like to subscribe, visit: www.patriciadischler.com and click the link “Subscribe to Ezines.”



A Mother’s Silent Grief: Abortion

trollinger-rosesAt “Behold Your Mother,”  Christine Trollinger recently published a story about the statue in her “Mary Garden” — and the woman who gave it to her.  She had aborted her child years before, and was still trying to come to terms with what had happened to her.

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patronness of the Americas. The Church celebrates the encounter between Mary, who appeared to a poor man named Juan Diego and gave him an impossible task: to persuade the bishop to build a chapel there.

Filling his cape with roses, which had miraculously appeared by the roadside, Juan Diego opened his cloak … and revealed a miraculous image imprinted upon it, which can be seen to this day.

On this feast day, we remember unborn children and their mothers. (The image is of a pregnant Aztec woman.) And so, I thought it would be a good day to respond to comments I’ve received recently from those who object to the idea that adoption should be represented as a pro-life alternative to abortion.

When we speak of adoption as a life-giving alternative to abortion, this in no way denies the grief and loss mothers who choose to relinquish their children exerience. In her book Because I Loved You, Patricia Dischler writes:

“Placing your child for adoption is an event that will affect the rest of your life. You won’t forget it. You will always remember the pain of the loss. But it is over. It is time to put it into your memories and not let it be the focus of your every day. In order to move ahead you may have questions you can’t answer that make you feel stuck. Voice those thoughts to your support network, and let them help you find the answers” (Dischler, 130).

There is no telling how many birth mothers also have a history of abortion (at least one commenter insisted that the birth mothers she has worked with never considered abortion for religious or other personal reasons), so that the two kinds of loss can be compared on more than an anecdotal level.

What we do know is that MANY more women have lost children through abortion than have endured the loss of relinquishment. Last year, 1.3 million women “terminated a pregnancy” and ended the life of her child.

What happened to these women? Did they simply “move on,” unscathed (as those who stand to profit most from the abortion industrysuggest)?

From the Planned Parenthood website:

You may have a wide range of feelings after your abortion. Most women ultimately feel relief after an abortion. Some women feel anger, regret, guilt, or sadness for a little while.    

Compare this to the information provided by the Elliot Institute:

Women who have undergone post-abortion counseling report over 100 major reactions to abortion. Among the most frequently reported are: depression, loss of self-esteem, self-destructive behavior, sleep disorders, memory loss, sexual dysfunction, chronic problems with relationships, dramatic personality changes, anxiety attacks, guilt and remorse, difficulty grieving, increased tendency toward violence, chronic crying, difficulty concentrating, flashbacks, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities and people, and difficulty bonding with later children.

Among the most worrisome of these reactions is the increase of self-destructive behavior among aborted women. In a survey of over 100 women who had suffered from post-abortion trauma, fully 80 percent expressed feelings of “self-hatred.” In the same study, 49 percent reported drug abuse and 39 percent began to use or increased their use of alcohol. Approximately 14 percent described themselves as having become “addicted” or “alcoholic” after their abortions. In addition, 60 percent reported suicidal ideation, with 28 percent actually attempting suicide, of which half attempted suicide two or more times.

What about these women? Do we simply shrug our shoulders and let them suffer — and turn a blind eye to the thousands of women who are poised, ready to make the same damaging choice? Or is the most humane and Christian thing to do to help these women understand the full impact of their choice before they make it … and to give those who do not feel able to parent, another option?

We live in a fallen world, and suffering is an inescapable part of the human condition. Our choices have real consequences: some that touch us, and some that touch other people. Some affect our lives here and now, and others affect our long-term spiritual health and relationship with God. 

 By acknowledging the seriousness of abortion, for example, the Church teaches that this act has long-reaching affects for all concerned:

The Church…  makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society. (CCC 2272)

 The “irreparable harm” done to the child is the focus of the pro-life movement — speaking on behalf of children who cannot speak for themselves.  However, we can never forget that great harm is also done to the mother — who may feel she has no “right” to name her pain, since it was largely self-inflicted.

So she remains silent. And in the silence, evil prevails. By its nature, sin is bondage — it affects the way we think (leading us away from truth and deeper into self-deception), the way we choose (hardening ourselves against God through our habitual choice of wrongdoing), the way we live (inflicting greater suffering on ourselves and others).  Unless we bring our sin to the light, it festers until it becomes larger than life  … large enough to overwhelm us.

On the other hand (CCC #1847), “To receive his mercy, we must admit our faults. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 8-9).

Thousands of women (and their families) have discovered the liberating power of God’s mercy and forgiveness through groups such as “Rachel’s Vineyard,” “Silent No More,” and “Abortion Changes You.”  

If you have had an abortion, and feel as though God could never forgive you … Or if you’ve pushed God out of the picture altogether, not wanting to think about the possibility that one day you will see your child again, know that there is hope for you.  God has not abandoned you, and knows that human weakness sometimes causes us to make choices out of fear, or shame, or ignorance. He is waiting for you, even now, to turn back to Him so the healing can begin.

You may feel as though you have lost your way, that there is no going back.  This is simply another lie from the evil one. In the words of concentration camp survivor Corrie ten Boom,  “Hell hath no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still” (“The Hiding Place.”) It was this assurance that allowed her — years later — to shake the hand of the prison guard from the camp that had killed her father, brother, and sister.

If you have lost a child … whether that child is in heaven, waiting for you; or your child is somewhere in the world, wondering about you … you have already suffered a great deal. Like many kinds of loss, the pain may never go away entirely.  And yet, God wants you to embrace life as a gift, and to offer Him your pain so He can begin to heal you.

You are God’s precious child. No matter how much you have messed up, the love of your Heavenly Father is something you can always count on. You need not remain silent in your grief. God is listening.

Sneak Preview: An Adoption Story


NOTE: I am making edits on an article on Catholic Exchange, which I hope will run next week. In the meantime, I thought it prudent to offer a bit more information on my own background, as well as clarify my position on some aspects of the “front end” of adoption.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to direct my regular readers to an important resource for women in crisis pregnancies and those considering open adoption, a book entitled “Because I Loved You,” which I have reviewed at the end of this article. I would like to thank Patricia Dischler and others who have taken time to help me “fill in the gaps” concerning some aspects of adoption with which I do not have relevant firsthand experience.

The first time it happened, it came from nowhere, and struck without warning. In the middle of my son’s honors assembly, I heard a name I had tried hard to forget: it belonged to a fourth-grader whose name was the same as that of my youngest sister’s second child.

Two of my sisters experienced crisis pregnancies as teenagers. The first time, my parents threw my sister out of the house. Soon thereafter she married an abusive man who was not the father of her child — and never let either my sister or her daughter forget it. In time my sister escaped, but only after a prolonged legal battle in which she nearly lost her daughter to her abuser (in NJ, he had the right to sue for custody though he wasn’t K’s father).

The second time one of their teenage daughters became pregnant, my parents rallied around her, promising to help her raise her child. Two years later, when it happened again to the same daughter, the three of them chose a Christian couple who would provide a good home for the baby boy, and who agreed to open adoption.

For the most part, I watched all this unfold from the sidelines. I was thirty and unmarried, focused on my career and living hundreds of miles away. I offered to raise my sister’s child, but it was decided the other couple was a better choice. They were married, had more financial resources, and were “Christian” (as opposed to Catholic, as I am).

But it was not to be. The bio father (we’ll call him “Gary”) fought to keep the child … and won. The adoptive parents’ petition was denied, my sister’s parental rights were terminated … and Gary swore she would never see her child again. My sister’s son would never want to see her – Gary would see to that.

When I heard that Gary was contesting the adoption, I had tried to warn my family that it might not turn out as they had hoped. After all, the family court system was bound to favor a biological parent over an adoptive one. Mom disagreed adamantly – Gary had a criminal record, was abusive, and had so frightened my parents that they were in the process of moving to another state. He had recently married, but his wife was killed in an accident in the middle of the hearing. His grief made him even more determined to punish my family, whom he blamed for his current situation.

Mom had been confident: “No judge will choose him over the parents your sister has picked for her child.”

She was confident. She was also wrong.

I’ve often wondered if, had my family approached the situation a bit differently, if I might have a relationship with my nephew today. Certainly it is “in the best interests of the child” to know his mother and her family – and yet, once my family had set themselves firmly in opposition to him, and their adversary’s rights prevailed … they lost everything. Yes, he could have chosen the higher road – and at some point down the line, I hope he will do so out of love for his son. But I’m not counting on it.

Nine years later, I still avoid looking at that little face in my parents’ “rogue’s gallery” of grandchildren’s photographs in their living room. Hurts too much. And when I hear his name called at a school assembly, though I know it’s not the same child – I still wince. Continue reading