We are half way into our wait for our referral and one of the things I am anxious to learn is the names of our children. Why is this a big deal to me? Well because in most countries in Africa, a name is not just a name. For instance, in Ethiopia the child's first name is often given by a family member and means something significant to that child. His or her second name is the father's first name and the third name would then be the paternal grandfather's first name. For this reason I felt it really important to keep a portion of our daughter's given name in Ethiopia. Plus she was old enough that she already knew her name. So we retained the same spelling of her first name and her second name from Ethiopia and then added my maiden last name as a second middle name and gave her our family's last name. The meaning of her first name in Amharic is Resurrection and she is proud to tell people her full name.
I have not decided yet what the names of our children in Rwanda will be because I want to learn their names given in Rwanda first. The whole naming thing can be a complicated one. I think it is fine if a adoptive parent chooses early the name they want for their child but I personally feel better weighing out all the factors. How old is the child? Does he or she already know their name? Who named the child? Does the meaning of his or her name have any significance to their birth story? Will the name be easily pronounced in the United States? This last one is fairly important, but there is always the option of using a "nickname" for the child as well. So I am waiting and in the meantime doing my research.
I am reading a excellent but emotional book titled "Over a Thousand Hills I Walk With You" by Hanna Jansen. Hanna is the mother of a adopted daughter who was orphaned in the Rwandan genocide. I am not sure why the daughter was not a co-author of the book and I sure hope that she is the one receiving the proceeds, but despite my concerns it really is one of the most moving recollections of survival that I have read. Primarily because it is told from the memories of a child. What she survived at her young age is truly remarkable. Then at the beginning of each chapter is a excerpt from the present, from the adoptive mother who describes her very insightful interactions with her new daughter. The whole reason I bring up the book though is because it gives a beautiful description of the importance of names in Rwanda. Here is a snippet:
"The African ones. They are your first names, you say, although they come second. The name is chosen right after the birth of a child, when the parents see it for the first time. It means something that is given to the child as a direction or as a gift to take on its way.
You say that who the baby looks like, for example, could determine the name. Or some thing that happened while the baby was still on the way. Or the first impression the baby makes on the parents.
So the second name is not a family name. It has nothing to do with relationship. That confused me a great deal in the beginning. But now I understand that your name does not have a bureaucratic use. That it is a legacy that accompanies you. Your whole life.
The first names only come later. At baptism. And from them nicknames usually."