Last month I told you that I’d received a request to write about names for adopted children, and so many of you gave great feedback with your experiences — I intended to put it all together along with some of my own research into a post or article (and I still might), but then one of you wonderful readers — Katheryn from the blog Bucket and Roon and Etsy shop Juniper Plum (gooorgeous icons and other beautiful things for children!) — emailed me because she has extensive experience with adoption: two of her sisters and her four children all came to her family through adoption (both international [sisters] and domestic [children]).
I already followed Katheryn on Instagram because her kiddos’ ah-MAZ-ing names had caught my attention (and also their general cuteness and amazing style! 😍), and so I was absolutely thrilled to hear more about their naming, and that of her sisters as well. I know you’ll love what she has to say!
Kate: You said you have open adoptions with all your kids. In your experience, what role does the birth mom/birth parents play in the naming of the child?
Katheryn: Generally, in domestic infant adoptions, the birth parents choose a name to go on the original birth certificate at the hospital. This is the child’s legal name until the adoption is finalized, usually at around six months of age. When the adoption is finalized, the adoptive parents are issued a new birth certificate with them listed as the child’s parents, and it is at this time that the child’s name is also legally changed to the name they have chosen. Sometimes birth parents will chose a name that is special to them, sometimes they love the name the adoptive parents have chosen so will write that name on the original birth certificate from the beginning, or sometimes they might decline to write a name at all.
Kate: Relatedly (and maybe this is answered in the first question), do you consider the birth mom/birth parents when choosing a name for your children? For example, giving the birth mom’s first name as your daughter’s middle?
Katheryn: It often means a lot to the birth parents if you try to include them in the naming somehow. I’ve heard of several adoption stories where both the parents and birth parents had picked the same name separately on their own! Some parents will offer to let them chose the middle name, or some will share a list of the names they are deciding between and let the birth parents have the final pick. Sometimes parents choose to honor their child’s birth heritage in other ways, either by naming them after a birth parent, using a name in the birth family tree, or using an initial that is the same as the birth mother’s.
Kate: Have any of your children been older when you adopted them, having already been given a name that they’ve become attached to? If so, how do you handle naming?
Katheryn: All of our children were adopted at birth, so we haven’t dealt with this, but while most families who adopt older children will choose a brand new first name, others will keep the name they have, choose a variant of that name, or choose a name that is close in sound to their birth name to help with this.
Kate: In terms of international adoption, as you said you have twin sisters who were adopted from another country, what considerations did your parents give to their cultural heritage, if any?
Katheryn: My twin sisters were adopted from Vietnam at 9 months old. My parents chose to honor their birth heritage by giving them middle names with the same meaning as the meaning of their birth names. My sisters’ birth names meant “river” and “rose” in Vietnamese. So my parents chose the names Camille Sabrina Pia and Zellie Rose Pia for them. With international adoptions, a lot of the time parents will get very little information about their child’s background, and sometimes all the child really has of their birth history is their name.
My twin sisters are only ten — I am the eldest of 12. My parents had ten bio kids before they adopted the twins after I was married. But at the time we hadn’t met anyone else named Zellie. My parents spelled it that way to help with pronunciation issues. It’s wonderful how it seems to be booming in Catholic circles now though!
Kate: If you don’t mind sharing, I’d love to know the stories behind the naming of each of your children—both how/why you chose their names, and also what role the birth moms/parents played, if any.
Katheryn: Our oldest is Verity Majella Judea Hawthorne. Her first name is a combo name “Verity Majella,” like “Mary Elizabeth,” but we call her Verity most of the time. We fell in love with Verity because of its meaning, “truth.” Majella is after St. Gerard Majella, patron saint of mothers, to whom I grew to have a special devotion through all my years of praying for a baby. Judea is after my deceased Grandma Judy. Verity was due on her birthday and when my Grandpa found out he asked if we would consider naming Verity after her. I also loved the biblical symbolism of Judea. Hawthorne is her connection to her birth history. She was born in Missouri, and the state flower there is the White Hawthorn Blossom. She is also named after the remarkable Rose Hawthorne, daughter of Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Our second daughter is Gethsemane Juniper Anne. Gethsemane has been the name dearest to my heart since I was a girl. Back when I thought I might have a vocation, I hoped I would be able to pick it as my religious name someday. I love it because it is the name of the garden that Jesus would retreat to, a place where He would seek solace and peace- we tell our Gethsemane that it is the name of His favorite garden. I also think of it as a symbol for the beauty of choosing God’s will over our own, since it is there when in His agony Jesus prayed, “not my will, but Thine be done.” Gethsemane also means “peace,” so she is also named after Mary, Queen of Peace. Juniper is after St. Junipero Serra (my husband and I both grew up around the Missions and were married at Carmel Mission) and also Servant of God Brother Juniper, known as “the renowned jester of the Lord.” When we were matched with her birth mother, we agreed on naming her together. She wanted to choose a middle name, so she picked Anne, because it was a family name on her side and it just so happened to be a family name on my side as well.
Then came our Bosco, whose full name is Bosco Willis Yard. I was so sure that we would have another girl that we hadn’t talked about a boy name, but Bosco had been both my husband’s and my favorite boy name for many years. Can there be a better patron for a little boy than St. John Bosco? Willis Yard is the name traditionally given to the first born son on my father’s side of the family, so we knew we wanted that somewhere in his name. Bosco’s birth parents wanted his naming left completely up to us, but Will is a family name on his birth father’s side as well.
Our latest blessing is Hyacinth Clemency Veil. With our three previous adoptions we had short adoption waits, ranging from 6 weeks to 4 months. For Hyacinth we waited almost three years. Some days, the only thing that kept me believing that we were doing God’s will and that He really did call us to adopt again was her name written on my heart. Even before we adopted Bosco, one day out of the blue, God spoke the name Hyacinth to me. It had never been on any of our name lists, but just like that it was tattooed on my heart and I just knew that our next daughter was to be named Hyacinth. She is named after St. Hyacinth of Poland. Clemency is after the Divine Mercy. I am passionate about the Divine Mercy devotion, and knew I wanted to name our next child after it in some way. Hyacinth was already born when her birth mom contacted our agency, and just guess whose feast she was born on — St. Faustina’s. Her birth mother originally wanted a closed adoption, but we are forever grateful that she changed her mind and met us at the hospital. When we asked if she wanted to chose a name with us she declined, but one of the few things she shared about herself with us was that she loves the color purple. When we told her that the meaning of the name Hyacinth is “purple,” the biggest grin broke out on her face. Before that, one of the only things I didn’t like about the name Hyacinth was its meaning, since purple seemed like such a lame meaning, but it ended up being just perfect. Veil is after the Holy Protection of Our Lady, since Mary’s veil is known as a symbol of her motherly protection and care. We felt like our whole adoption process and journey to Hyacinth was wrapped in Mary’s veil of love and protection and wanted to honor her in our daughter’s name. Traditionally the image of Mary, Mother of Mercy is one of Mary shown with her veil spread out over her children. We thought that was a very special connection between Clemency and Veil!
Wasn’t this all just so beautiful? There was so much love and respect and prayer that went into each name choice! I hope you all learned as much as I did about the naming of children who come into families through adoption — thank you so much to Katheryn for sharing her experiences!
♥♥♥♥ Gethsemane Juniper Anne, Bosco Willis Yard, and Verity Majella Judea Hawthorne holding Hyacinth Clemency Veil ♥♥♥♥