Duana Names: Can You Choose A Name First?

July 6, 2016 21:29:20 Posted at July 6, 2016 21:29:20
Duana Posted by Duana
Getty Images


We have an unknown amount of time to answer our question - we're prospective adoptive parents currently in the "waiting period" portion of the adoption process. Potentially, we might not have much lead time between learning about a child who could be placed with us and actually bringing that child home, so we want to have some solid name ideas worked out of time.

Our new baby will have an awesome big sister, Wren Elizabeth, and we're looking for names that work with Wren. (Which we love, but, full disclosure, when we initially picked her name a few years ago, I totally thought it was an old-timey name that had fallen out of circulation. I have since come to understand that my initial impression was not entirely accurate.) When we first met Wren's birth parents, we really clicked with them, and were eventually able to share a list of about five names that we loved/were considering. Both Wren and Elizabeth were on that list, and together we were all able to settle on her name.

Ideally, we would love to be able to do a similar name selection method again with our next adoption. Obviously we can't control the circumstances surrounding our next child's adoption or birth family, but if we are so lucky as to be able to meet and build relationships with them, I want to be prepared to tackle the naming issue. We feel really strongly that, if at all possible, our child's birth parents, should be in the loop when naming this baby. Let's face it, everyone has names that they hate, either rationally or irrationally. (For example, I get flames on the side of face at thought of calling my kid Jaden/Caden/Brayden/etc. ...for relatively shallow and flimsy reasons. Not that there probably aren't great kids out there with those names, but I just don't see that for my kid.) And as much as my husband and I will be Mom and Dad, this child will still always be all of ours, and, if I can avoid it, I do not want this little person to have a name that his or her birthparents truly dislike. Because, ideally, we'd like to have some kind of relationship with our child's biological family moving forward, and the name is an important foundational step.

It's going to get complicated, because, of course, my husband and I have got our own Thoughts About Names. So we want something that satisfies us, but also the unknown biological parent(s) to our future child. We're trying to come up with lists of names, similar to how we did thing during our last adoption... So we'd like to have some name options that we really, really like, which we could hopefully discuss with the potential birthparents, and then come up with the actual name from that list. We're much better with girls than with boys. For girls, we like Mae, June, Willa, Lucy, Anna, and Phoebe. (Although I think Phoebe is likely out, because two kids named after birds is a little too Audubon Society, right?)

For boys, we have Seamus/Sam (Sam has family meaning - does it work as nickname for Seamus? I hope so - I've loved Seamus since I was a teenager!), Calvin, James/Jack, and maybe Ezra. Also, Francis/Frances is a major family name on both sides that we'd like to incorporate in theory, maybe as the middle name? We can't actually seem to figure out how to deal with Francis in practice.

Um, is that enough? we basically want a list of options that fit our taste, but aren't so specific as not to be palatable to the potential birth parents of our future child. Super easy, right? Also, we are white, so I've left out a bunch of names that we love, but feel weird giving to a child unless our next child is not white. Does that make sense? Cultural appropriation of names feels pretentious, but if our next child doesn't share our ethnic background, we'd be really excited to give them an awesome name that resonates with their biological heritage. So if you have awesome names that are Latino, Middle Eastern, African, Asian, etc. - we're super open to those suggestions and will keep them in the hopper in the event the opportunity arises to use them.

Basically, we want all the great names, matching both our tastes and those of some important people we've never met. That's doable, right?


I’m so charmed and ‘awwww’-ed by this letter, thanks for sending it! I don’t think anyone ever thinks that anything to do with adoption is easy, but it’s kind of overwhelming to see that there are so many mitigating factors, and lots of them cancel each other out. For example, I so strongly applaud your commitment to including your child’s birth parents in the conversation – and also understand that they may not be available or interested in said conversation. I know that you want to make a sibling bond with Wren, and also want to make sure that the child you are about to adopt has a story all their own, not just “you kind of were designed to match the one we already have”. I’m also not sure if you are only adopting a newborn, but of course the conversation changes if your child has a name they’ve been called by before (and if they are ‘bonded to’ that name – I never get tired of reading Nia Vardalos’s account of how her daughter chose her name in the book Instant Mom.)

With all that said, my general advice to you is to get comfortable with a palate of names that can be seen as appealing to just about everyone. If you were having a dinner for a large group of people, pasta is a safe bet, because most people love it or at least can deal, but it doesn’t have to be boring – my favourite pasta is a green curry Thai-basil pesto, no joke.

Similarly, names that can appeal to a wide swath of people but have some uniqueness to them are going to be your friend here. For example, Mae and June sound really folksy-specific, but I’d be hard pressed to find someone who can’t relate to Anna, and actually think Phoebe has a lot of appeal (people like names that are fun to say, which Phoebe definitely is), especially since the avian associations will be lost on a lot of people. Lucy is 50-50. Some people think it’s gorgeous and spunky, some people think it’s an infuriatingly bossy Peanuts character. Don’t laugh, a lot of people have a lot of emotion tied up in that animated analyst, to a surprising degree.

I think Seamus, called Sam, totally works too, and James and Jack are hugely popular because they’re effortlessly stylish and worn by everyone. Obviously you’re going to have a harder time with Ezra if you’re trying to get other people on board, because it’s polarizing – but it does go very well with Wren, so there you go. 

Other fun-to-say names that seem to be universally appealing but not necessarily universally popular are Levi, Sawyer, Darius, Daphne, Louis, Chloe, Mila, and, in a bit of a throwback, Murphy.

I think you should put Francis/Frances in the second spot, or as a second middle if that’s the kind of thing you do. Variations like Francesco or Franca might help here or even make their way to the top spot if that’s something that works for everyone?

One note that may seem obvious, but just in case – a name everyone loves that I haven’t included is Katherine. Restrain yourself, even if it’s someone’s family name and it would make people happy – because Wren and Katherine are going to sound matchy-poo in a way I know you don’t want. I’m still not over the names from Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, a book I otherwise love.

As for names of a specific ethnicity you don’t share, I’m not totally sure about this.  On the one hand, I think it’s admirable to want to reflect the culture the child comes from, and on the other, if you and your partner and your older child have Anglo names and then your second child doesn’t, it could feel exclusionary. Then, at the same time, it’s not like you’re going to ignore or erase any very obvious racial difference if you call your child ‘Nicole’. This is a really specific case-by-case basis and one you won’t be able to get too much insight on until you meet the families involved and get their take. Their own names and their opinions on them may help to be a guiding principle here.

I know your update may come soon or not for a while, and I know you have so many variables that could complicate your decision or make it for you. But I know I’m not the only one who will be excited to hear what your new child’s name will be, and thrilled that they’re going to such an incredible and thoughtful new family.

Previous Article Next Article