November is National Adoption Month, and it's well celebrated in my household—both of my daughters were born in China, and joined our family through adoption. And that's brought many wonderful things into our lives—we've learned more Chinese culture and Chinese language than I ever expected I would (I can tell you that I like to eat strawberries in Mandarin); we've developed strong friendships with other families we know who've adopted; and most of all, we're proof of the fact that you don't need to share genes in order to have that immense, walk-into-a-burning-building love for another person.
One of the most intriguing parts of adoption is the fact that your children come with a past, before you were in the picture. Both of my daughters spent their first year of life in an orphanage, and came to us with a personality, a few baby photos and a name. And just as I want to preserve those precious few baby photos I have of my girls, I also wanted to hold on to their names.
My daughters both had beautiful Chinese names, AiLun (which means being lovely and beautiful, according to our agency's translator), and YingHui (which means bright and clever). We decided to keep those names as their middle names, along with a new first and middle name that had strong ties to our families. My daughters' middle names are their grandmothers' names, and their first names are from other beloved family members. That way, my daughters always have options—they can stick with the more "American" names we gave them—and if they decide they'd like to go by their Chinese names, that's open to them, too. And besides, with names that had such lovely meanings, how could I not keep them as part of my daughters' names?
We're not alone in keeping our daughters' original names—that tends to be how many families who've adopted handle the whole naming thing these days. They opt to keep some or all of the baby's name, to preserve a tie to the baby's birth family or birth culture. To me, it's simply a way to honor and celebrate their past, their lives before we became their family. It's the least I can do for the families and the country who were generous enough to share these two amazing girls with us.
Family by Ideldesign / Shutterstock.com