At some point in Firefly's adoption, before we had met Ms B but after she learned that she was having a girl, I was on the phone with a counselor from the agency. At the end of the conversation, she paused.
"There's one more thing you should know know. B has named her baby and it's important to her that the adoptive parents not change her name."
Naming in adoption can be tricky. It can be emotional. I don't think I could have ever guessed exactly how I would respond to not being part of naming a child of mine until faced with the actual situation.
"Okay," I said. "We understand." Intellectually, we did. And a little bit emotionally.
All I really wanted to know was the name. When I heard it my heart sank a little. Not because it was a terrible name at all. It was actually quite pretty. But if Puppy's name were truly Puppy, then this name would be McPuppa. Puppy and McPuppa, the brother and sister with the matching names.
Especially in open adoption, naming is so often portrayed as an emotional tug of war between the two sets of parents. If the expectant mom won't compromise on this, I've heard adoptive parents ask, how will we know she'll be able to make an open adoption work? Perhaps expectant moms are asking the same thing in reverse.
It didn't feel like a power grab coming from Ms B. I may have mentioned before that she is an adoptee, adopted into her family when she was one year old. Only mere slips of that first year of her life still exist: a letter, a birth certificate, a name. A name that her parents changed. From things she has said, I think to her the re-naming represents an unnecessary loss in a series of losses, the final break with a version of her which no longer exists. Not that she would put it that way; she is much more matter-of-fact than I am. I asked her once what was behind her strong feelings about it. "They just shouldn't have changed it," she told me.
It never felt like she was trying to take something away from us. It felt like she was asking for something on behalf of Firefly. For continuity, for wholeness in her child's name. Recognition that this baby would be coming to us with an identity already in place.
So T and I did what we figured it was our job to do. We very deliberately got ourselves accustomed to that name. We practiced using it, we discussed it, we rolled it around in our minds. We more or less talked ourselves into liking it. By the time of our first meeting with Ms B several weeks later, I had actually grown pretty fond of it. It was how I thought about the two of them now: B and McPuppa, McPuppa and B. We sat across from each other in the tiny office, full of nervousness and excitement. Ms B said something about "the baby." "McPuppa, right?" I asked.
"Well, no," she aswered. "I decided McPuppa didn't really fit her. Now I call her Alyssa." And that was when I decided I just didn't have the energy to worry about it anymore.
In the end it happened organically that we all named Firefly together. The only thing that changed after her adoption was her last name. And there is something comforting in that to me, the fact that we gave her that continuity Ms B so very much wanted for her.
That's not what happened with Puppy. There are three names in his story, a hopscotch from pre-birth to certificate to an adoptive name we selected. But I don't regret those choices, either. Naming is just something too personal, too specific to say there is one right way to do it. And it's one of the many decisions we make that our kids will eventually also judge for themselves.
But you know what the kicker in all this is? As much as I like the name Firefly now has, I often look at her and think to myself that she's really more of a McPuppa.