Thursday, February 11, 2010


If you want to spark some heated debate on the Yahoo adoption board, just suggest that you might change your Ethiopian child's name.

There seem to be three camps:
1) the "I'm keeping my child's Ethiopian name even if no American can pronounce it and don't you dare change your child's name either" camp,
2) the "I'm using my child's Ethiopian name but Americanizing it" camp and,
3) the "I'm choosing a first name for my child and using their Ethiopian name as their middle name" camp.
4) No doubt there's an, "I'm not using my child's Ethiopia name at all" camp, but no one dares admit it on the Yahoo board.

Choosing a name for our little one has been way harder than we thought it would be (and not just because of the angry folks on the Yahoo board).

When we got our referral I immediately checked out baby name books from the library. I've dreamed of choosing a girl name since I was pregnant with Wesley.

The problem was, Enatalem already had a name. It's Enatalem. Her mother named her Enatalem. Her mother called her Enatalem for the thirteen months they lived together.

Enatalem has lost her whole world not just once--when she lost her mother, but twice--when she was moved away from Durame. And very soon, when we arrive in Ethiopia, Enatalem will lose everything for the third time.

How can we take away her name, too?

Probably we would feel different if she were an infant. But she's not. She's almost 17 months old. She knows her name.

"Enatalem" is a beautiful name. Musical. But it does not slip easily off the American tongue. I had to write "Enatalem" on a little piece of paper and carry it around in my pocket for two weeks before I could remember with certainty how all those syllables fit together. And I'm still not positive we're pronouncing it correctly.

I remember in elementary school there was a girl named Susan Ierominimun. She was the poor soul who, every year on the first day of school, had her name massacred by the new teacher. By sixth grade, after the teacher's first stuttering "I---" every one of her classmates could have shouted out, "Ee-air-oh-muh-nee-man!"

The point is that this poor girl was singled out every year because her name was difficult, and I STILL remember her name thirty-some-odd years later because getting singled out as a kid is miserable.

Enatalem is already going to stick out in her mostly-white community. How can we saddle her with a difficult name as well?

So, long story short.


We're going call her "Natalie." It's very close to "Enatalem." The American version, if you will. And we'll keep "Enatalem" on her birth certificate. That way if she wants to go by Enatalem later she can. It'll be up to her.

There are those on the Yahoo board who wouldn't approve. But we've done our best. We respect whatever decision a family makes when naming their adopted child. It's a difficult choice. And very personal. Besides, the Yahoo board's opinion doesn't count. Only Natalie's does.

What a responsibility, choosing a name for our daughter. The first of many to come.


  1. I have been following your blog and love it. This post made me want to comment. The ET board is full of people with extraordinarily strong opinions (overly?) and no reason not to dump them on everyone!

    I love your solution.

    We passed court this week and will keep our infant daughter's name as a second middle. it was given to her by a nanny at the orphanage so really had no special meaning but we have gotten used to it.

    Safe travels!

  2. 2 beautiful names for 1 beautiful girl!

  3. I'm so glad that you posted about this. There's so much drama! Are you using one name as her first and one as her middle name?

    We thought that we had decided, but now suddenly we're not sure what we're doing. Our little girl is 21 months old.

    I think every family has to do what's right for their family and I think the fact that so many of us struggle with it shows how much we're trying to find the "right" solution.

  4. I don't know why people get so fumed over this stuff. I sort of have the same theory on it as you do. Love how you're adapting her name into English!!

  5. Perfect choice for a beautiful little girl!

    Leah Ann

  6. I love the name you chose...and whatever your decision about your childs your decision and no one else's. We are giving Tesfashwork a whole new first name (Isabella - Ella for short)...neither name has anything to do with the was the name we chose for her after we saw her photo for the 1st time. Our decision.

    Nice post about a pretty "touchy" subject in some circles.