Saturday, 11 April 2009

What's in a Name?

I was fairly sure that Social Services would be a good place to start, and I was right. Although I wasn’t adopted anywhere near the small town where we now live, the department was very helpful and gave me lots of useful information and advice. As I had been adopted before 1975, I needed to have one statutory counselling session with Social Services. This was because prior to 1975, birth mothers were protected by the law from ever being found by their adopted offspring, and had been told as much when they gave their babies up; however, the law then changed and allowed adopted children to trace their birth families. Of course, some of the mothers who had been told that they would never be found had subsequently resigned themselves to this and got on with their lives – and probably would not welcome the intrusion of their child appearing after all these years. The counselling is to prepare adoptees for the possibility that their birth families might not actually want to have any contact with them.

As I wasn’t in any hurry to embark on my search and, even then, all I really wanted was my medical history, my social worker, Linda, was satisfied during that first session that I was in the right frame of mind to go ahead. She gave me a yellow form with which to apply for my original birth certificate (adoptees are issued with a Certificate of Adoption in their new name when the legal process is complete) but I was totally unprepared for the huge surge of emotion I felt when I saw mine and my birth mother’s names on that piece of paper. I can honestly say that, up until that point, I had never given any thought to our names. I suppose I must have known that I’d legally taken on my mum and dad’s surname, and that they had chosen my first names – but I’d never thought to ask about the name I’d been registered with. I didn’t feel as if I was a different person, it just felt very strange to think that I’d had a completely different name for the first six weeks of my life.

After just a few minutes, another thought hit me – even stronger this time – I only had one first name, no middle name. My birth mother had obviously made her decision to give me up and therefore couldn’t be bothered to give me any more names than were absolutely necessary. For some reason I still don’t really understand, I found this incredibly hurtful and I think it was at this point that she finally became a real person in my mind. Maybe there was another explanation for not having a second name? Or perhaps the person who filled in the form just hadn’t copied down my full name properly?

1 comment:

  1. My mother and her sisters do not have middle names. They were three girls born between the early 1940s to mid 1950s. My mother explained to me that it was a custom of "high society" or those striving to be recognized as such to forgo a daughter's middle name with the assumption that her own surname would substitute as the middle one upon marriage when she assumed her "Mrs" moniker.