Blog Carnival: Names and Adoption

Honeybee writing her name in Amharic

Grown in My Heart is having our second Blog Carnival and the topic is Names – anything at all related to adoption and names. Some ideas would be: how do names affect identity, do you change a name, how do you name a child?

We just covered this in a recent Tuesday Topic: Let’s Talk about Names. I also wrote about naming our adopted children a year after we brought our first three children home from Ethiopia. Rather than repeat myself, I’m going to head off in another direction.

What do our adopted children call their first parents?

This can be a hot topic amongst the adoption triad. We have opted to call the childrens’ first parents their “Ethiopian Mommy and Daddy”. Eby calls his mother his “Opia Mommy” and he calls me Mommy. He isn’t confused by that at all. Honeybee and Dimples refer to their mothers as their Ethiopian Mommies. Each of our children was with their mother for a period of time, one for 14 months, one for two years, another for 15 months, and one for three months. These women are their mothers too.

I prefer Ethiopian Mommy to “birthmother” since our childrens’ mothers did far more than simply give birth to them. Really– how many mothers only give birth? Carrying a baby, loving a baby, laboring and birthing a baby, holding a baby, nursing — it is all so much more than just giving birth. “First Mother” is better, but with some of our children, that adds to the confusion if they had a “First Mother” and then an aunt who became a “Second Mother”, and than a nanny at the orphanage who was also special, so perhaps she was a “Third Mother”. Then I came along and that would make me a “Fourth Mother” –somehow that doesn’t seem quite right.

If you don’t have time to read any of my posts about names, I’ll give you a hint about how we handled it. We gave our little boys American first names and kept their Ethiopian names as middle names. In the end, we decided to call them by their Ethiopian names. We gave our daughters American middle names and also call them by their Ethiopian names.

We could not have predicted how we would feel about our childrens’ names, but it became very clear to us once we had them in our arms. They had been lovingly and meaningfully named by their Ethiopian parents and we feel honored to keep those names.

Want to join in? This is how you do it:

1. Write your blog post (on your own site) and publish it.

2. Go to the Grown in My Heart Blog Carnival post by clicking on this link.

3. Click on the green Mr. Linky Badge at the bottom of the post.

4. It will ask for your name (use whatever name you like for yourself/your blog). I used Thankfulmom.

5. It will ask for the URL address for the post you just wrote. Go to your blog and click on your Blog Carnival post. Copy the address for it and paste it into the box on the Mr. Linky site.

6. That’s it! Your post will be linked with all of the others in the Grown in My Heart Blog Carnival.

I look forward to following the links and reading what you all have to say. Last time I enjoyed finding many new blogs!


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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Mama King
    October 8, 2009

    I enjoyed reading about your family! I agree that all the terminology can get confusing and a bit out of hand! What it comes down to is exactly what you said – what your children feel comfortable referring to them as.

  2. triplehmoms
    October 9, 2009

    I stumbled upon your blog in the last week and have enjoyed reading some of your more recent posts, learning more about your family. I have two adopted daughters and one more in process. We have an open adoption with my oldest daughter's biofamily even though we live in different countries. We simply refer to them as her parents. Some people might get confused when listening to a conversation but it is easily explained. Sometimes we refer to them by their first names, but general we just say "your mom." My kids have never been confused by that. Now, this has evolved over time. Initially we called them birthfamily/mom/dad or Guatemalan family, but my daughter took the lead and we just followed. It's been no big deal.
    I think, however, for kids that came home older, it might be different. My two oldest daughters came home as infants. My in-process adoption is of a 4 1/2 year old little girl. In the orphanage where she has lived for her whole life, everyone is referred to there as "Mama." So, when we are around her, we refer to me only as Mommy, not Mama. I have open adoption with her too even though her mom lives in Guatemala as well.

  3. Kristy -Mom To 6 Blessings
    October 9, 2009

    This is a topic in our home as well since Grace is now ready to talk about her Ethiopian Mommy and wants to now see photos, etc. It is confusing because they call the caretakers at the orphanage Mommies as well. We are trying to stick with Ethiopian Mommy, especially since Eliana is only two and they share the same birth parents. It was confusing the other day when Grace had a photo and said to Elle, "Look, there's Mommy!" 🙂

  4. a Tonggu Momma
    October 9, 2009

    We take the Tongginator's lead with this, too… she usually calls them her first mom and dad or her China mom and dad. Her foster mother is Abu, which means "dearest auntie" in the Hakka language.

  5. Shelli
    October 9, 2009

    Our daughter is 13 and had lived with her Ethiopian mom for the first 5 years of her life. She spent the next 7 in an orphanage, and only a few times saw her birthmother. She then was adopted by a family here in the US, but it quickly became disrupted and she was placed in the US foster care system, where she had a foster mom. Now that she is home with us, we proudly display her Ethiopian mother's photo in her room. I have told her that I am not taking the place of her Ethiopian mom, but that I am so grateful that God has asked me to be her mom from this day forward and forever. This really seemed to give her a peace, and it helped her to know it was ok to love us both. Since then, she has opened up with countless stories about when she lived with her Ethiopian mom… it is so humbling to know that I have been given the gift of raising my daughter from this point in her life forward.

  6. Heidi Mehltretter
    October 12, 2009

    My son calls his ET mom by her first name, but evidently he always has. He calls me Mom, but it's usually more like MOM!MOM!MOM!MOM!LOOK!

    He has been here maybe six weeks, and learning English like crazy. Told me the other day, "I have two moms!" and he seemed like he liked that idea.


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