We have been completely blown away by the generous response to our Lifesong grant. In just over a month, we have soared past the halfway mark and are closing in on three-quarters! So, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you. And I owe you a name. And a story.
If you’ve been around for a while, you have watched our approach to naming our adopted children (who, of course, already have names when they come into our lives) develop over the years. As I shared in my stories of naming Niko and naming Delia, we really demand a lot out of our adopted kids’ names, and they always manage to deliver. We want a name that connects strongly to the birth name in some way, if possible making reference to both given name and surname. We also need to work a family name into it somewhere, and we’re not really two-middle-name people, so this is often a tight squeeze! Also, all the other rules! Finally, and this is the real sticking point, we have to both love it.
So, shall I tell you the end from the beginning and then take you along on the journey that brought us there?
Our new son’s name will be:
Lewis Christian Young
When we first received his file, I scoured every inch of it to find his birth name (I confess I looked for it before I read any of the medical information!) After all, the quest for the perfect name couldn’t even begin without the raw material. Unfortunately, everywhere that his birth name appeared, it appeared in Chinese characters (which, um, I can’t read), and everywhere that it appeared in English, they had substituted his pseudonym Caden.
Thankfully, not long after we received his file, my friend Rachel and her lovely little tribe were over for a playdate. I was lamenting my birth name conundrum to her, and having adopted from China herself, she asked if she could take a look at his file.
She scoured, too. We scoured together. Still just the Chinese characters and the English pseudonym, everywhere we looked. We were about to give up, when she had an inspired idea, “Wait a second, show me those pictures again!”
Lo and behold, in every single photo, he was wearing a name tag with his name both in Chinese characters (we cross referenced his name on the file to make sure they were indeed the characters of his name) and written out in English letters:
Loo Chew Yee
(not actual spelling)
Now we were in business. Rachel helped me to decode the Chinese-ness of his name. Loo is the surname, Chew Yee would be his official name, but more than likely he’s used to being called Yee Yee. We pretty quickly ruled out trying to find an English name that would actually sound like what he was used to being called, especially since we were only guessing on that anyway.
I set about searching the meanings of his birth names. Chew yielded the best meaning, “at the beginning”, and I was so hopeful we’d find him a name that meant the same as his birth name, like Delia’s But the closest we could find on that front was names containing “Arch”, the Greek word for beginning, and nothing was popping.
I was just beginning to consider abandoning the birth name angle altogether when my long-time name-nerd friend Lindsay astutely observed that his last initial is already Y, like ours! If we gave him the first two initials LC, he could keep his initials and maybe even have a name with the overall same flow and sound as his birth name. This was something we could work with (and, glory be!, we hadn’t used an L name yet!).
I made list upon list of L names, but it was always Lewis. It had such a strong and obvious connection to his birth surname, and it was a name that had been on our boys’ list for years anyway. CS Lewis is a very positive association for us (I just finished rereading Mere Christianity, which everyone should go do!); in fact, Junie’s middle name is Lucy after the Narnia series. It just felt like his name from the moment we first considered it. Doesn’t he just look like a Lewis?
The middle name took a bit more wrestling. A C family name seemed like it should come pretty easily. Only it didn’t. The only male relative either of us had with a C name was Charles, a great uncle on Trevor’s side whom he had never met. While I love the name Charles, it just didn’t pack the sort of meaningful-family-name punch we were looking for.
C surnames in our collective family tree? Not a one. We then considered everything from meaningful place names to abstract word names to just keeping Chew as his middle name (and not giving him a family name!?), but in the end, it was right under our noses all along.
My mother’s middle name is Christine (and her initials are LC, too). She was named after her grandmother, who was also Christine. Christian was the nearest masculine version, and I was delighted to discover while looking through some old documents that my great-grandmother’s given name was actually Christiane (so pretty, right?!), though she went by Christine her whole life for simplicity. I even loved the (very, very) subtle nod to the meaning of Chew (beginning) in the concept of a Christian’s new beginning in Christ.
One final thought nagged at me, though. Christian was also the middle name of a dear friend’s son, who tragically passed away about a year ago. I loved the idea of honoring him as well, but only if it would be meaningful rather than a sad reminder to my friend. When she told me she would be honored if our sons shared a middle name, our boy’s name became officially set in stone. Loo Chew Yee would become Lewis Christian Young.
In writing all this down, I realize what a collaborative effort naming Lewis has been, and that is fitting. His life so far has been a collaborative effort. Many have poured themselves into our boy: a birth mother brought him into the world, gave him a name, and made the unfathomably hard decision to let him go. Who knows how many nannies have cared for him, hopefully with tenderness and affection, and our friends and family have risen up to support us in bringing him home. In the end he will be our boy, but we realize he couldn’t have become our boy without so many others helping along the way, and for that we are extremely thankful.