The Power of Naming

Menomama3, who blogs about adoption issues as well as about her family, sent us a link to a video which comments well on the power of naming and how that affects this poet who was adopted as a young child.

Read it through to its finish because its effect on you will happen when you take the time to do so.


How do you feel about what you just witnessed?

Rachel Rostad’s blog can be found here.


  1. Very powerful video! Adoptive parents often struggle with the naming process. We want our children to have a name easily understood in the culture to which we belong. Having lived in many cultures abroad for much of my life, names are often the most difficult for me to remember (unless I write them down and practice them frequently). Often, in these other cultures, even if I write my American name in the script of the local language where it can be easily pronounced, it is still difficult for those in my new culture to learn. So, I have frequently experienced receiving a new name in each of the cultures where I have lived. I treasure each of the names I’ve been given around the world. Names sought to honor and bless me in their cultures. Before adopting our daughter, I thought of names I wanted to name a girl. Names like Sarah, Nicole, Anne, etc. But, when we learned of the little girl we were to bring into our family, none of those names fit. Therefore, we went with a name that was an English name, yet representative of the culture from which she came. It also is a name made from the first two letters in my husband’s name and the first two letters of my name. It is the name of a precious stone in her country, a stone that is often shaped into all kinds of wonderful and beautiful things. A stone hewn from her country…yet gracing the lives of people all over the world.

    To learn her name, click here:

  2. Here’s something I wrote on facebook the other day in response to this video: “What I relate to is the power of names, and the sacredness of naming. Something important is disrupted when a mother chooses not to name or is not allowed to name a child. Or when she does do so but the name is lost. No way of really knowing which is the situation in this case, but something has been broken. There may be more to the story, but without reconnection/reunion, the full story can’t be known. The unanswered letter is heartbreaking.” (Note: My own first mother, a baby-scoop era teen, fell into the “not allowed” category. As I result, the first name spot on my original birth certificate is blank. But that’s not the whole story. Because of our reunion, I know the name she would have given me & that knowledge is hugely significant to me, in a way some people don’t understand.)

    • I agree that a mother not being allowed (or not choosing) to put a name for her child in a written record that gets passed on to the adoptive family is broken. And, yes, it is a brokenness known only to the unnamed child.

      Yet for all those people (adopted and biological) who did receive names from their mothers that have awful meanings…there is still hope. I think about friends of mine in cultures where they were given names that mean: wanted-a-boy, wished-for-a-boy, not-a-boy. And those are “mild” in comparison to other names/meanings I’ve learned along the way. Thankfully, we are NOT bound by the meaning of our names. I think about biblical, historical names that were changed (particularly those changed by God). Abram to Abraham, Jacob (deceiver) to Israel (Who prevails with God), Saul to Paul, etc.

      I am thankful for the One who knows me and has a new name for me!


      John 10:3–3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

      Revelation 2:17
      To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.

      Psalm 139: 1, 13–You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

    • Delana, thank you. I had forgotten about those “wished-for-a-boy” type names.

    • “Something has been broken.” Yes. That’s exactly, and in many cases there is no way to know.

  3. Lisa Ercolano says:

    How do I feel about what I just witnessed? Shaken. Upset. Sad. My heart hurts for her. Why? Because I don’t think Rachel’s anger and sadness are really about her American name as much as it is about her struggles with her identity as a Korean-American adoptee, and her struggle to come to terms emotionally with not being raised by her birthparents.

  4. I watched this a few times. I saw it as poetry and art. I saw it as taking a feeling to extremes to make a point. But I saw Rachel as grounded and strong, and primarily as an artist, someone I would like to meet. I didn’t feel upset by it. I reposted it. I’d like to see it go viral.
    It DID connect me to some unexplored feelings I had about my own name. As always, more on that later!

    Some people say “Get over yourself!” to adoptees. I say “Wallow in it. Bathe in it. Experience it fully. Never stop trying to learn and explore all that you can about it.” I feel that this poem/reading will touch many in that vein. I hope it was healing for Rachel to write it.

    • Wow, Jaye, that is so well expressed. I also felt I’d like to see her perform in person. She did a wonderful job of making non-adoptees feel it, too, and that’s important, as well–to make those connections across the boundaries. That’s the only way that positive changes can happen, when we can make those connections.

  5. I’m a 60s NZ adoptee and I have a name on my OBC but I don’t know if my bmother or nurses named me (according to my non-ID info). I have met my extended bfamily but my bmother died in her 30s long before records were unsealed and as I as born overseas I was a secret.

    I was listening to a radio broadcast re NZ adoption the other day and the broadcaster was saying that he was excited he had a name on his OBC until he discovered that the nurses named him – apparently each day had a designated letter and the nurses went around naming the children names beginning with that letter and his name was an “N” day. As I was adopted through the same organisation as the broadcaster, then I am assuming that I was named the same way. Who knows. My place of birth listed on my OBC is the actual hospital name so I suppose that points to the nurses naming me. On the other hand, my bmother’s place of birth is listed as her actual place of birth and not the town where she grew up which is not something anyone else but she would have known unless she told them, so that might point to her naming me. My adoptive siblings were given names by their bparents.

    Because of my bmom’s fairly young death, it does mean that a lot of questions are up in the air. If she had lived long enough, she might have told her family about me but who knows. Still, I know I’m lucky to have been able to receive my OBC and I have learnt a lot about her (she seems to have been a lovely woman) and have also got to know my lovely extended family.

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