For quite some time I've been wanting to do a post about our boys' names. Whether or not to change a child's name is an intensely personal decision for an adoptive family, and this post is by no means a commentary on any other family's decision. It is simply an explanation of our own choice in this matter.
Before I get into that, here is how to pronounce their names:
Since David and I had really not planned on having children, we hadn't ever had much of a "names" discussion, and we certainly didn't have any special names set aside for our future children. When we started going through training during our first adoption, we read a few articles on the importance of keeping a child's birth name. Since our parameters were open to a child up to 4 years old, we decided that if at all possible, we wanted to keep our child's Ethiopian name. It was one of the few things that our future son or daughter could bring with him or her. Since we assumed they would not be an infant, we thought that our child would probably feel an attachment to their given name. We also knew that names in Ethiopia are generally chosen for their meaning, rather than just because the parents like the sound of a specific name, and we liked the idea of our child having that special tie to their heritage.
During Yikealo's referral, our case worker spelled and pronounced Y's name incorrectly, so we really didn't know how to pronounce it for sure until the day that we met him. We loved the way it sounded though, and we had certainly been correct in thinking that our child might be attached to his name! We had tossed around the idea of nicknaming him "Ike" since that is right in the spelling of Yikealo and since it is also a family name, but Mr. Y wanted nothing to do with that. Everytime we tried to call him anything other than his given name, he would emphatically say, "No! I'm Yikealo!" Today, he doesn't mind nicknames so much and will often refer to himself as "Y-man." He has never minded all of the mispronunciations that come his way either: E-coli, Ukelele, Avocado, Kyle, etc. (I kid you not, he has been called all of these, with E-coli being the most frequent. Trust me, if his name had been E-coli, we WOULD have changed it! My child is NOT a parasite!) He just laughs them off and corrects people.
It took us quite a while to learn the meaning of the name Yikealo. We were not able to meet his birth mother and I couldn't find much about it online. We had found one meaning that had something to do with the wisdom of an older generation, and another one of "He can do." Two years or so after we came home, another adoptive family stated on our agency's Yahoo group that they had just adopted a Yikealo too, and during the birth family meeting, the mother had stated that the name meant "God is able." That resonated with me, and I just had a feeling that was the true meaning of Yikealo's name. This past spring, we were able to have Y's birth mother interviewed, and we had the interviewer ask why she chose the name Yikealo and what it meant to her. Her reply was, "When Yikealo was born, I was handicapped, and I knew that I was not able to raise him, but I knew the meaning of Yikealo is "God is able" and so I gave him that name." What an amazing testament to the power of God! We are now more thankful than ever that we kept his beautiful name. God IS able: to change the hearts of two people who never intended to have children, to lead a family together across an ocean and from two vastly different continents, and to raise a child up to know His love. It gives me chills.
It was a little different with Sintayehu. Again, our case worker mispronounced it, but we were able to quickly find the pronunciation and the meaning online. "Sintayehu" is a poetic name that means "What my eyes have seen" and we instantly loved it. His birth mother chose the name out of a place of worry and pain...she had just been through a very sorrowful time immediately before his birth, and she said that she named him Sintayehu because she "had seen more pain." For us though, it means something more. For us, the name is a song of redemption and praise, the evidence of a life that has seen God's goodness and mercy, and a testament to a child who has walked through the valley of the shadow of death into a safe place of love and protection. Besides, Mr. S has some of the most enormous eyes I have ever seen, so his name just fits! It is a mouthful, and we often call him Sintay, the shortened version that they used at HH. Eventually, we will probably nickname him Ty for short, but I love his beautiful name.
In Ethiopia, a child's second name is always the first name of their father. We wanted to keep this Ethiopian tradition alive, so both of our boys have the name David as their middle name. Neither one of our sons had a father figure in their life while in their birth country, but now they are adored by a loving, wonderful Daddy. The name David means "Beloved" and therefore is a wonderfully appropriate name for both of our precious boys.
So there you have it: Yikealo and Sintayehu...unusual names for America, but names that reflect their birth heritage and more importantly, what God has done in their lives. Two beautiful names for beautiful boys that are a little bit Ethiopian, a little bit American, and ALL ours!