What’s in a Name?

Last night we had the privilege of hosting a Congolese student — who attends the graduate program of our local university — for dinner. The adoption group we are a part of put us in touch with him, and we invited over other families who are in process of adopting from Congo over for dinner and the chance to ask this young man questions. I made Chicken Mwamba, the DRC’s national dish, and we spent the evening listening and talking. It was wonderful.

From the moment he walked in the door, I felt emotional. He looked so….well….Congolese. I always am excited when we have opportunity to spend time with others who have the same skin color as Baby Boy since he is surrounded by people who don’t look a thing like him, but this was more than that. He had the Congolese nose, lips, eyes, build. He was from a different region in DRC as Baby Boy, but we learned so much during the evening about Congolese customs, likes, dislikes, etc. When I asked him what he felt the key was to improving life in Congo, he said — without wavering — education. When people are educated they can have jobs, they can escape poverty, they can get out of the “vicious circle” as he put it.

I also worked through some of the “guilt” I struggle with as an adoptive parent. As we got to know him and the conversation started turning deeper, I asked him how he felt, as a Congolese person, knowing that our son was growing up in America instead of Congo. I told him I struggled with a lot of guilt when Baby Boy first came home. Guilt that I was so happy, yet my happiness came because someone else had lost their son. Guilt at the unspeakable tragedy that had to happen for me to have an answer to my prayers in having another child. Guilt that Baby Boy could not grow up in his country of birth.

He, so beautifully, talked about how God had put me in Baby Boy’s life, and that there were more orphans in Congo than there are families to raise them. That I should not feel guilty for being able to offer him love and a family and education and opportunities. It gave me some much-needed peace.

As we were talking earlier in the night, many of us were asking him about the meaning of our children’s Congolese names. We decided to give Baby Boy two middle names. The first middle name is his birth name — a name that was given to him after his birth mother. The second middle name we thought may have been randomly assigned to him at some point during the adoption process. We decided shortly before bringing him home that we could keep that part of his name, too, as there was a little boy close to Baby Boy’s age — a twin — who died in the orphanage shortly before we brought Baby Boy home. The little boy shared the same middle name as Baby Boy. So we decided to keep this part of Baby Boy’s name as a second middle name. I’ve often Googled this name to try and find out what it means, but had no luck.

As our guest was getting ready to go, I wrote down Baby Boy’s middle name, as he had told me he had a friend from the same tribe as Baby Boy who might know the meaning. He looked down at the piece of paper and looked up at me and said, “That’s a twin name.” I could barely breathe and said to him, “Our son is a twin.”

He informed me that names are given to twins based on birth order. I asked if his friend would be able to tell from the name if Baby Boy was born first or second, and if there would be a special name his twin sister would have if she had lived. He said yes, and that he would find out.

But it turns out he had already given us an important piece of the puzzle that would help us access the information. I sat down last night and Googled his name again, only this time — I typed in the word “twin” next to it.

I learned that Baby Boy was the firstborn.

And we can now call his sister in heaven by name.



  1. […] We ran a race for clean water and learned more information about Baby Boy’s name. […]

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