Expecting parents dream of the perfect name for their child. First, middle, last… how they sound all together, how their initials look when written. They test run every possible nickname to make sure they’ve picked a winner. Then, they officially present the name to their child upon his arrival.
My husband and I were no different. In fact, I’d known the name of my future daughter since I was 19, long before I’d ever met my husband. My family and I had taken a trip to the South, and one of our stops was a beautiful, green, historical town named… Savannah, Georgia. Located there is an Art School that I had dreamed of going to the year prior. The Savannah College of Art and Design. Visiting the scene only made me long for that adventure all the more. Art School never made it into my future. But that city certainly left its impression on me.
Savannah. The name of my future daughter. And, I’d pair it with my mother’s name, Jane, since she named me after her mother.
Oh, how I dreamed of Savannah Jane. In my mind, she’d have tan skin like my husband, light eyes like mine. Two pig tales would curl around her ears and she’d have the giggle of an angel as she danced around our living room. I couldn’t wait to meet her.
I never did.
April 11th, 2013, we picked up our foster-praying-it’s-forever daughter, and she already had a name.
It was the only thing her birth mother had ever given her.
Usually in foster care, parents are given visitations with their children, up to twice a week, to maintain their relationship while they work their plan to get their children back.
But, our little one’s birth mother hadn’t wanted anything to do with her since the day she’d given birth. A tragedy on many levels.
Yet, this was a relief for us. No visits to worry about, no awkward face-to-face contact with the mother, no needing to put our child through the unnecessary stress of being left in a room with a “stranger.” And, most of all, it looked like our chances of getting to adopt her were good, with the birth mother wanting no involvement.
But we knew the birth mother was out there, in our very own city, somewhere. We didn’t know what she looked like or where she lived. We didn’t know if she had a job, or a car. But we did know that she’d given our girl her name.
We became very skeptical about using her real name in public, always wondering who was around and if they’d recognize it. For all we knew, the young lady behind us in line, the woman behind the cash register, or the girl in the car next to us could have been her birth mom. Would she recognize her own baby? Would she confront us if she did? How would we handle such a confrontation?
Our girl needed a new name. Though not “legal,” something that we could call her in public that would allow us peace of mind. We brain-stormed nick names together. My husband liked “half-pint,” but I liked…
She certainly looked like a Sweet Pea. The name stuck, and pretty soon that was how everybody (family, friends, acquaintances) referred to her.
We loved it all the more when we realized there was a song from the 60’s called “Sweet Pea.” We devoted one night to memorizing the lyrics so we could sing it to her. She’d smile and wave her arms. The name was perfect. But best of all, we could say it in public without the fear of who was standing behind us.
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