The Power of a Name

Six weeks ago, a wonderful adoption attorney named Colette emailed me. “Emily, I’m going to give you a call today or tomorrow regarding the adoption situation attached.”

I looked at the situation, and dismissed it on the spot. We had no profile book yet, no home study done. We had talked to this lawyer a month before, and liked her lots (a friend recommended her), but we didn’t think we were ready to move forward. It wasn’t part of the plan. Besides, I reasoned, there had to be 1000 other prospective parents lined up for this baby. This couldn’t really be a serious option for us.

But, for reasons known only to God, I dropped every pressing deadline I had, and spent the next 12 hours putting together an adoption profile book.

The next night, we were having dinner with friends, when my phone rang. I never answer my phone when I’m with friends. I love ignoring my phone. But I looked at it. Colette. I had to take it.

Christy, my friend, more than understood. She took me down into their basement, away from the noise of her boys, and had the foresight to push a pen and paper into my hands. It was freezing cold and dark, but I stood there, shivering, for 45 minutes, while Colette went over the situation with me. For a number of reasons, Colette thought we were the perfect fit for this birth mom and baby. She thought we would be a match.

After the conversation ended, my shocked self went back upstairs. I told Chris and our friends about it, expecting my more methodical, deliberative husband to insist that he needed more time to think about it. He didn’t.

“Why would we need to think about it?” he asked. “Of course we want the baby.”

On the way home, we called my parents. I was worried about the money—because I always worry about the money—but it took my parents all of five seconds to offer to help us with some of the initial expenses if we were indeed chosen. With what we had in savings, we could cover the rest of the first payment. The remainder, we figured, we could borrow against the house…when it was done.

Getting ready for bed that night, my heart started to feel something I wasn’t ready to feel. It was love. Love for a baby. Love for my baby.

But he wasn’t my baby yet, I reminded myself. Nor, even if the parents did choose us, would he be mine for a long, long time. I shut that feeling down, and I shut it down hard.

The next morning, I finished the profile and had a print version shipped to Colette. Two days later, she called. We were chosen.

Again, my heart reached out to that baby. My baby. I cried with joy. And then I stopped.

Not my baby. Not yet.

In the weeks that followed, we began spreading the word. Some people like to keep these things quiet. Me? I’m not good at quiet. My husband isn’t either. So, first we told family, then our closest friends, and then Facebook.

People clapped and cried and showered us with blessings. Friends started talking about baby showers and baby names and baby things. I talked back. But, my heart wasn’t in it. I cautioned everyone, “Let’s not get too attached. Something could go wrong. It’s just like any other pregnancy. There are no guarantees.”

For a month, I watched everyone else feel the excitement I was too scared to feel.

Then, last Wednesday night, we got a text from Colette. Our baby was a boy.

Even before we were married, Chris and I talked about baby names. For a boy, we had decided on Jude Connolly—Jude is Chris’ middle name; Connolly is the last name of the much-loved priest who married us. But the second we found out our child—not some abstract child, but this child— was a boy, I wanted nothing to do with the name Jude.

“Jude is not my son,” I announced to Chris the next morning. “We have to find a new name.”

Chris thought I was crazy. He also thought I meant we had to find a new name sometime over the next five months. I explained that’s not what I meant at all. I meant we needed to find a new name that morning. Right away. Before Chris walked out the door for work.

And because my husband is a saint, we did. After I kept interrupting his morning prayer with various suggestions, somehow, with no disagreement, we settled on Tobias Connolly.

It was a fitting name. A line from the Book of Tobit helped Chris discern he was called to marry me (“It has not happened to me as I expected”), and that certainly fit this adoption as well. We also included a reading from the Book of Tobit at our wedding, and, as we jokingly realized, “Toby,” sounds a lot like TOB…which we both care something about. When I looked up the meaning of the name—“God is good”—that sealed the deal.

Then, just as we had with news of the adoption, we started telling people about the the name. And as we did, something happened.

The love that had tried to rear its head the first night, then the first week, reared its head again. But I stopped wanting to squash it. Every time I said his name—Tobias, Toby—he became just a little bit more real to me. Every time I said his name, my heart reached out to him just a little bit more.

And before I knew it, he wasn’t an abstract baby. He was Toby, my son—in spirit, if not in fact—and I wanted to rejoice over his life. I want everyone else to rejoice too. Because even if this is an adoption, it is indeed just like every other pregnancy. Toby exists. He is alive. And his arrival should be anticipated with the greatest excitement. He deserves nothing less. No one does.

Right now, Toby is 16 weeks old. His heart is beating and his body is growing. He has fingerprints and toenails. He can squint, grimace, and frown, and if you handed him your pinky, he could grasp it. His eyes are shut, but they can sense light just like ours can. Inside his birthmother’s womb, he is kicking and flipping and putting on quite the gymnastics exhibition…although she may not be able to feel it just yet.

In short, he is a little person—a perfect, gorgeous, unrepeatable little person. And the world is never going to be the same because of him. He’ll change it, just like we all do. He’ll certainly change me. He already has.

This is a truth to celebrate, not fear. Yes, something could happen to him, and yes, something could go wrong with the adoption. But when we said yes to loving him, we said yes to loving him every minute of his life, which includes right now. We also said yes to all the pain that loving our little guy will entail.

And it will entail pain. No matter how right everything goes, there will be pain. When he burns with fever, when he falls off his bike, when he yells at me in anger, goes off to college, or marries the love of his life, there will be pain. Or maybe there will be pain if his life ends too soon. Or if he never comes home to us at all.

Really, it doesn’t matter. When you say yes to love, you say yes to joy…and laughter…and pain. That’s just how it goes. We said yes, so I’m letting myself love my Toby. And if something goes wrong, I will let myself grieve my Toby.

In truth though, I suppose there’s no “letting” anymore. His name made him real to me. That was its power. My belly isn’t growing. I can’t feel his kicks or know that his heart is beating under mine. But every time I say his name, my heart feels him just the same. And it rejoices. How could it be any other way? Every “Tobias” I utter, is a proclamation: “God is good.” Every “Toby,” I speak is a word of praise to the Lord, a word of praise to his goodness, his generosity, his mercy.

God, once again, has looked with great kindness on an aging, childless couple, and for that and so much more, He deserves an endless litanies of “Tobias.” He is good. Blessed be He.

Shifting gears…

Over the past few weeks, some of you have reached out to me, asking how you can help. After a great deal of prayer and discussion (including with our pastor), we agreed to let our friend Kellie start a YouCaring Page to help us fund some of the costs of the adoption. You can find out more about it here.

Please know that no gifts are expected, but all are appreciated, as are “shares” of the campaign. And if adoption fundraisers aren’t your thing, no worries! We totally understand. It’s taken a lot of humility for us to accept this help, but really the best help you can give are prayers. We need so many of those. So, whether you feel called to help us financially or not, please pray for our Toby, for his birthparents, and for us. July feels like a long, long way away.

11 thoughts on “The Power of a Name

    • Charmaine Dupre says:

      What a generous way to welcome a child into the world. Your story warms and stretches my heart. It inspires me to “adopt” a child, by name, each day of lent and love them with my prayers with a small act of kindness when inspired. I love your posts and will partner with you through Tobias’ journey to birth.
      Also, for the second year in Lent, I plan to follow the Food Discipline list (pg 83) your offer in your book. As a dietitian/nutritionist I find it practical and helpful.


  1. Lisa Genton says:

    You picked out a beautiful name. Congratulations! I’ll be praying for all of you and anxiously waiting for pictures of Tobias when he arrives. 🙂

    Lisa Genton ~~~~~~~~ Just Think Of stepping ashore, And finding it Heaven; Of taking hold of a hand, And finding it God’s Hand; Of breathing new air, And finding it Celestial Air; Of feeling Invigorated, And finding it Immortality; Of passing from Storm and Tempest to an unbroken Calm; Of waking up – And finding it Home.



  2. Mary Kay says:

    We too were accepted by a birthmother to adopt her baby. Due in just 6 weeks, I loved this child immediately. I made plans, told my employer, family and friends, Naturally, our friends and family were concerned, fearing that years of infertility treatments had left us desperate and lacking any good judgement. But they did not understand that in exhaustion and sorrow I had completely surrendered this matter to the Blessed Mother. Once we knew of the baby who would become our son a peaceful energy overcame me and remained constant. Jesus, Mary and Joseph were with us on this joyful journey. We learned of his birth but still had not decided on a name. I felt strongly that as soon as we saw him we would know what name to give him. Several babies were born that day and the nursery was beyond capacity. I saw a nurse holding a newborn as we stepped off the elevator and knew immediately he was our baby. His birthmother allowed us to see him within moments. As we held him for the first time we named him Charles Joseph. Charles for my husband’s grandfather, Joseph for St Joseph. His birthmother approved of his name as strong and masculine. God is good and He had answered our prayers.
    It is true that to love is too enter in to pain. Our joy was a young woman’s pain. Our experience of intense longing and sorrow was over, hers was just beginning. But there is pain in family life. The sickness, worry, lack of sleep. The poor choices that come with adolescence and young adulthood. It is truly painful. But we wouldn’t change a thing, because it was God’s plan all along and we said yes.
    Blessings to you and your family.


  3. Beth says:

    My family and I welcomed home a beautiful baby boy through adoption about eight weeks ago. Your words about love and pain were so touching and just what we needed to hear. Wishing Tobias and your whole family many blessings.


  4. Robin Schmidt says:

    Oh, Emily! I am overcome with joy for you, your husband, and Toby!!! Many, many prayers for you, and your little family. God certainly is good!!!


  5. Michael says:

    Love is a choice , and a good one at that, not an easy one, but a good one!

    I will gladly share on my FB and my humble little blog, but sadly cannot contribute as I was laid off after recovering from cancer treatment (unemployment is harder than the cancer).
    I am a Picture Framer and would gladly frame somethings you could auction if that would help.

    God bless


  6. Jolie says:

    I’ve been following your journey from single to married and now to mother. As I continue to wait for my love story to be written (at age 37!) I rejoice with you and Chris. Thank you for sharing with the world and giving women of all ages in all situations (single, married, infertile, whatever) a foretaste of hope.


    • Emily says:

      Thanks so much, Jolie! If I could go back five years and tell myself anything, it would be that it’s all worth the wait. Every second of it! You’ll be in my prayers.


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