A new name; a new identity…


In 2012, my birth mother found my details on the internet and traced me back to my university. She decided to come and pay me a visit, and assaulted me. I managed to get away with only a few injuries but I was very shaken up. When I got home I called the police and they came to talk to me about what had happened. I’ve always believed that my birth-mum is mentally ill (why else would you intentionally hurt your child) so I decided not to press charges that day. Instead, the court later issued her a non-molestation order that stated that she was not allowed to come on to campus. I heard nothing more from her until a few months later.

My half-sister contacted me about an incident involving her, my half-brother, my step-dad and birth mother. I was asked by their social worker to attend a child protection conference to give evidence about what had happened to me and about what my siblings had told me about what was going on at home, which I did. That was possibly the worst thing that I could have done. The children stayed at home and social services were monitoring the situation. But my birth-mum was extremely annoyed and found my phone number. I received constant threats and abuse from her and despite telling the police, there was nothing that I could do about it. I was told that I should change my mobile number or change my name (my full name). I was very reluctant to do so because I had had my number for over 10 years, and my name was the only thing that had been consistent in my life. A few months later, after the police had spoken to her yet again, she stopped contacting me. Well, for about a year anyway!

Somehow she found out that I had moved to Oxford. She began texting me saying that she was going to come and find me and said that she knew where I was working. I asked the police for some advice about what I could do – I didn’t want her in my life… she has no right to be in my life! The police, again, suggested that I change my name. I thought about it for a good few weeks before plucking up the courage to talk to my line manager about it. My colleagues were amazingly supportive and for a couple of weeks they were all going through the names of people on their Facebook page and suggesting potential names.

I can’t describe how strange I felt when I was trying to choose a new name. I had very mixed feelings. Sometimes I felt really excited about it; I could be whoever I wanted to be. Other times I would feel really stubborn and I questioned why I should have to change my name. I would feel angry and upset – why couldn’t she just leave me alone?? Why was it that I always had to change my life?? Why was it that she never had to change??

One evening I started thinking about how much time I had spent being angry or upset as a result of my birth-mother when it clicked… Why was I allowing her to have such an influence on my life?? That was my decision made… I wasn’t going to allow her to dictate my life – I was going to make my own future and be whoever I wanted to be!!!

I went into work the next day and told everyone that I was definitely changing my name. I began thinking about what kind of name I would respond to if people were to call me. I’ve always liked unusual names and I decided that I needed a name that I had never heard of before. I couldn’t be called something that one of my friends was called because it would feel like I didn’t have my own identity. My line manager starting calling out some Irish names and there was one that I really liked. I could even picture myself with that name….

I went home and thought about it all evening and a friend said it over and over again to see whether I responded to it – and I did! I decided that if I was really going to go through with a name change then I would need to do it straight away and not think it about it. So that was it… decision made…. I filled in a deed poll online and received a certificate a few days later. My name was now Áine Rose Kelly. It felt really strange but I was actually quite excited about it. Each night I listened to a little story about my new name…. http://www.babynamesofireland.com/aine

I listened to it over and over again until it sunk in.

It was actually quite surprising how quickly I got use to it – it’s the people who have known me for a long time who really struggle to call me by my new name! At the beginning I just thought about it as my career name. I wanted to be a researcher and this was the name I’d use to publish work. But now it’s hard to believe I was ever called anything else!

Now, when I think about my old name I feel like it was a different person. My birth-mum had chosen that name. Why would I want to be called something that she had chosen?! That was the name of:

A child who had been abused by her birth-mother and step-father.
A child who had grown up in local authority care.
A child who had constantly been called useless by her teachers.
A child who was told she was not clever and would never make it to university.
A child that people gave up on.
A child who would not succeed in life.
A child who would never be happy.

A child who would never belong.

A child who would never be loved or wanted.

But now I am Áine!! I am the one who overcame an adverse childhood and proved everyone wrong. I am the one with a positive future and the one who will succeed in life no matter what anyone else says.

5 thoughts on “A new name; a new identity…

  1. Well done Aine 🙂

    I got a new surname and that felt like a new beginning – and brought an end to what had gone before.

    I read somewhere that in some tradition in India people changes their names to reflect new identities as they move from one stage of life to another.

    Recognising the seasons so to speak.

    I liked that.


  2. I think you’ve made a very sensible decision and can now move forward embracing all the possibilities and success your beautiful new name carries with it. You are telling the world now who you are and no longer accepting all those labels. Good on you xx


  3. I stumbled across your blog because I have been doing research on postgraduate funding for care leavers and I’m glad I did. Your story is so similar to mine and it’s nice to know I’m not alone and absolutely amazing what you have done!
    Did you manage to find financial help with your masters? I’m really stuck!



  4. I’d actually seen this blog before – a while ago when I looked to see if anyone was doing research like yours – but I’ve come back here via the Independent article and this seemed a good post to comment on as I too have changed my name for not dissimilar reasons.

    I just wanted to say I’m sorry anyone had the nerve to ask you whether you had special allowances to get into Oxford. I want to say how dare they – how dare they ask someone who had so many extra barriers in their way if they had it easier. And at the same time I see how it shows the privilege some people have, the privilege of ignorance, of not knowing how hard it must have been when you have to learn things other people were given.

    Please don’t ever let these sorts of eejits get you down. You are amazing – don’t ever give up.

    Liked by 1 person

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