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.