I was born on January 30, 1967 in Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, Michigan, and was immediately placed into foster care until I could be adopted. I’ve always known I was adopted, so was my older sister and older brother, although he was adopted later, but anyway – it’s never been a big deal. My Mom was a juvenile diabetic who had several miscarriages and a baby she lost at 6 months, so adoption was her only option. My Mom passed away in 1997 and it wasn’t until that year that I found out what my name had been at birth – Rebecca Elizabeth Galway. Like the place in Ireland. So that was my first name.
What I do know about my birth parents is that I was the youngest of five girls, and my birth mother died of what the medical record says was a “brain seizure”. My birth father didn’t feel capable of raising five children on his own, which I can totally understand. I have a scrapbook that my foster parents kept, it’s the only thing I would save if there was a fire and I had time to grab it. In it they refer to me as “Becky”. I’ve never felt like a Becky. I was premature by almost 2 months, so I was teeny tiny. The scrapbook says I was a happy baby, always smiling, and even when we went to the doctor for vaccinations, I only cried a little. I’m glad I was so easy for my foster parents to care for.
I was 16 months old when my adoption was finalized and I went to live with my parents. They turned my middle name into my first name and gave me a new middle name, Anne, after my Mom’s favorite great-Aunt that she was very close to. So then I became Elizabeth Anne Culver, and my parents nicknamed me “Betsy”. I went from “Becky” to “Betsy”, and that was my second of three names.
My sister is 3 years older than me, and she was NOT happy that “her” parents adopted a toddler. Shortly after my adoption, we went out for brunch after church, my Mom asked my sister to hold my hand, so she took my hand and then BIT IT. I had a scar I could see for years. And that was the way our relationship was until the day she moved out. She had been an only child for almost 4 years, and that was the way she liked it. She had no interest in playing with me or even talking to me if she didn’t have to. I was to stay out of her things under penalty of I’m not sure what, but I didn’t want to find out. She moved to California after graduating from college, we exchanged a few uncomfortable phone calls and she told me I was fat the week before my wedding, then when she came for my Mom’s funeral, she made it very clear that she didn’t like anything about me, so I just let her go. I technically have a sister, but that’s all.
So, back to the three names. First I was Becky, then I was Betsy, a name I absolutely hated with a burning passion. NO ONE was named Betsy. Guess how many times I was called “Betsy Wetsy”? Nope, more than that. When I went to camp, I asked everyone to call me Elizabeth, which sounded weird at first, but the more I said it out loud, the more it seemed to fit. When I filled out the housing form for college and it asked if I had a preferred nickname, I checked NO. Seeing the name “Elizabeth Culver” on the door of my dorm room was the most empowering moment of my life up to that point. I had finally been given a chance to start over, leave Betsy behind (although I was soon going to learn that I hadn’t actually left her at all), and it was finally MY choice. Even Chris, who had met me as Betsy, got used to calling me Elizabeth. My Dad and close family members still call me Betsy, and that’s fine, but Elizabeth is who I am, who I finally felt was the right name for me.
So that’s where I came up with The Girl With Three Names. It may become a book some day, depending on how well this writing goes and the reactions I get. I had to be Becky to become Betsy, and I had to survive being Betsy to become Elizabeth. And when I say “survive”, I mean it. I’ll be working my way through my life chronologically, so the next post will be the one I’ve been dreading writing. If you want to be notified when I post, please subscribe using the form in the sidebar. And thank you for sharing this journey with me!