My Name Throughout My Life

July 6, 2020
This Adoptee Life - My Name Throughout My Life

Name Unknown

Let’s talk about what’s in a name.

More specifically, let me walk you through how my name has changed throughout my life so far, and how I relate to my name with these changes, as an adoptee.

I started out with a name unknown to me.

I have no idea what name my first mother chose for me.

I was given the name Amanda Restrepo sometime between coming into the hands of authorities in Colombia and being adopted. I don’t know when, how or who decided on that name for me. There is a copy of an announcement in a local newspaper in Colombia, where my photo appears with two other girls and it says we are all unknown and our parents are unknown.

I grew up as Amanda Svensson. 

That name was given to me as I was adopted at around age 2 and this is where I can start my story.

Svensson was one of the top three most common Swedish last names in existence when I was growing up. This last name is even used to describe a person who is typically Swedish, as in

“That person is a real Svensson”.

No Name Change

I, on the other hand, do not look or act like the typical Svensson.

Born in Colombia, I am dark skinned among the Swedish people I grew up with. I have dark brown hair and for reasons I do not quite know myself, I was always been particular about pointing out that my hair is dark brown, not black. I have very dark brown eyes that I have been told turn seemingly black when I am angry. I am shorter than average in Sweden, and a bit heavier set. I experienced that as a negative thing as a teenager, but today I understand that I am simply altogether from a different genetic mold then my Viking-inheriting Swedish friends who I grew up with and surrounded by.

In addition, my temper and personality are of a different sort. The typical Svensson minds their own business, does what their supposed to, makes no fuss and is not the loudest in the room. That is not me. It was me because I held myself back most of the time, but it is not me naturally. I take up space. I talk loudly. I show emotions, good and bad. I get angry and I make a fuss when I feel fuss needs to be made.

My adoptive parents had planned on giving me the first name Anna.

Anna Svensson.

It does not get more Swedish than that.

It is so Swedish it is almost worthy of an eyeroll to think that would have been my name.
They decided against the name change and chose to let me keep the name I had been given in Colombia; Amanda. The name Amanda means ‘worthy of love’ and they felt it had such a beautiful meaning they wanted me to keep it.

So, Amanda Svensson is who I grew up as.

When meeting new people, I would often joke that while my last name was typically Swedish, I obviously was not. I pointed this out many times. I did it repeatedly, and every time I did, I felt my heart cringe a little bit. Why was I making this joke that I didn’t even like, or think was funny? It confused me to no end, yet I did it again and again, like a rehearsed little skit.

Why was I laughing at myself?

This Adoptee Life - Hi My name is

Protective instinct. Survival mode.

Have you seen the movie “8 Mile”?

If so, you might know where I’m going with this. 

The film, which is loosely based on Eminem’s life, chronicles how he, as a white man struggles to break into what is considered a predominantly black musical and artistic genre. There are numerous things from his life that could be seen as weaknesses upon which an opponent could draw and subsequently disrespect (diss) him and defeat him in a rap battle. He does something in the end-scene that is not uncommon among those who feel in an inferior position in society.

He uses his weakness as his strength by taking ownership of those perceived weaknesses. 

By doing so, he robs the opponent of the chance to use his own weaknesses against him. He exposes his own weaknesses himself, before the joke was made on him by anyone else.

That’s it…

I understand now that this is what was happening each time I made lame jokes about my last name.

I made sure to rob anyone around me of the chance to point out the mismatch between my physical appearance and my name. I did it first.  I did it to get it safely out of the way. I can’t speak to how it is today, as Sweden is the country in the world with the largest amount of international adoptions per capita, but when I was growing up my brother and I were the only two kids who didn’t look typically Swedish, in our school and among our friends.

I knew of no one else who was adopted.

Until high school, we were the only ones. 

Even in high school, this other adopted person was not among my friends and I was not comfortable enough yet to bring up adoption or think of adoption as a way to connect with anyone who was also an adoptee.

I was in the that fog

I should mention that until my thirties, I was a very much an “in the fog” adoptee. 

I did not think of my conflicting emotions.  I did not think about how my difficult feelings and confusing behaviors had anything to do with adoption.

This thing with my own name was absolutely part of that.

Amanda Svensson was a well-adapted, complying, independent, reliable, insightful, strong, and good adoptee.

She also held an ocean of conflicting thoughts, emotional battles, crumbling guilt and utter confusion inside.

Mismatch makes sense

As a young adult, I moved from Sweden, to the US.

Suddenly, the last name Svensson was exotic.

People didn’t know how to pronounce it. I had to spell it out. I stood out. In the US, my common Swedish last name was no longer common. I no longer had to joke about not being typically Swedish. In fact, in the US, my Swedish last name made sense. It spoke to my experience as something else than Latina and it also allowed for me not to be burdened by the mismatch between my last name and my appearance.

Amanda Svensson was born in Colombia and raised in Sweden. Most of the time that sufficed as an answer and explanation to why my last name was clearly not Spanish although my looks clearly were.

I was able to blend in and stand out at the same time.

No Mismatch, But Still Mismatch

When I got married, I took my husband’s last name. 

I never hesitated for one second to make that decision.

I hadn’t felt attached to my last name, probably because of the mismatch, but also because I never fully and truly felt it was mine. I was never of the family line of my adoptive relatives. I would not be carrying the name forward either way since any children of mine would be of my ancestral line, not theirs.

I became Amanda Medina.

The contradiction was gone.

A Latina looking woman, with a last name to match.

I no longer stood out. I now blended in.

Yet I didn’t.

With a last name that reflected my appearance, I am now seen as Latina.

But, even though my “escape” from a Swedish last name is now complete, the fracture from my original culture becomes evident as soon as I am in the company of Latinos who grew up as such. With the music, the food, the dance and the culture. Even speaking Spanish does not cure the wound from having lost the ability to comfortably and confidently claim my Latina roots.

Amanda Medina has left being Swedish behind and is working hard at the painful and vulnerable task of reconnecting and somehow reclaiming part of what makes her who she is; her Latino ancestry and pride.

When I was in Sweden recently, it became clear that I no longer have anything suggesting I am Swedish.

 On paper I look non-Swedish.

In appearance I look non-Swedish.

Not until I open my mouth and speak perfect Swedish with no accent is it clear how Swedish I am. I was even told recently by a person over the phone, as she blurted out in pure surprise “Oh, you speak Swedish fluently, I saw your last name and was prepared for you not to.”

My last name has changed over the years, and with each stage, and each name I can analyze my life in connection.

Each last name has significance in the time when I have had it.

This Adoptee Life - My name is Amanda

And then there is my first name.

My first name has been the same for as long as I know and can remember.

I was relieved to know that I was given my name in Colombia.

It is the only thing I have left from there.

I used to think it was given to me by my family or mother.

I never thought of it much but took it for granted.

I have realized in the last few years that I must have been given the name Amanda, after having been handed over to authorities in Colombia.

The newspaper announcement I mentioned earlier states my name was unknown.

If that’s true, but that’s a topic for another piece of writing.

I have always been very protective of my first name as it has always been the only thing I can completely consider mine. I never liked it when someone else shared my name. It is not the most common of names and it has only happened a few times that I meet someone who shares my first name.

But, when it does happen, while we make jokes on the outside about having the same name, I feel robbed on the inside.

My first name is the only thing I have that is directly connecting me to Colombia, and to the little girl I was before being adopted.

I need to be able to claim that as mine.


I thank you for spending this time with me here on This Adoptee Life. 

All my love to all of you.

And to my fellow adoptees,

PS. We are all in this together.


End of Article
Amanda Medina

Amanda Medina

I was adopted from Medellin, Colombia to Sweden in 1985. I was about a year and a half when I started my life as an adoptee, and it would take 32 years until I was ready to face what that means, what that has always meant, and what that will always mean.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

About Us

This Adoptee Life is where adoptees can explore their story, share their experience, and speak their truth, in support and community with fellow adoptees, and the world.

Share Article

Square Banner

Recent Posts

Help me do more

Adoptee Mantra Poster

Subscribe to the newsletter to receive important news and updates about This Adoptee Life and the work that we will be doing. 

In the upcoming months, we have some exciting things coming.

Don’t miss out :)