Your oldest brother had his name before he even had a real shot at existing. Your father and I, young and infatuated with each other, read a book together, a novel – an epic tale of an Irish monk named Aiden whose story went deep inside us and became part of our story. We met and fell in love in Ireland, after all – and so your brother came to us, even then.
When he came to us, in the flesh, it was through fire – true to his name and to the spirit he would own from the beginning.
Your second brother’s name also came to us without fight – boy or girl, Rowan was always who that baby would be. We washed all of the baby things and reassembled all of the furniture and set up camp to wait. Your brother, he had other plans. We packed all of the baby things and sold all of the furniture and set fire to our camp, letting it burn until nothing was left. His name also meant “red” or “fire” and it rings perfectly from beyond, like it was only ever chosen by a son who knew he wouldn’t be able to stay.
But we got lucky, with these names. They came to us. Now, we hold our dreams a little differently, less and more sure all at the same time of who we are and where we are going. When you came along and your green tender soul peeked at us from the dirt we said “there you are” and “who are you?” and “will you be able to stay?” all in one breath.
Your father says we will choose a name for you and you will both ride it and be crushed by it for the rest of your life. It will become part of the fiber of your being, something that you wake up to and fall asleep to, oblivious to and in wonder of it’s power all at once.
Yes, we do hold you differently. You are more precious, in the sense that we know now life is not a given, that we don’t get to call the shots. You mean something different than your brothers, whose presence was taken for granted. We know to hold you with open hands, even as we want you so badly.
I search for names that meant “gift” or “longed for” or even “rainbow”. They all fall short.
But there is this one name. I have a list, a dozen names that I like or love. I run them by your father; he shoots them all down. No mere mortals name will do for his daughter. This one name haunts me – but he doesn’t feel it and I have some reservations too.
There is also another name – one we circle again and again, trying it on, ridiculous in our attempts to imagine who you will be. We have almost decided on this name, this name that makes the most sense, but then I envision you and you are a bossy 5 year old. Your father cannot shake the image of an evil stepsister. We know these thoughts are juvenile – like a schoolgirl writing her name next to every boy in class, but we can’t help it. The name doesn’t fit. We let it go without ever saying as much.
I am anxious for your name – I knew your brothers by name since they were fresh in my womb and urged them from that same womb to my arms by their name. You feel far away without yours. You are a girl, which makes you more the same as me but even more unfamiliar to my experience as a mother. How will I know who you are? How will I bring you into a world where you belong? Your name feels like the right place to start.
I had always said that I would never choose a name with a strong meaning again. Aiden means “fiery one” and there were days where that seemed like a cruel joke – one that we had unintentionally played on ourselves.
I would name another child something that meant “great sleeper” or “fond of quiet play” or “listen to the words of your mother”.
But it turns out that these are not the names I like. I search for names for you, poring through lists of Irish names, Hebrew names, any names. I find names I love that mean “descendent of the sad one” or “this child, too, will die” (northern europeans were very dark in the dark ages). We rule these names out because no matter what you believe about the meaning of a name, this is just too much.
We rule out beautiful Irish names based on their pesky non-phonetic spelling. We rule out names simply because your father thinks they are not noble enough, or are too whimsical, or too down-to-earth. The bookending of vowels becomes a sudden and inexplicable taboo. Another name gets close consideration but is ruled out for being too obviously copycat.
Still, your name has not come.
Then, one night in bed your father whispers your name to me. I am high on love drugs from an unexpectedly sweet bedtime with your brother, who stroked my belly for some time, whispering “baby sister” and words of love to you and I. He does not know the gift he gave me that night, or how it was the first time you really felt real to me. He does not know that it was the first moment I believed we are actually going to be a family.
Your father whispers the name. It is the name that has haunted me for weeks now. Just two days ago I saw a photo of a young girl that I imagined to look like you and in my heart this is her name. She is perfect and she is you. But your father hadn’t felt it yet. It feels like it is deep inside of me, waiting to be called out. This night, when I see you so clearly inside of me, inside my future, it is found. First you; now your name.
It is the same name as your brother Aiden. It’s feminine version, also meaning “fiery one”. You will own your fire, just like he has, and it will be the best part of you.