We named our baby girl Avy.
Well, to be specific, our son Ryker named her Avy.
On the day we found out that she was going to be a girl, as we were chatting around the dinner table, my husband asked Ryker if he had any suggestions for names. Without missing a beat and with complete nonchalance, Ryker answered, “A.V.”
My husband and I hesitated. One of us may have said, “Hm…” while the other said, “That’s a nice…word?”
Because as far as we knew, it was neither a word nor a name.
“How would you spell it?” I asked.
“A. V.” he answered, his voice steeped in the sense that he thought we, his parents, were apparently not very astute, asking such an obvious question.
We had not named Ryker until he was 6 weeks old. That’s how long you have in the UK to register a birth. Our delayed decision had been due to a combination of my husband and I not being able to remotely agree on any options as well as the difficult start we had had when Ryker was born. When you’re watching your new baby in the NICU and awaiting test results on whether or not the infection that the doctors had detected had spread to his brain, it’s not that easy to make a decision that assumes there is a future of joy and promise.
It was only because we were nearing the end of the 6-week grace period that we finally committed to selecting a name one afternoon en route to a pub in the countryside. My husband was driving and I was rattling off names from various lists online.
There’s a scene like this in the show “Friends” and it truly was what was happening with us.
Then, about 300 names in on one of the lists, I came across the name Ryker.
“Oh, this is interesting: Ryker…”
“Ryker? How is it spelled?” my husband asked.
“Either R-i-k-e-r or R-y-k-e-r.”
“Ryker. That…could work… Are there any references or meaning to the name?”
“It looks like there’s a Star Trek character named Captain Riker. And you know, there’s Rikers Island, the prison."
We loved the random, rather unromantic associations with the name. We loved how it was uncommon and unusual. Once we got into the pub, we wrote his name on a napkin, decided it looked right spelled with a Y, and finally, our first born had a name.
As we got closer to Avy’s arrival, I would periodically ask my husband if he had any ideas yet. Where I had been fervently making and regularly editing my list of potential names, he was waiting to meet her first, trusting that the right name would make itself known. I would plea, “But you have to have SOME options!” and he would answer, “I’ll put together a short list this weekend.” Obviously, said short list never happened.
I don’t know how many times I reminded him that we didn’t have 6 weeks to decide here in New York and that it was highly advised to have a name before leaving the hospital. It would be possible to register or change the name afterwards, but it would cost money and be a bureaucratic pain in the neck.
“I don’t want to be forced to make a decision while feeling out of it after the birth!” I warned him.
I would share my suggestions with him, but he was noncommittal at best. His mind just could not comprehend having to make such a vital decision before at least having laid eyes on the baby.
Through all of this, “A.V.” was never really a contender. I had it, spelled Avey, on my list as Ryker’s suggestion. I told a couple of my besties about it and they absolutely loved it right away. But my husband and I had never taken it super seriously. What was an Avey? What did it mean?
Shortly after Avy was born, I had an aha moment.
“Oh my gosh. I think her name actually is Avey!” I declared.
“I don’t know yet. I need more time,” my husband said.
By the third day of our 4-day hospital stay, I was increasingly stressed and annoyed that we still didn’t have a name. I tired of answering everyone that came through asking, “Do we have a name for Baby yet?” My husband and I actually got into an argument about it, where I ended up in tears and he ended up leaving the hospital angry. Here we were, unable to agree on our child’s name, again.
“I want to name her Avey!"
But my husband was not convinced. Maybe he thought I was simply capitulating. Maybe he thought I was blindly giving Ryker what he wanted. I accused him of not liking it because it hadn’t been his idea. “You did the same thing with our dogs’ names! Those were your suggestions! Why can’t I choose our daughter’s name?” I “told you so’d” him that he should have had a short list ready. I was frustrated and tired but also, I was afraid he wouldn’t agree, because I really did just KNOW that that was meant to be her name.
On the final day, as I was filling out our discharge papers, we finally came to an agreement.
He said, “I like the name Avey. But I think it should be spelled A-v-y.”
“Wait. Really? Really, really??”
Looking at our new baby, he softly said, “Hi Avy. Your brother and mama are right. You are Avy, aren’t you?”
When we got home and told Ryker what we decided to name her, his eyes widened and his jaw dropped, framing his face into a perfect expression of elated surprise as he exclaimed, “That’s what I said her name was!”
For months, we left the story of her name there. It was so beautiful! When sharing her name in text, I learned I needed to include the parenthetical note: “(like navy)” because people kept asking how it was pronounced.
Earlier today, we dropped by the hospital where Avy was born to donate some stuffed animal toys to the NICU in honor and in memory of a baby boy who passed away at 8 months old from brain cancer earlier this year. He had been born just 4 days after Avy and as I followed his story, my heart could only imagine their family’s suffering.
As Ryker and I were reminiscing about Avy’s birth and saying how incredible it was that she had come to life right here at this hospital, Ryker said, “Do you know how I even came up with the name Avy?”
“I thought you just made it up. I’d never even heard that word before."
“Well, for a long time, I was really hoping for a baby sister. Then, when you said you were pregnant, I really wanted it to be a baby girl. But I didn’t say anything because what if it was a baby boy, then I would feel bad.”
“Aw, that’s so sweet, Rykie. Why did you want a sister?”
“I don’t know, I just did. I just felt it had to be a girl. And when I would think about the baby, the name ‘Avy’ just came to my head. I don’t know why. It just was in my head.”
“Wait, what? You had thought of the name before we talked about it that day?”
“Yeah. It was in my head for a while and finally when we knew she was going to be a girl, I could tell you. That’s how I knew her name was Avy.”
It had somehow never occurred to me that Ryker could have had some forethought into the name Avy. Honestly, I kind of thought he had just picked a couple letters and presented it as the questionably viable option we thought it was. But hearing his detailed story about it, I realize that he was already connected to his sister and to the language of his soul, that inner wisdom and intuition that we all have, that is particularly untethered in children. I like to imagine Avy tapping into his heart, asking him to help guide us, their mommy and daddy, to know her. I like to imagine their deep psychic connection as siblings, a reality I have the absolute privilege of witnessing more and more as our days go on.
When I was on the other side of becoming a mom of two, I only really thought about the obvious and the concerns. Jealousy, sibling rivalry, is their age gap too large for them to be close? And of course I do still have to manage Ryker’s 7-year-old wildness and gangly limbs around Avy’s infantile innocence. Just the other day, he inadvertently kneed her in the face as he hopped a little too carelessly around her. But I also watch as he quietly accepts her outstretched hand in the backseat of the car; she is a living personification of the star-eyed emoji when she looks at her brother. I beam with pride to hear him say things that reveal that he truly sees and appreciates her: “She just said Mommy! She’s getting cuter by the day. Uh oh, she’s in Queen Mode!”
Mothering my children is a continual reminder that there is a bigger picture that I am always being invited to trust, despite being unable to fully see. I think about how I cried constantly and got lost in forums about gender disappointment when we found out Ryker was going to be a boy. I think about how I worried with every passing year that we were missing our window of having another child. I think about other people’s opinions that I got stuck on: “It’s best to get the baby stages over with. I couldn’t imagine going back to diapers. I want my kids to be able to play together when they’re young.” It’s not that these thoughts are not valid, of course they are. Every family is entitled to their own best choices. It’s that there are endless permutations in how you can create and choose your family.
I’m just so glad and so grateful that our family has grown the way that it has: a big brother and his baby sister. Ryker & Avy, I love you both so much. Thanks for choosing me as your mommy.
It is almost always the case that as I look back, I see that I could have always trusted the timing of my life.