Your father never does anything I tell him in the realm of recommendations, and I mean this in an affectionate way. I'll send him an email with a link to a story on something right up his alley that I heard on NPR, for instance, and at the end of the day I'm like, "Hey! Did you listen to that story?" and he admits, "You know what, I forgot," and a week later I accept that it's fallen off his radar. I've come to accept this quality and, because I love him so much, find it endearing. So when I told him a couple years back, that one of my favorite collections of short stories was James Joyce's "Dubliners," and that one of my favorite short stories of all times, "The Dead," was part of this very collection, and then - incredibly - he read it, well, I was very pleasantly surprised.
Not only did he read it, but he liked it. And the writing wasn't all he liked. I'll spare you my college-era analysis of the story; the important thing for now is that the main character in "The Dead" is named Gabriel Conroy and after your father finished it he said, "I really like the name Gabriel for a boy," and I said, "I really like that name, too."
This was, of course, before we knew a thing about you or the possibility of your existence.
When we found out we were expecting your sister, we delved into the realm of pregnancy and its accompanying factors as many first-timers do - with unbridled passion. I read up on each trimester and thought carefully about what I put in my body. We made lists of favorite names, but once we found out we were having a girl, I knew we would name her Nora. It was my great grandmother's name and what I'd always imagined naming my daughter. I promise, there was no manipulation on my end, although we did secure the choice when I was in labor.
Of my oldest and best friends, I was one of the first to have a baby. Everything was new and, in the beginning, a little overwhelming. After a few weeks of wondering what in the name of God I'd just done to my life, I fell into a sweet, restful pattern with my newborn. She got older and smiled. Then crawled. Then walked. And now, I am telling you, she will not stop talking.
I hadn't envisioned all this happening by my early thirties. I had always imagined getting married and having children a little later in life. Suddenly, however, it all made sense and worked in ways that seemed easy and natural. In the summer of 2010 we had an almost-two-year old and a settled life in New Haven. But settled in our own particular way. We made good friends and I went to playdates, found someone to cut my hair and trusted the local dry-cleaner. We also made to sure to keep up with the things most important to us. We traveled with our young child, scheduled a few weekends away just the two of us and regularly discussed our career goals.
I wanted to have another baby, but didn't know when. We talked about how it might be a good idea to carefully plan the timing of our next addition, as we weren't sure how long we'd live in the area. Or what was next.
That summer we spent some time in Maine with family, and one night, as they often do, your grandparents offered to babysit so we could go out. Your father and I went to a nearby inn with a charming bar, and over drinks we met and began talking to an couple - some years older than us - who were staying there. We talked about their college-age son and our toddler and when they asked if we'd have another, we told them how we certainly would, but that we were going to wait and plan out the details.
"Don't plan, just let it happen," said the woman, the more talkative of the duo. A drink later and she told us, quietly, that she had some psychic powers, and in the amusing, vacation-esque beauty of that night I didn't think that sounded crazy at all. "You'll have another baby," she told us, "and it will be a boy." I went home and announced the news as though it were fact, while your father sat beside me and played the rational straight man.
A few weeks later I found out I was pregnant.
And several nauseated weeks after that, we began to tell people that we three were going to be four.
Once again I thought about how I'd envisioned my life and about how I'd questioned the best time to have a second child, never coming up with any solid answers. Perhaps our unrealized attempt at carefully planning out this next step was overrated anyway, since everything from viewing those telltale double pink lines to hearing the rapid thump of your heartbeat in the doctor's office never caused me a moment's unease. Instead, total, undeniable happiness.
At 18 or 19 weeks we found out we found out Nora was going to have a little brother. Of course.
Pregnancy the second time around was different. I read, wrote and thought about it less as I was caught up in the rhythm of our already established life. The excitement grew, though, with your impending arrival. It grew more as I reached my due date and beyond. And again and again day after day until I was nine days late and we'd reached a deadline of sorts. The doctors had scheduled me for a repeat c-section as your sister arrived that way, there was no indication you'd be showing up any time soon and there are rules set for safety surrounding that particular circumstance.
But the morning of my surgery, you, or my body, or both, decided it was finally time and contractions began two hours before I was due in the operating room.
After what seemed a long day of endless walks, some loud yelling (that was me), keeping the family continually updated on this unexpected turn of events (that was your father), almost two hours of pushing and a few complications (but nothing too serious), you arrived, screaming and adorable, delivered by the same doctor who delivered your sister, wrapped up in a blanket and, finally, ours.
We named you Gabriel, because ever since your father took my suggestion and read something I knew he'd love, which - as I mentioned - he never does, well, that was your name.
And the best part is that when I think about this, I think not of the typical questions or facts associated with the whole tradition, like what your name means or how we chose it. I tell people that you were not named after a character in a story, per se, but that you were named Gabriel because we both read James Joyce, and the rest is history.
I think about how we didn't plan anything out after all. How life was both settled and completely unpredictable, and I think about a night out and supposed psychic powers.
Your story, to me, is all these things: funny and moving and somehow typical of us. When I think about your name, what I think about most is how your father and I move through the world in a specific manner we've come to adopt as our own, and how you, on that April evening, became part of our joyfully haphazard life. Exactly as you were meant to be.