Nicholas Oak - victory of the people, rooted doorway of prophecy

Ronin Alexander - masterless warrior, defender of humankind

Griffin James - protector of priceless treasure, supplanter of what no longer serves

Each of my children's names has come to us in steady course; each time, once the pair of names has been spoken aloud, it's felt certain that their name has been chosen. Chosen, the parents, I suppose. But in each case, the names have felt beyond my preference. Evasive of prediction. Not just about what I or Robby "liked" or didn't. Each subsequent name was not derived from leftovers of the previous choice but rather emerged independently, clearly, resonantly.

While I feel an interesting distance from each name (though an intimate connection with them as the names of beings I dearly adore), in retrospect, each has felt like a mirror to the lessons that have met me through each pregnancy.

When I was pregnant with Oak, I began to write with a freedom and fervor I had never known. Although writing has been a lifelong passion of mine, it had never felt like something I could do publicly or spontaneously or without much self-censorship. However, in my first pregnancy, I suddenly felt as if a channel had opened in me. Messages and tomes of text assailed my being in waves, often in the middle of the night, so completely and insistently it was all I could do to type the words quickly enough. I began to call these experiences "downloads" because they felt almost as if they came from somewhere else...someone else. The seeming paradox was that, as I opened to this other space, I simultaneously began to find my Voice. I began to more fully honor my personal autonomy. Giving birth to my first child required me to fully rely on myself and trust that I knew how to do this - or, if I didn't, that I would show myself the way. AND I DID. I had scaled a wall around my soul and torn it down. My deeper, truer self was winning. It felt like a transcendence. A victory. A revolution.

During my pregnancy with Ronin, I felt a deep call to and grounding in work that, I began to see clearly, was groundbreaking and countercultural...truly, work with no leaders, few paths, and vague maps. Information and connections flew at me from unexpected directions and I found myself in roles where I had to sustain dedicated work to get a job done (starting a project and seeing it through to fruition is NOT my life's forte!). I also had to step out as a leadership figure. Attending workshops and reading about cooperative businesses; co-leading a counter-rally when Trump was in town to campaign; spearheading new work projects that broke the mold of all that had been done before - all are just a few examples of what showed up in those months like galloping horses with empty saddles. I took the reigns, climbed on, and journeyed. I learned and grew much. I saw I could work with others in ways I hadn't thought myself capable, as an equal and in true collaboration. I realized I could do this because I had identified what I most dearly wanted to defend: spaces for people to feel safe to gather, work together, and flourish in their humanity.

This pregnancy, my third, with the child I now know to call Griffin, shook me to my core. I was busy tending to my two little ones full-time while participating in a dozen community causes in meaningful, time-consuming ways. I was reaching out and going out and speaking out. Our family had also just welcomed another family into our home in a communal living arrangement, which abounded (and abounds) in goodness but brought many new lessons and challenges, most very personal and unexpected to me. I was expanding, and feeling stretched, in a thousand directions. Conceiving this child caused me to collapse back into myself harshly and suddenly. It was a shock to many people and to my system. Certain realities of my life came into sharp focus: where I was not setting healthy boundaries, where I was neglecting to care for my basic needs, where I was overextending my energy, where I was performing out of a sense of duty rather than of desire. My body was TIRED. I withdrew. I reserved. I rested. I went deep.

The world may have seen walls going up, but I felt for the first time in my life an internal release to JUST focus on me. Me, my children, and this baby. My needs, my health, my struggles. It took a lot of digging and supplanting to discover which external or internal voices were keeping me trapped in unhealthy cycles of neglecting my own wisdom. It has taken (and will continue to take) much work to delve to the core of these issues, most rooted firmly in my childhood, that numb me to my intuition and keep my throat closed from telling my truth. It has felt painful. It has felt liberating. Meanwhile, I have come to recognize that I am learning to become a guardian of what's mine (after first separating what IS mine from the rest of what I carry), releasing what does not belong to me. I am beginning to trust that there is treasure in my truth and that my worth doesn't come from carrying around others' weight.

These days, I may look and sound a little scarier, with a sharper beak and keener talons, but it is in the service of what I am here to do. I'm gaining new language. I'm returning to my heart. I'm refocusing on what is mine to do, so that I can do it to the absolute best. So when Griffin's middle name choices narrowed to a few, it didn't take long to see which was his: the name of sovereign rulers, the brother of Christ, and with origins pointing to upheaval that tills the soil for future harvest. Salvation.

How is it that this all feels so much about me and not about me at all? Perhaps in the way that a parent and child, for the child's early life, are not one person and also not two people. They are intrinsically connected and mutually feed from and inform one another. They are separate beings that irrevocably alter the course of one another's life. They are a microcosm of greater truths, always at play and unfolding in our midst, but by which I never cease to be surprised. In so many ways, as a parent, I am just along for the ride. And in many other, important ways, the greatest work I can do is on myself. My children will see. They will watch. They will hopefully not be too scarred by my inadequacies. They will find their own ways. They will live into their names, given or chosen, just as I am still living into mine.

Olivam - olive branch, extension of peace