November 15, 2022

Ambivalent is such a good word, one that I use a lot. I didn’t used to, in fact, I’m not sure I even knew the proper meaning of the word until a few years ago when an acquaintance used it to describe me. Given that I was eight months pregnant with my third child a state of conflicting emotions now seems apt. But in the moment, her passing comment, thrown into our sidewalk conversation like parsley on a salad, felt like a punch to the stomach. We were chit chatting about whatever women with children in the same playgroup chit chat about when she just came out and said it; “you seem ambivalent about this baby.” Immediately, I launched into a monologue about the joys of motherhood and how excited I was to welcome another child. Was my inner conflict so transparent that a virtual stranger could see it? I felt exposed. Vulnerable. Ashamed. And then angry with her for stirring feelings in me that I’d tried so desperately to keep static. It took days to reconcile all the many emotions unleashed in that one tiny encounter. Years later, equipped with a clarity that only hindsight gives us, I wish I’d been able to say, “yes, I am ambivalent,” followed by a cordial, “bugger off.” I wish I could have understood that her comment was as much a reflection of her inner workings as it was mine. And I wish I had known that the ambivalence I was feeling, as natural as it was, would soon be replaced with a certainty of heart so fierce that it’s hard to imagine having felt any other way. Today, I see ambivalence to difficult situations as a gift because it means that I’m allowing myself a fuller human experience. It’s funny how a fleeting encounter can tap into something quite profound, and sometimes even, induce a change within us.

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