I love the word ambivalent. I loved it long before I even really knew what it meant, which did nothing to curb my use of it. Thank goodness for the movie, Girl, Interrupted or I probably never would have learned that I, like Susanna Kaysen, had been using it to mean the equivalent of "I don't care," when in fact, "ambivalence suggests strong feelings...in opposition." Armed with my new knowledge, I used ambivalent when several other words would have sufficed: to describe the fact that I was indecisive, perhaps, or simply a tad bit lazy and prone to procrastination when it came to important decisions. But no, I was torn, you see, I was ambivalent. Eventually I learned some new words and thank goodness, or else my psyche might have bowed under the weight of so much hand-wringing.
In May, just a few months ago, I found myself in a situation that brought whole new depths of meaning to the word. I thought I was pregnant.
Back in September or October, after several weeks of dating and a few weeks of knocking boots with this new boyfriend of mine, I got my act together and went on the pill. I had taken the pill for years as a teenager to help curb my viciously painful periods and had never had the issues with it that I know so many women do (thank goodness). I went off of it in college because I was dating women, and it took a few months of being on it again this time around for it to sink in with me that now I was taking it because every single time we had sex, I could potentially get pregnant. This might seem incredibly obvious, but for me, this was kind of mind-blowing. All of my previous sexual encounters with men had been so short-lived that whatever potential for worry there might have been was gone within a month. So, despite being not only well-educated but pursuing a degree in women's health care, it took some effort on my part to get my shit together. I set alarms on my phone, I carried my pills in my school bag, I did whatever I could think to retrain my brain into acknowledging that yes, this could happen to me. And things were fine. I was lucky - I don't have any bad reaction to the pill and thanks to Yale's health care coverage, my pills were free. Does it sound too good to be true?
And then, one day in late May, as I started my run on the treadmill, a fleeting thought blipped through my mind, Why are my breasts a little sore? Did I mistakenly grab the less supportive sports bra out of my drawer this morning? My mind drifted to other things until later that night, when we were lying in bed together, he asked me, "Um, hon? Why are your boobs bigger?"
My heart dropped to the floor and words failed me. The darkness of the room pressed against my eyes and I managed a faint, "I- I don't know. Are they really? No, they're not."
"...I think if anyone would know, it's me."
One beat, two beats, three beats of silence while I thought I might burst into tears.
"I love you," he told me firmly, gathering me in a hug. "But I am not ready for kids right now."
"I- I know," I stammered, realizing with a cold and heavy certainty that this was truer than true. "Neither am I." And as I said those words, my heart wrenched and I knew it was true, but I didn't want it to be true.
And thus began the longest week of my life, while I waited to get my period, knowing that the reassurance of a negative pregnancy test could be entirely false since I wasn't even late yet. I cursed everything I knew about pregnancy, because it meant nothing I felt that week, nothing, went undetected and uninterpreted as a symptom. My breasts were sore, I was moody, I was vaguely nauseas, I was freaking textbook pregnant, until a week went by and there on the toilet paper was the reassuring sweep of red.
That week gave me a new perspective on the word ambivalent, as I considered what would happen if I was pregnant. You see, there was a part of me that simply thrilled to the idea that I might have a baby now. A part of me that lay awake at night with my hand on my lower abdomen and thought about how he and I could make it work. But it was fleeting, because the much bigger and more mature part of me thought about the kind of things like, what a terrible way to tie someone to me forever - by knotting us together with an unintended pregnancy. And I thought about how, sure, maybe it's old-fashioned and prosaic of me but yes, I really do want the wedding and the marriage first and then the conscious decision to be made together, of yes, let's procreate.
In the dark of one of those sleepless nights, I landed on it: I want kids, and I want them with him, but not like this.
Which is why when I get back to school at the end of the summer, I'm going to get an IUD. The pill is just not a long-term solution for me. It's too much stress every month, between the remembering and the worry. I am wary of an IUD, I'm not going to lie. But I have several friends who have them who I've spoken to at length, and I'm willing to give it a shot. If I hate it, then I'll reassess. But even though it makes me a little sad to be so decisive about saying, No, not now to having kids, I know it's the right thing to do. I take deep breaths and tell myself, No, not now, but someday. Someday, soon enough.