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05/24/2005

Momentary difficulties

Charlie's the first baby born of my body, and the only one I'll have. I am always aware that he is my single chance.

I don't mean that I'll never again have the pleasure of watching a brand-new baby wake up to the world around him and gradually make it his own. If our second child is an adopted newborn, I'll feel the same sheepish awe I feel now — sheepish because in my conviction that Charlie is deeply brilliant for, you know, learning to focus his eyes, I'm no different from any other parent, ever.

And I don't mean that I think I won't love this much again when another child joins our family. It'll be different, but I know it'll be good. I have my friends inside the computer to thank for that certainty; those of you who've written so honestly and beautifully about your adoptions have made me confident of that.

What I mean is as simple as this: this is my only chance to be a first-time mother. It's changing me, and for once I'm not talking about my rack. I'm learning surprising things about myself, inspiring and appalling things, things I otherwise never would have known.

Realizing this, I try very hard to stay in the moment. I try to let myself feel every emotion of his babyhood, good and bad. I try not to wish even the hard parts away, because they bring with them split-second glimpses of beauty and joy that don't come any other way. But there's a problem with living in the moment: once you've gotten good at it, it's hard to see beyond it.

On a day like today, it's hard to believe that some things will get easier, that Paul and I will have grown-up fun again, that one day Charlie will go for more than 30 minutes without needing something urgently, that eventually he'll make his needs known in ways that aren't uniformly unpleasant. I know those things are true, but when you live resolutely in the moment, you lose the knack of taking a longer view.

When you forget, because you're living so immovably in the moment, what everyone's told you — that the naps will get longer, the nights will become more peaceful, the interactions will grow richer, that above all what bothers you now will change — it's easy to sink into a shell-shocked sadness. I'm not convinced that living in the moment is everything it's cracked up to be, not when the moment's so hard.

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