I feel like when you’re not a parent, you hear so many stories of how amazing parenthood is but also how tiring it is. You may feel like you’re prepared for what’s coming but really, nothing can fully prepare you for your new life. Yes, you’ve heard you won’t sleep, but hearing about it and living it are two different animals. For me, having Santi was both life changing and a huge eye opener. I felt complete but also like I wasn’t myself anymore. What a weird thing to feel, right? I mean, it was hard. I went from being a single person to having a living, breathing human depend on me for life. That’s a lot. No matter how much I loved him, no matter how much he needed me, I don’t think any conversation prepares you for realizing that. For the foreseeable future, I am his life source and I needed to get it right.
The shift from 0 to 1 kids was hard for me. I had never been a parent before and it’s all encompassing. The diaper changes, the nap times, the feedings. Honestly, it’s all a big blur. Once you finally get the hang of it, they change immensely overnight and you’re stuck getting to learn a whole new child and their routine. It was both amazing and exhausting. I remember listening to parents whose children were all grown up and hearing them say over and over again, “it passes in the blink of an eye.” Looking back, it really has happened fast, but in the moment it seems eternal. People kept on reminding me of how easy it was–“one kid is a piece of cake” they would say…and yes, compared to having 2 or 3, 1 is most definitely easier, but it didn’t make the transition any easier.
I thought for sure I was getting really good at the whole parenting thing. I mean, what’s actually considered good parenting, right? My child is healthy (check!), my child is happy (check!), I haven’t committed myself to an asylum (double check!). Things were normal. With Santi I remember feeling like the nights would never end, that he would never sleep and that I wanted to fast forward time so we could just get into the life we needed to be living. Eventually the nights became less hectic, eventually he slept and eventually we felt like a real life family. And just when you start to feel like life is yours again, you decide to give your child a sibling. Our second child came into this world exactly one month before Santi turned 2. I remember feeling so deliriously happy and complete. I had a lot more patience with Joaquin as a newborn than I ever had with Santi. With Joaquin I had a clear picture in my head of how long it would take for me to feel relaxed. I gave myself a three month mark to know that by then, he should be sleeping (hopefully, thankfully, wishfully) and that gave me hope and calmness. I remember waking up to feed him in the middle of the night and being at ease. He would cry (a lot) and I would look at him and feel such joy to know that he was mine that his newborn stage really did pass by in the blink of an eye. Still to this day Joaquin and I have a connection I can’t put my finger on. He is me in so many ways.
When Joaquin was 7 months old I got pregnant with our third son, Antonio. To say I was surprised is obviously an understatement. To say that he wasn’t planned is obviously an understatement. To say that he came and made my life better is obviously an understatement. He made us whole. He completed the Ortega Family and perfected it to a T. He is beautiful, loud, happy, miserable, joyful, rabioso and 1,000 other different things mixed into one. He is unlike any child I’ve ever had before and it’s made for a super interesting parenting journey.
I’ve said this multiple times, but my boss used to tell me “three kids is a game changer Lamas.” Of course, I thought he wanted me to stop taking maternity leave but he was right. No matter how young or old you are, no matter how many resources you have at your disposal, no matter how happy you are in your life and marriage–three kids is a game changer. I kept on waiting for the feeling of “I got this!!” to come and after have three kids, I feel like I’m back to square one. Yes I have experience on my side, but I was reminded once more than being a parent is hard work. It’s 24 hours a day for the rest of your life. Even when my kids aren’t here, even if my parents take them for the night, they’re on my mind constantly. I mean, they’re a part of me so I can’t ever truly disconnect. I think about how much fun they’re having, what they’re eating, what they’re thinking, what they’re feeling–I mean the list goes on an on. Not being able to turn off my mind even for a good nights sleep is hard.
The biggest challenge I’ve faced as a parent was thinking they were coming into this world for me to teach them. I was wrong. They came into this world to teach me.