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I had the hardest baby ever

By Lesley Miller I used to be the best mom ever.

And then I gave birth to my son. And to be honest, in his first year of life everything hit the fan.

I remember a particular morning in late July with vivid detail. Breakfast is still on the table and there are half-dry nursing rings staining my pajama shirt. Everything is leaking—my breasts, Anna's 14 sippy cups scattered throughout the house, and my eyes—because I'm one week postpartum which makes me happy and sad all at once.


The baby yawns, the first sign of readiness for a nap, and I lay him down in our bedroom right after my husband leaves for work. It is his first day back in the office and I'm appropriately nervous.

I swaddle my son tightly and lay him right next to a white noise machine in his perfectly 68-degree dimly lit bedroom. He's drowsy on breast milk so I rub his cheeks and leave with a confident, “Night night, sweet boy." This time around I know exactly how to get babies to sleep. I've read the books, I know the theories and I've put in my time. This ain't my first rodeo, y'all.

So when he's crying, merely 28 minutes later, I'm dumbfounded. In my mind anything less than an hour isn't a sufficient nap, and I march into the room to pop in a pacifier and tell him so. I haven't even emptied the dishwasher yet, let alone brushed my teeth or dressed his big sister. No, 28 minutes doesn't work for me. This is just a fluke.

But then it happens the next morning, and the one after that. Soon it happens during the mid-morning nap, and the afternoon nap, and the bedtime hour. Each day that passes another nap goes down the drain until he's three weeks old and barely sleeping.

He only knows 28 minutes, and I only know…nothing. I can't get him to fall asleep, I can't get him to stay asleep, and the only time he's not crying is when I'm nursing or holding him.

Don't even get me started on how car rides are going.

The months go on, and soon he's four months old and still not sleeping, like, ever. I decide to be brave. When people ask how we're doing, I tell them the truth: it's really hard at my house. The responses aren't encouraging.

“He's just a newborn; this is what they do," say the moms.

“My baby was like that and he still isn't a good sleeper at age three," say the other moms.

“Can't you just hold him while you vacuum? There are plenty of great baby carriers these days," say the most unhelpful moms of the bunch who clearly haven't tried vacuuming with a lightly sleeping 20-pound infant strapped to their middle while big sister asks to be held too.

No one understands that I'm not really looking for advice on how to parent or sleep train or not sleep train; what I need is affirmation.

More than anything, I'm longing for someone to meet me in this awful place of screaming and yelling to tell me, “Yes this is hard. He is not a great baby. He is cranky all the time. You have every reason to be exhausted and discouraged."

Months and months pass without a lot of sleep. My baby grows bigger but he doesn't cry any less. His sensitivity, persistence and opinions seem to only grow stronger, no matter what techniques we try.

Oh sure, we have our beautiful smiley moments and my love for him is fierce and protective, but at the same time I also don't really like him. A few friends ask if I might have postpartum depression, and while I suppose that's possible, I think I've simply run out of reserves. The noise and the demands are all-encompassing with no light at the end of the tunnel. Will he ever be happy? Will I ever be happy?

When he is seven months old, I call my parents for help. I need 24 hours without screaming and the grandparents swoop in without questions. While my husband and I love catching up and sleeping in, the best part of the weekend is what happens when we return. My mom, a baby whisperer, assures me they had a great time with the kids but adds, “He is a hard baby. I think he's more difficult than you or your siblings ever were."

Later, when I tell my husband what she said, I smile bigger than I have in months.

My mom's words are part of a turning point for me, in part because they affirm my feelings, but also because she unintentionally gives me permission to reassess the starting line.

Until that point I thought much of children's behavior had to with parenting skills. While I still think moms and dads play a big role in teaching a child the way to go, I also believe some children are born with a head start.

My daughter, the first born, fooled me into thinking that how I parented played a large role in her easygoing demeanor and great sleeping habits. My son's arrival proved otherwise.

In retrospect, it's not rocket science. Some kids are great at math, and some are better readers, and some are natural athletes, and some are naturally sweet and some are naturally quite spicy. My son continues to teach me that I need to order extra water most days. Eventually, with patience and love and consistency, I think I'll have to order less of it.

The hardest baby ever turns two in a few weeks, and both of us have come a long way since the infant days. He still spends a lot of time on my hip and cries more than his sister ever did at this age, but he also plays independently and sleeps like a champ. His opinions about food and clothing preferences constantly keep me on my toes, but he also cuddles better than a baby koala.

I no longer think I'm the best mom ever, but in his little mind I seem to be, which is all that matters. These days we try not to call him hard or difficult or strong-willed. We simply call him Owen. And without a doubt, Owen's opinions and persistence will change the world someday.

He just has to let me put him down first.

This story was originally published on Coffee + Crumbs. Check out their book, The Magic of Motherhood, for more heartwarming essays about motherhood, love, and the good kind of heartache.

Why do all of my good parenting or baby-focused inventions come after they've already been invented by someone else? Sigh.

Like the Puj hug hooded baby towel, aka the handiest, softest cotton towel ever created.

Safely removing a wet, slippery baby from the bath can be totally nerve-wracking, and trying to hold onto a towel at the same time without soaking it in the process seems to require an extra arm altogether. It's no wonder so much water ends up on the floor, the countertops, or you(!) after bathing your little one. Their splashing and kicking in the water is beyond adorable, of course, but the clean up after? Not as much.

It sounds simple: Wash your child, sing them a song or two, let them play with some toys, then take them out, place a towel around them, and dry them off. Should be easy, peasy, lemon squeezy, right?

But it hasn't been. It's been more—as one of my favorite memes says—difficult, difficult, lemon difficult. Because until this towel hit the bathtime scene, there was no easy-peasy way to pick up your squirming wet baby without drenching yourself and/or everything around you.

Plus, there is nothing cuter than a baby in a plush hooded towel, right? Well, except when it's paired with a dry, mess-free floor, maybe.

Check out our favorites to make bathtime so much easier:

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One of our main goals as mothers is to encourage our children to learn, grow and play. They start out as our tiny, adorable babies who need us for everything, and somehow, before you know it, they grow into toddlers with ideas and opinions and desires of their own.

You may be hearing a lot more of "I do it!" or maybe they're pushing your hand away as a signal to let you know, I don't need your help, Mama. That's okay. They're just telling you they're ready for more independence. They want to be in charge of their bodies, and any little bit of control their lives and abilities allow.

So, instead of challenging your toddler's desire for autonomy, we found five of our favorite products to help encourage independence—and eliminate frustration in the process.

EKOBO Bamboo 4-piece kid set

EKOBO bamboo 4-piece kid set

This colorful set includes a plate, cup, bowl and spoon and is just right for your child's meal experience. Keep them in an easy-to-reach cabinet so they'll feel encouraged (and excited!) to get their own place setting each time they eat.

$25

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Before you know it, your little one will be asking (okay, maybe demanding) to fill their own water cups. This amazing 4-pack of cups attaches directly to the fridge (or any glass, metal, tile or fiberglass surface) making it easier for your child to grab a cup themselves. Just be sure a water pitcher or dispenser is nearby, and—boom!—one task off your plate.

$29

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

These beautiful blocks, made from sustainably-sourced wood and water-based, non-toxic, lead-free paint, will keep your little one focused on their creation while they're also busy working on their fine-motor skills. The puzzle design will encourage patience as your kiddo creates their own building, fitting one block in after the next.

$18

Lorena Canals basket

Lorena Canals Basket

This *gorgeous* braided cotton basket is the perfect, accessible home for their blocks (and whatever else you want to hide away!) so your kiddo can grab them (and clean them up) whenever their heart desires.

$29

BABYBJÖRN step stool

BABYBJ\u00d6RN Step Stool

Your kiddo might be ready to take on the world, but they might need an extra boost to do so—cue, a step stool! An easy-to-move lightweight stool is the must-have confidence-boosting tool you need in your home so your growing tot can reach, well... the world.

$20

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.


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