I had the hardest baby ever

Can someone please tell me it’s going to be okay?

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.

In This Article

    The one thing your family needs to practice gratitude

    And a tradition you'll want to keep for years.

    Gracious Gobbler

    I think I can speak for well, basically everyone on planet earth when I say things have been a bit stressful lately. Juggling virtual school, work and the weight of worry about all the things, it's increasingly difficult to take even a moment to be grateful and positive these days. It's far easier to fall into a grump cycle, nagging my kids for all the things they didn't do (after being asked nine times), snapping at their bickering and never really acknowledging the good stuff.

    But the truth is, gratitude and appreciation is the kind of medicine we need now more than ever—and not just because the season is upon us. For one thing, practicing gratitude is a scientifically proven way to boost our happiness, health and relationships. More importantly, we need to ensure we're cultivating it in our children even when things are challenging. Especially when things are challenging.

    I'm ready to crank the thankfulness up a few dozen notches and reboot our family's gratitude game so we can usher out 2020 on a fresh note. So, I've called in some reinforcements.

    Enter: the Gracious Gobbler.

    Keep reading Show less

    Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

    So, what's new this week? All things maternity fashion, mama.

    Stowaway Collection Maternity: Modern maternity wear that shows off your bump.

    Finding clothes that still make you feel like yourself isn't always easy. With their premium fabrics and universally flattering cuts, we can't get enough of the maternity wardrobe essentials from Stowaway Collection maternity. Even better? Everything from the mama/daughter duo owned brand is sewn in Long Island City, NY and they source USA-made fabric whenever possible.

    Superkin: High tech, low maintenance clothing designed for mamas.

    Superkin's line of focused essentials (launched by two retail execs, Miriam Williams and Tara Henning, who worked for world-class brands like Louis Vuitton, Walmart, J.Crew and Narvar) are meticulously designed with the needs of mamas in mind. Made from luxurious, wear tested fabrics and featuring thoughtful design details, they've created a line of clothing women actually want to wear. Each piece is a welcome addition to a solid maternity capsule wardrobe, making them a worthy investment from the first trimester.

    Tellus Mater: Sophisticated, luxury maternity wear with a minimalist aesthetic.

    Founded by a former ELLE and Marie Claire beauty editor, Tellus Mater offers high-end, sophisticated maternity looks. Designed for mamas who are looking beyond the standard ruched dresses and oversize T-shirts, the considered line features classic white blouses, tailored trousers and fitted turtlenecks with a minimalist aesthetic. Their classic feel can easily carry mamas from meetings to business dinners all in one day.

    Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

    Keep reading Show less

    100 unusual + surprising baby name ideas

    From Adelia to Ziggy.

    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.

    Keep reading Show less
    Learn + Play