• Be kind to yourself.

    So this post is devoted to looking back and talking about a highlight or accomplishment of 2011.  It is a part of the One Day in December series, where a group of wedding bloggers and vendors are each posting on a different day this month.  My 2011 accomplishment was easy to choose, but harder to write about.  My son Charlie was technically born in 2010, but at the very end of the year, and most of his life so far existed in 2011.  Being a mother has been not only this year’s biggest highlight and accomplishment, but the biggest of my life.  However, I wanted to write a really honest post about it because although it was my highlight it was also, by FAR, the hardest year of my life.

    *FYI – this post is not all a downer, but it also isn’t all rainbows and sunshine.  It may contain a wee bit of TMI.  Also, don’t read this if you only want to hear about the rainbows and sunshine of motherhood.  Another thing – this has nothing to do with weddings…

    {our first day at home}

    I feel like so many people talk about becoming a mother and it is all wonderful and positive.  While it is wonderful, I also know I’m not the only one to have had a hard time adjusting to being a mom.  I think we just feel bad talking about it.  Which is why I really wanted to write this, because it is totally normal and ok to feel not normal and not ok after you have a baby.  And your feelings or struggle might not be as extreme as mine, or it might be worse.  But you can think being a mom is the hardest thing ever and wonderful at the same time, and you’re not a bad mom for admitting the hard part.

    I knew being a mom would be hard, but I was totally unprepared for how hard it truly is.  Forget about the 9 months of pregnancy, the 26 grueling hours of labor, the tearing, the tailbone injury, the inability to go to the bathroom after and how bad it was when I finally did, and the months of sleep deprivation – that I was ready for.  But a few things I wasn’t ready for: nursing issues & low milk supply, anxiety attacks at handing my baby over to almost anyone, how much I would want to stay home with my son rather than returning to work, postpartum depression, how badly you need a support system and how hard it is if you don’t have one, a thyroid disorder, a complete loss of freedom, and an overall feeling of being overwhelmed about 95% of the time.  And I had an easy baby!  He is the most chill, low-key, easy going, happy, good sleeping kid, like EVER.  I am very very very VERY lucky.

    {photo by jennifer roper}

    Most of the bad things that I listed were all a direct result of the thyroid disorder that I developed post-delivery that went undiagnosed for almost 8 months.  But I didn’t know that for 8 months, which is why I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and depressed.  It was also the cause of my low milk supply, which created so much anxiety for me because as a mother you want to nourish your baby and you feel pressure to breastfeed and some people just can’t, and I basically put myself through the wringer to try to correct the problem, including going on a drug that makes you crazy and you have to buy on the internet from Canada.  It was actually recommended to me by my lactation consultant (which I think was pretty ‘effed up really, but I digress).  Looking back I realize that so many people are looking at you as a new mom: examining you, watching you, teaching you, etc. and not one person saw what was going on with me.  Everyone was really just concerned with or asked about the baby.

    My husband was too close to what was going on, and had no prior experience with a new mom or me as a new mom, so I wouldn’t expect that he should have recognized it.  But between my OB, my baby’s pediatrician, my lactation consultant, and my general physician – no one really “checked in” with me, and they all saw me during this period.  I remember talking to one of my girlfriends on the phone who had a baby a couple of months before me, and I mentioned that I was crying almost everyday, sort of matter-of-factly.  And my friend said, very sweetly, “I would say that is a little too much.”  I think my son was 4 or 5 months old at that time, and it was the first time I started to realize that I was suffering from postpartum depression.  I don’t know if I would have had it if I didn’t have the hypothyroidism (b/c the disease basically “depresses” your entire system), but what I was feeling and going through was definitely depression.  It took a toll on me, my relationships with others, my job, my blogging, basically everything.  I think what made it worse was a lack of support or a support system and my not knowing why it was all happening.  I would constantly compare myself to my girlfriends (who all lived far away) who also had babies (one had two with a husband in Iraq!) and how they seemed to do it just fine, had lost most of their baby weight, and who didn’t seem so overwhelmed.  I, on the other hand, felt like I couldn’t get my shit together.  I was exhausted all of the time, was gaining weight, if that was possible, and didn’t feel like I was really enjoying my life.  And I didn’t know why.  I loved my son and felt very connected to him (which I’m so grateful for, because some moms with postpartum don’t feel that connection).  I was happy to have him.  But I just wasn’t a happy person.  And I had totally lost myself.

    {photo by jennifer roper}
    When the picture above was taken Charlie was almost 7 months old, and I had started to see a personal trainer to lose my baby weight because nothing I did was working and I was feeling really bad about myself.  I was killing myself working out and barely losing any weight.  Then I developed what I thought was the flu, except I really only had an achy body and a fever.  I think the working out combined with my untreated illness sent my body into shock.  It lasted two weeks, and I couldn’t get off the couch.  So I went to my doctor, he took some blood, and he called me within days and said it: hypothyroidism.  It was like he had flipped a switch.  I realized immediately that was exactly what had been wrong with me.  It made perfect sense.  My mom also had hypothyroidism, so I was familiar with the symptoms.  And they are all so generalized that they are things you could think that you would feel as a new mom, except they were like 100 times worse than you should feel.  I finally knew what was wrong with me, and it wasn’t just that I wasn’t good at being a mom, which is what I had been thinking (also super depressing).  That diagnosis, my meds (which I’ll take daily for the rest of my life), and the support I finally got gave me my life back.  It took me almost until Charlie’s first birthday to start to feel like my old self, but I’m finally feeling like it and looking like it.  Finally.
    So my accomplishment and highlight of 2011 isn’t just becoming a mom and being a mom, it was surviving my first year as a mom.  It was so hard that for a while I thought I didn’t want to have more kids, because there was no way I was going to go through all of that again.  But now that I’m better and know I won’t go through it again because my illness is under control, and because I have what I am certain is the sweetest, cutest, coolest kid there ever was, I sort of want to have him 100 more times.  Sometimes it makes me sad that I had such a hard year during Charlie’s first year of life, and I really hope he never sensed what I was going through and always felt my love for him.  He is such a happy little boy that I think he must have.

    And the lesson I learned and wanted to share is that we (women) are too hard on ourselves.  We feel pressure to do it all and do it perfectly and with a smile on our face.  We don’t think we can ask for help or complain or admit we’re struggling.  We think that all the other women – our friends with kids, our neighbor, the blogger we admire, the famous actress, the Victoria Secret model who gave birth 30 minutes before wearing a million dollar bra in a runway show, our own mother, all do it with no problem.  But we all have a hard time sometimes, we all struggle, and we all do a pretty damn good job. We need to be kinder to ourselves.

    At this point I still have 10-12 pounds (depending on the day) left to lose, my brain only works like it used to about 65% of the time, I’m not “cool” anymore, and I still feel a little overwhelmed at times, but I’m so much easier on myself about it all.  I’m ok with it because I am doing my best.

    I hope I didn’t scare anyone off from wanting to have kids!   Because I can promise you that it was ALL worth every second of struggle and illness for the greeting I get from Charlie every morning when I go in his room.  He is standing up, giving me the double wave, and has the biggest smile on his face.  Heart melting.

    For more One Day in December bloggers, check out yesterday’s post by Louise of Bijoux Bride, and tomorrow’s post by Emma of Aphrodites Weddings!

    leave a comment.


    1. Posted Dec 19 at 7:23 am | Permalink

      Loved this post! Your son is adorable and I’m so happy you’re on the other side of his first year a stronger, happier woman and mom. Thanks so much for sharing.

    2. Posted Dec 19 at 7:47 am | Permalink

      great post, chandra! i think you’re probably pointing out what many others might not want to admit!

    3. Posted Dec 19 at 8:17 am | Permalink

      What an amazingly honest post, Chandra. Thank you for writing it and sharing with us a peek into your year of motherhood, no matter how rough it was. I admire you for following your dream of being a mom and running your own business, and despite the roadblocks life has thrown you with thyroid+depression, it’s so glad to see you made it through to the other side, victorious! xx

    4. Posted Dec 19 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      Loved this post! I remember being a mother for the first time and people focus so much on the baby that they forget about the welfare of the mom. I applaud you for making it through the first year and feeling happier, stronger, and like your old self. Charlie is absolutely adorable too!!

    5. Posted Dec 19 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      What a year you’ve had! So happy that you feel stronger & ready to enjoy 2012 with your gorgeous little boy xx

    6. Posted Dec 19 at 9:20 am | Permalink

      love this post…not everyone is so honest about how hard becoming a mother is, and i think it’s important to share that. i’m glad you were diagnosed and got it under control!

    7. Posted Dec 19 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      Thanks for your honest post! Motherhood isn’t all sunshine & rainbows & the more people are honest about it, the less new moms will feel alone when facing the hardships. Here’s to wishing you a wonderful 2012~

    8. Posted Dec 19 at 9:52 am | Permalink

      This gush honest post is wonderful. Thank you for helping us all understand what new moms go through. I know for me, its a reminder that I need to make sure I’m supporting my friends who are new moms. No one should have to go through that alone. I’m so glad you built your community up again.

    9. Marie
      Posted Dec 19 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      My son’s first year was by far the hardest of my life, and I never felt like I could be honest about it during that year. Like you I had a “good” baby who slept well, ate well, met all his developmental milestones, etc. So it was hard for me to open up about how trying it all was when I knew other people had actual problems to deal with.

      I appreciate your honesty, and I hope that your words find their way to current and future moms that might be struggling with the same feelings. It can be such a relief just to know you’re not alone.

    10. Posted Dec 19 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

      Your honesty is refreshing. There is the unpretty struggle to life that is hard to look at, to talk about, but can greatly be appreciated as well. The growth you endure when struggling through adversity is the creator of a beautiful character.

      Thank you for sharing your story. I am not yet a mom, but I hope to remember your story when the time comes to help get through the tough times and keep in sight all that is good.

      May your 2012 year be blessed…

    11. Posted Dec 19 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      I too am not a mom yet, nor have we started to try. A bunch of my friends are all going thru this new baby change in lifestyle and I’m like a sponge soaking it all in. Thank you for your honesty! I’ll be sharing this with my other mommies to let them know they are not alone. Your voice will give strength to so many more people. BTW I love the pictures of each month chronically his development-really neat!!

    12. Posted Dec 19 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      So amazingly proud of you! Lactation issues caused a ton of anxiety and depression for me as well. I can relate (at least a little) and appreciate your struggles. Great job on the beautiful baby boy and getting healthy!

    13. Posted Dec 19 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

      This is such an amazing post. It takes so much courage to open up the way you did…I know that I always have trouble doing it, but reading your story inspires me! You have a beautiful baby boy, and he looks really happy!

    14. Posted Dec 19 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

      oh wow!! i loved reading this post and how real you were!! i am soo excited and nervous about being a mom and just know my life is going to change in soo many ways!!

    15. Julia
      Posted Dec 19 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

      Haven’t checked in in awhile, and today of all days! Tears!
      Great post my dear friend. You are a great mom and Charlie is so lucky to have you.
      Wish I was there to give you a big hug…followed by a few cocktails! xoxox

    16. Posted Dec 19 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

      awww…he is soo cute…congrats lady!

    17. Posted Dec 20 at 1:48 am | Permalink

      Thank you for sharing and what a lovely little boy you got through it testament to your character xox

    18. Posted Dec 20 at 4:07 am | Permalink

      Thanks for the honesty and willingness to share! I struggle with hypothyroidism myself, so I can’t even imagine how you must have felt while it was undiagnosed after you had Charlie. Here’s to a great 2012!

    19. Posted Dec 20 at 7:35 am | Permalink

      what an inspiring post! Thank you for being so honest – I’m expecting my first baby in March (don’t worry, you didn’t scare me) and I really appreciate your candor and passion, and I’m sure all of your readers do. I’m so sorry for everything you went through, but so happy that you are doing great and are able to reflect back on it. Charlie is a cutie – congrats and all the best!!

    20. Posted Dec 23 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

      Love. What an amazingly honest and important post. Having a baby isn’t all butterflies and flowers and I think you have helped so many women just by admitting that. We are thinking about having kids soon and I am hounding my friends like crazy just trying to get honest answers about what it is really like so I won’t be surprised or start to feel like I am not doing something right. Thank you so much for sharing.

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