The Truth About Motherhood: The Good, The Bad & The Unexpected
We’ve asked eight moms to spill on the giddy highs and gut-wrenching lows of this monumental thing we call motherhood.
What does motherhood mean to you? Love, joy and laughter, sure, but what about fear, isolation and guilt? Motherhood is sold to us as the perfect package – a sure-fire path to eternal happiness. But behind the scenes this happiness can be intermingled with pain, self-doubt and all-manner of physical and emotional challenges.
We’ve called on eight working mothers to give it to us straight and tell us the truth about motherhood by answering two questions: 1) What’s been your lowest point as a mother? and 2) What’s been your high point?
Here’s what they shared:
Dr. Deepika Chopra
An ‘Optimism Doctor & Visual Imagery Expert™️’ by trade, Dr. Deepika coaches families in the art of mindful parenting – a practice duly challenged from the day she fell pregnant with her son, now 21 month-old Jag. Her insta bio includes the disclaimer *social media isn’t real life, and on its feed you’ll find candid snapshots of her perfectly imperfect motherhood journey.
Dr. Deepika’s low point:
“Looking back, I learned that it was all okay and I wish I was way more gentle on myself. I was chronically sick for almost 10 months, of course I wasn’t going to feel like singing and reading to my belly. I mean, my head was in a toilet most of the time! And none of that mattered the moment when I held Jag for the first time. I couldn’t even imagine a time I wasn’t connected to him, I felt like he had been my whole entire heart and soul from lifetimes ago and I knew he would be forever going forward as well.”
Dr. Deepika’s high point:
“A few weeks ago, as my husband, Alex, Jag and I were laying on our bed singing as Alex played the guitar – if he’s home in time we do this every night – Jag started singing along. He knows the words to Room At The Top by Tom Petty, Hallelujah, and Shallow from A Star Is Born… like all of a sudden our 20-month-old son just started singing along with us and in tune! Then he looked up and said, “Mama, I love you too big.” For that moment I definitely ran through some kind of crazy happy meadow in my mind!”
She’s spent a decade on red carpets, interviewing A-listers for NBC’s Access and, early last year, this British-born television host, blogger and author welcomed her daughter, Honor. Louise might make style, self-care and traveling with a tot in tow look effortless, but she’s as honest as they come on the struggles that face working parents.
Louise’s low point:
“Running our own family business has been a double-edged sword with regards to motherhood. It meant no real maternity leave and work hours definitely bleed into the evenings and weekends sometimes. But it’s also meant not missing any special moments because we work from home and we can be more flexible with our schedule. I’ve become better at creating boundaries between the working day and true time off, and it’s made a big difference! I won’t have my phone nearby when I’m with Honor, and I spoke to members of my team about when to expect a reply. Managing expectations really helped.”
Louise’s high point:
“How much Honor makes me laugh. I never expected the true belly-laughing moments! She really gets the joke, and will giggle her head off at the smallest things, it’s adorable. I love feeling the bond between us grow every day, and I adore watching how much she loves her Dad. She says ‘Daddy’ non-stop now!”
This former Manhattanite traded city life for the sprawling countryside of Provence, a ludicrously gorgeous rural region in southeastern France. As one half of the husband-wife duo behind Ann Street Studio, Jamie spent her first few months with her daughter, Eloise, sharing stunning self-portraiture (#provenceselfportraitserieswithbebe) while navigating her new identity as a mom.
Jamie’s low point:
“The biggest struggle in motherhood for me is the fear of who I will be as a mother. Can I keep it together? Can I be stronger than my frustrations so they don’t overcome me? Will I lose myself and my identity as an independent being and artist to the full time job of motherhood? What if I find being a mother unfulfilling… The good news is that by asking yourself these questions you’re addressing the fears so that they don’t become reality.
Because I don’t want to lose my cool, I find my strength in patience strong enough to get me through the hardest moments of motherhood. Because I fear losing myself and my passions as a person, I carve out time each week, even if it’s a small amount, to create and I bring Eloise into that process… and then the most magical thing happened, I have discovered the joy in sharing myself with my daughter and teaching her the world I know and love.”
Jamie’s high point:
“When she falls asleep on my chest I feel pure power of what being a mother is all about. Being her security, being tender, connected, a caretaker, gentle, loving, innocent, nurturing and safe. I also find joy in teaching her things. Putting her in the kitchen with me and holding up ingredients for her to see and smell, walking through the garden and showing her the flowers and leaves. Those moments are magical. However, perhaps the greatest joy in life is the sound of her laughter.”
The Tot’s founder Nasiba spent her pregnancy with the first of three children (Thomas, 5, two-year-old Daniel and new baby Bella) struggling to find healthy, clean and green products for her baby – and so The Tot was (also!) born.
Nasiba’s low point:
“When I was pregnant I was so overwhelmed because there was so much information out there. There were forums and websites, all offering items that were so difficult to navigate. I couldn’t trust that they were safe for my baby. I found this process overwhelming, challenging and stressful, and that’s the reason I founded The Tot. I wanted to make the experience easy for parents. I wanted them to have that sense of trust that when they come to The Tot for a product or for an article, that we’ve done all research for them so they can make informed choices.
The second difficult moment I had as a mother was when my first baby was born and I had a really difficult time breastfeeding. He wouldn’t latch properly and then he’d fall asleep on the boob. I was advised to find a lactation consultant and it ended up saving my life. The lactation consultant spent two-and-a-half hours with me, showing me how to get my baby to latch properly, and we discovered that he had a tongue-tie. I had a doctor come and clip it and it changed everything.
I remember how stressed I was, how I thought I couldn’t do this, how sore my nipples were, they were so raw and cracked and how physically and emotionally difficult this period was. It made such a difference having the lactation consultant come to support and work with me and give me the confidence I needed. She told me ‘follow your own instincts, don’t listen to anyone, listen to your own heart’. I now give this same wise advice to everybody that I talk to, whether it be a first-time or a new mom.”
Nasiba’s high point:
“The moments that make me the happiest are of course every time I’ve had a baby. Every single birth has been so different, so special and so incredible. My third birth was in a car and it was an unbelievable and empowering, crazy, wild experience that made me feel like I had literally climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. What makes me feel happy every day is when my children kiss me or hug me or tell me that they love me. It just melts my heart each time and is like nothing else in this world.”
She’s a former Victoria’s secret angel and VOGUE cover star – and now Czech model and actress Karolína Kurková has launched children’s wellness brand Gryph & Ivyrose. Having recently created a line of eco-conscious baby strollers with Cybex, the mother of two (Tobin, 9, and three-year-old Noah) knows the importance of making time for your significant other amid the juggle.
Karolina’s low point:
“I think my biggest challenge is really making sure I focus and have enough time for my husband. It’s normally us together with the kids, which we love, but it’s important to find time where it is just the two of us. We both have careers that take a lot of love and attention and it’s really about making sure you have that time together. I sometimes feel that’s hard as family will always win over the two of us, but that makes us just as happy. One way to make sure you have time for you and your partner is to take a glass jar and you each put different activities in it. Each week one person picks something from the jar and the two of you, no kids, have to do it together. Consider it a date night, where you get to support and enjoy each others’ company doing something you both love!”
Karolina’s high point:
“Seeing my children laugh and having fun is priceless and so beautiful. Their giggles and laughter shows their joy, innocence and honesty, that purity. Their approach to things shows no judgement and their answers and opinions are so real, it’s very refreshing and so important. I think that’s what really keeps me and my husband in balance and attached and connected to reality and what really matters.”
Actress and producer Tia Mowry broke onto the scene in her teens playing Tia Landry in the sitcom Sister, Sister, and since becoming a mother to son Cree, 7, and 11-month-old daughter Cairo, has hosted her own Cooking Channel show, Tia Mowry at Home. She’s also published a cookbook, Whole New You, inspired by her struggles with endometriosis, and shares her motherhood journey with no less than 6.3 million followers.
Tia’s low point:
“The most recent time I really struggled as a mother was when, while breastfeeding my now 11-month-old daughter Cairo, I came down with mastitis. I was also working 16-hour days at the time. People were telling me to stop breastfeeding, that it was too much with the long hours and I shouldn’t be doing this to my body. But I knew both my daughter and I enjoyed our mommy-and-me time while breastfeeding, our one-on-one connection and bonding. I knew that it made her calm and that it’s the best nutrition I can give her. So the struggle was, ‘should I stop?’ But I didn’t and I’m so happy that I pulled through. What helped me do so was my huge support system: mothers who’d breastfed in the past, mothers currently breastfeeding, my lactation consultant, and the whole breastfeeding community. Being honest about your struggles is key. Many moms think they have to be perfect, but you have to be vulnerable and admit you need help before you can receive it.”
Tia’s high point:
“My most blissful moment – or moments, I should say – is giving birth to my children. Being pregnant and seeing how your body transforms to support a human being from conception to when they are born is mind-blowing. This is why women are goddesses! So much has to happen to make this child grow; it’s heavenly, a miracle. I get teary-eyed just thinking about it. And it wasn’t easy for me because I have endometriosis. It was hard to conceive and to carry two humans earthside – C-sections are no joke! Just because I, or anyone else, didn’t have a natural birth, doesn’t mean any less. First there’s major surgery, then you take care of your baby, breastfeed, go back to work… women are bad-asses! Warriors! To give life and nurture a precious soul; I’m in awe of it every single day.”
She was deputy editor at VOGUE Australia when her first daughter, Arabella, came along. But when the nanny texted to tell her Arabella was walking, Georgie turned her heel on glossy mags and founded The Grace Tales, a platform for the style-conscious mother (that meant this style-conscious mother could work from home). Now with two daughters – Arabella, 4, and Lottie, 3– Georgie is no stranger to the challenges motherhood can bring.
Georgie’s low point:
“When my second daughter Lottie was born at 33 weeks. I’d been on bed rest for three months and it had been an incredibly angst-ridden time for our whole family. My firstborn was premature – 34 weeks – so I knew what to expect, but it didn’t make it any easier. After three emotional weeks in hospital, she came home. When Lottie was six weeks old, I was feeding her at night in bed. It felt like my waters were breaking again, but I looked down and the bed was covered in blood. I was having a postpartum haemorrhage. An ambulance arrived and I spent the next week in hospital where I was given five blood transfusions. I just wanted to go home to see my baby. Eventually, I had a curette to stop the bleeding.
I remember my breast pump broke on a Friday night and there wasn’t a single pump in the hospital, so my incredible mother went out searching for one and somehow located one at a local 24-hour chemist. I eventually came home to my baby and family and it really took me over a year to recover – I felt so weak. Lottie wasn’t a great sleeper, so we ended up co-sleeping as I didn’t have the energy to get up and feed her in the night. It was a pretty traumatic experience – and one of the big reasons we won’t have any other children. We’re grateful to have two healthy, happy girls after a bumpy beginning.”
Georgie’s high point:
“Honestly, taking both our girls home from special care. All the parents in the special care ward keep asking the nurses how long until they can go home – and you would look at other parents leaving with their baby and wish it was your turn. Your baby moves from an incubator to an open-air crib, and then it’s a waiting game. Other than the moment I birthed our girls, getting both of them home (they were born 17 months apart) was one of the happiest days of my life. Arriving home and discovering we had babies who didn’t want to sleep was not so exciting!”
Nicki is a Los Angeles-based lifestyle family and editorial photographer. She’s also mother to two daughters – Camila Rae, 6 and two-year-old Cecelia Lou – and a strong voice on the prevalent, yet largely unspoken issues of postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety and other perinatal mood disorders.
Nicki’s low point:
“One particular aspect of my struggle with new motherhood was D-MER, a term that I only recently discovered, and one that I’m hell-bent on spreading to other mamas who might be grappling with similar undefinable emotions. D-MER, or Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex, is ‘a condition affecting lactating women that is characterized by an abrupt dysphoria, or negative emotions, that occur just before milk release’, and the severity by which I was affected caused me to give up breastfeeding entirely within a few short weeks of having my first baby.
No one told me that breastfeeding wouldn’t look goddess-like and serene, and no one warned me that I could experience dangerous waves of depression each time I sat down to unhook my nursing bra. With the help of Zoloft and a postpartum doula, who in effect gave me permission to end the battle and switch to formula – when I myself was hanging on only because of my intense guilt – I eventually found peace with the fact that I wasn’t cut out for this particular method of nourishing my baby. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t still haunted by all the hashtags and national BF-ing holidays and social media imagery that makes breastfeeding look like a walk in the park. I’m a firm believer in feeding your child in a way that makes you the best parent you can be, and if that means breaking out a canister of Similac because of extreme dopamine drops – or any other reason you decide, for that matter – then high fives and hugs of solidarity to you, mama.”
Nicki’s high point:
“My husband and I took our first baby daughter on a day trip to Storm King Art Center– an open-air art museum across hundreds of acres of land in upstate New York – on an afternoon where the clouds looked like the ones in The Simpsons’ opener: practically painted and cartoon-like. We packed plenty of snacks and rolled the stroller through the trails between large-scale artworks and I tried my best to soak up the sights and ignore the inner dialogue of self-loathing that had filled my head since becoming a mother.
We found a bench that overlooked Maya Lin’s Wavefield, which was a scene of rolling green hills installed purposefully and evenly so as to appear Simpson-like too: vibrant green and animated and surreal. I lifted the baby out of her stroller and smothered her with kisses, and my husband took iPhone photos of us. I look back at these images and I’m too thin – depression took away my appetite completely – and my stringy postpartum hair that’s waving in the wind is patchy, but I see that moment as one that gave us all hope. Our surroundings may have appeared too perfect, but for a few minutes I sincerely felt like I was part of a masterpiece that we had created together, and Maya Lin’s landscape spread out before us was the greener pastures I had been seeking all along.”
- On Motherhood: The Real Answer To How Do You Do It
- The First 40 Days: The Essential Art Of Nourshing The New Mother