Have you ever looked in the mirror and not recognized the person staring back at you? That was me after becoming a mom.
After years of hard work I was really happy with the place I’d reached in my career. I was a producer for Fashion Police and I was writing for both HuffPost and Conde Nast… aaaaand then I had two kids under two.
I went from spending late nights on the red carpet to late nights in the rocking chair. Now when I looked in that mirror, I saw somebody looking back who hadn’t showered in days and was most likely covered in juice, jelly, and/or some type of bodily fluid.
Where was the drive? The fire? The passion? My only goal now was just getting through the day.
I felt like I was drowning — and I was, in what I would soon learn was a big pool of postpartum depression — and in that moment, I wasn’t thinking about myself or my career. The only thing I was thinking was that I needed help.
So we packed up our life in Los Angeles (well, more like threw sh*t in boxes and hoped those little college kids could get it across the country) and headed to Ohio to be closer to family. It was the right move for me personally. It was the right move for my girls. But after a couple months the PPD was still raging, and it began to sink in. What about me professionally? What about my hopes, my dreams, my ambitions?
I started seeing a doctor and started prioritizing myself again. A year later, as we were settled into our new home and the girls were a bit older, I was finally able to see a glimmer of light. I knew that in 2020 — little did I know all that year was about to serve up — I was going to start writing again, not for anyone else, but for myself. And instead of saying I didn’t have the time, I was going to make the time.
To get myself started, I took a MasterClass from one of my favorite female mentors, Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx. (When I lose an eyelash, I always wish to live abundantly and make a difference like her. At the off chance she reads this, I hope she doesn’t think I’m a stalker.) Her first module was about getting quiet in order to get creative, especially for us moms whose brains are always on the go, and I decided to give it a try for 15 minutes a night. That’s when my mom called, and the following conversation ensued:
Mom: “What would you like for Christmas this year?”
Me: “My old boobs back.”
Mom: “Well, that might be a hard gift to get you, my dear.”
Cut to me reading Where’s Santa Claus? to my 18 month old that night. Instead of me lifting the felt flap to reveal jolly old St. Nick, in my head I jokingly pictured my once jolly, non-deflated breasts beaming beneath the Christmas tree.
It turns out that simple, hilarious image gave me what I needed. That night, while getting quiet in order to get creative, the ideas began to pour out. What if I write a lift-the-flap board book, but it’s not for babies, it’s for moms? What if I write about the beautiful mess that is motherhood inspired by the very identity crisis I suffered myself? I stayed up until 4 AM and wrote the whole dang thing.
And that’s how Where’d I Go? was born. Not very academic or high-brow, I know, but that’s the creative process. What can I say?
Where’d I Go? is meant to be a gift book for all moms and a conversation starter to make these hard topics easier to talk about. We lift the flap to reveal the toll taken on our ever-changing emotions and bodies we barely recognize. We see our dignity and decency flying out the window during labor, sanity swirling down the drain during potty training, sadness as our kids grow and leave the nest, and finally a mirror with our own reflection staring back at us.
Sometimes, it’s hard to remember who we were before children, but it’s important that we do. Because at the end of the day, after all of the running around, the diaper changes, the homework, our proudest moments and our lowest too, we are still left with ourselves.
Lastly, remember that it all starts with a simple idea. This one helped remind me of who I was and what made me happy - writing. And I hope that this little board book, inspired by some boobs in need of Santa’s magic, can help you look at yourself and do the same.
Raquel Kelley is a writer, TV producer, and host of the MOMGUL Podcast. She worked at NBCUniversal for over a decade for such shows as Live! From the Red Carpet and Fashion Police. Her work has appeared in HuffPost & Conde Nast.
She now lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and two girls, and is currently cooking Baby #3. Raquel's debut book, Where'd I Go? A Lift-The-Flap Book for Moms is a comical yet heartwarming take on motherhood and was newly released this June 2022. A portion of the proceeds go to Mental Health America.