The Real Housewives of New Jersey star, 42, began a new, less-than-glamorous chapter in her life shortly after 3 a.m. Monday when she turned herself into authorities to serve a 15-month prison sentence for fraud, a rep from the Bureau of Prison confirmed to PEOPLE.
"She reported early this morning," the spokesperson said in an email.
Giudice is serving her time at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut, a minimum security prison for women that inspired the hit Netflix series, Orange is the New Black – based on the memoir by Piper Kerman. She could also be sent to the Alderson Prison Camp in West Virginia, where Martha Stewart served five months in 2004 and 2005 for obstructing justice and lying to federal investigators about a stock sale.
Hours after she reported to prison, her attorney, James Leonard, appeared on Good Morning America and said Giudice drove overnight from her home in New Jersey to reach the correctional facility.
"Mentally and emotionally she was prepared," he said. Her husband, Joe Giudice, "was somber," Leonard added. "The enormity of this entire situation hit him."
Once she arrived, the other inmates "were giving her the lay of the land," said Leonard. They advised her to "keep her head up," he said.
As for any possibility of early release for Giudice, Leonard said that would be "up to the judge and the Bureau of Prisons."
Giudice was sentenced on Oct. 2 after pleading guilty in March to bankruptcy fraud and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
When she is done serving her time, her husband, Joe, 44, will serve a 41-month sentence for the fraud charges – and a concurrent 12 months for failing to file a federal tax return in 2004. Joe, who is not a U.S. citizen, may be deported when he finishes his prison term.
"It's going to be hard," says a source close to the reality star.
It already is, it seems, for her eldest daughter, Gia, 13, who Tweeted on Jan. 3, "can't sleep, to (sic) much stuff on my mind." She added a nervous face and gun emojis to her message.
However, Gia followed up that Tweet with one on Sunday night that revealed a more positive mindset.
"Support system is unreal #soblessed," she wrote.
support system is unreal #soblessed— Gia Giudice (@TrueGia) January 5, 2015
Being away from her four young daughters, Gia, Gabriela, 10, Milania, 8, and Audriana, 5, is the most difficult part of all of this for Giudice, says the source.
In the weeks and months before she turned herself in, the mother of four lived her life "with as much normalcy as possible," says the source, adding that Giudice spent as much time as possible with her children and made the most of her final days of freedom.
After spending Christmas with Joe's family, she and Joe headed to New York City on Dec. 26 to see Gia, and her girl group, 3KT, perform at a holiday concert.
The next day, she took the girls to the Crystal Springs Resort and Spa in New Jersey for a day of skiing.
She looked "super stressed out," an onlooker told PEOPLE. "She kept uncomfortably rubbing her neck."
Part of her stress could be coming from having to put her lavish Montville, New Jersey, mansion on the market, It is currently listed for $3.9 million.
"What is to come in the future is going to be hard, there's no question," says a friend of Giudice's.
With reporting by JEN GARCIA and GABRIELLE OLYA