For the past 7.5 years, Wynnewood resident Rebecca Fox Starr has been chronicling the highs and lows of parenthood on her hit blog, Mommy Ever After. The mother of two has a candid approach, which ranges from hysterical moments to gross ones. After suffering from postpartum depression following the birth of her son, Starr maintained her open approach, sharing her struggles. There are approximately three million new cases of postpartum depression each year in the U.S., but few blogs dedicated to facing it. Starr tackles the issue in her new book, Beyond the Baby Blues (Rowman & Littlefield, 154 pages), which delves into her personal story, plus the story of five other women. Bryn Mawr clinical psychology Dr. Amy Wenzel contributed to Starr’s research, as well. Here, Starr shares what the process was like and insight into her new book.
MLT: What made you want to start Mommy Ever After?
RFS: I started Mommy Ever After after the birth of my first child. I have a 7-and-a-half-year-old daughter and I have a 4-year-old son. I was the first one out of my friends to have a baby. My other friends weren’t really in that stage of life, so I didn’t really have anyone to talk to about being a new parent. I felt like motherhood, for me, was very enchanting and I had a wonderful experience with my daughter. I loved being a mom, but I also recognized that it was difficult, scary sometimes and it could be lonely at times, and I couldn’t find a voice that really resonated with me online in trying to find some solidarity. I thought, “I love to write, why don’t I just start putting it out there?” I shared a very honest depiction of all of the facets of motherhood.
MLT: Did you learn anything about yourself or parenting through blogging that you didn’t expect to?
RFS: I learned that, for me, writing, and especially writing about the hard stuff, is really a great form of therapy. Selfishly, it was a wonderful release and a wonderful outlet. It gave me kind of a way to channel all of that feeling and to put it out there. I also learned that, while I was trying to spread the word to other people that they were not alone, that I wasn’t alone. I’d get emails saying, “You took the words right out of my mouth,” whether it was about mom guilt or it was about not engaging in proper self-care. We all try to project such a great image of ourselves on social media and I really made it a mission of mine to keep it real, as much as I could.
MLT: How did Dr. Amy Wenzel contribute to Beyond the Baby Blues?
RFS: She did not write anything for the book, but she did allow me to interview her. Within the book, it’s my story and woven in the narrative there are actual pieces of scientific data because she’s written a lot about the subject. There’s an entire chapter of scientific research that focuses on warning signs, risk factors, treatment options and case studies. There are five other short little stories in a section called “Together Ever After” and they’re from women of all ages and their experiences with either prenatal or postpartum depression.
MLT: Why was it important to share your experience with postpartum depression?
RFS: There’s such a stigma around mental health issues. It’s getting better, but it’s very hard when you have a disease that can’t be measured with a blood test or through a scan of some sort. I think people feel as though physical illness will still take precedence over mental illness and somebody can say physical illness without any embarrassment or shame and feel the comfort in knowing that they will receive adequate care and sympathy but someone who’s suffering from a mental health issue may feel embarrassment, guilt, shame and I think that I really wanted to destigmatize that for people. It was very important for me to really fight for the notion and to empower others to be able to say mental health issues are just as serious as physical health issues.
MLT: How were you able to work through your post-partum depression?
RFS: I started to seek treatment less than a month after my son was born because it became very obvious that I was suffering. I saw a psychiatrist; I did intensive talk therapy two to three times a week. I had a great support system, which is crucial. I had my family, my husband, my friends, and then the treatment was very specifically anti-depression, anti-anxiety and talk therapy. I worked with a dietician because, for me, a side effect of post-partum depression was weight loss. Today, four years later, I see a psychologist, a psychiatrist, and a dietician every week. We also have done family and couples’ therapy just so that we can all stay as strong as a unit as possible.
MLT: What’s the main take-away you want your readers to have?
RFS: We all fight battles that other people may not know about and we should lead with compassion and kindness because we’re all doing the best that we can. That compassion and kindness should be directed towards others, but also to ourselves. Ultimately, despite all these things that we go through, there is hope, and that’s why the last section in the last chapter of the book is called “Hope.” While things may seem incredibly bleak, if you just can muster up the strength to continue to fight, as hard as it is, there is hope and there is light on the other side.