Rebecca Fox Starr’s third book features a mother teaching her daughter about depression and difficult emotions.
by Tara Behan
It’s mid-March and a mere four days before the publication date of Rebecca Fox Starr’s third book, Mommy Ever After. Starr, who lives with her family in Wynnewood, just got a major plug for her soon-to-be released children’s book by being on Vanity Fair’s Inside the Hive podcast. Turns out that Starr’s younger sister, Emily Jane Fox, is a national correspondent at Vanity Fair and co-host of the popular weekly podcast. On its March 11 episode, Inside the Hive tackled the subject of “The Human Toll of Putin’s War.” Starr lent her expertise on how parents can talk to their children about things like the war in Ukraine.
“Tell them, ‘This is sad for me, too,’” Starr recommended to listeners. “It’s about normalizing the fact that they’re going to feel negative emotions like fear or sadness and we as parents feel the same emotions, too. I think showing vulnerability as a parent is one of the most empowering things we can do for our children. It models such good behavior for them. Their ability to show vulnerability is crucial in their development.”
That same sentiment of normalizing difficult emotions like fear, sadness and loneliness is at the heart of her Mommy Ever After book. Based loosely on her own relationship with her young daughter, Starr writes the story through mother and daughter characters. While telling bedtime stories, the mother in the story finishes tales with: “And they lived mommy ever after. Because we are not always going to feel happy, but I am always going to be your mommy.”
“Happily ever after” isn’t realistic; explaining that to children in a comforting way will help them process the myriad of emotions that they feel. “I say to my daughter and son, ‘I struggle, you will struggle, but I’m always your mommy. I always love you and we’re always connected, even when I’m sad. That sadness will pass,’” says Starr. “I can’t promise my children that everything is always going to be okay. But I can promise that they will get through whatever they are feeling because they are strong.”
Being aware of her emotions and taking care of her mental health came to the forefront for Starr back in 2013 when she suffered from severe postpartum depression after the birth of her second child. “I didn’t have postpartum after my daughter, so I didn’t know what I was experiencing after the birth of my son,” she says. “When I think about this time eight years ago, I was in a really rough spot. I didn’t know if I would be alive.”
With proper medical care, Starr got through her depression and went on to write two books. Beyond the Baby Blues: Anxiety and Depression During and After Pregnancy was published in 2018. Starr’s second book, Baby Ever After: Expanding Your Family After Postpartum Depression, was released in 2020. She also shared her experiences on her Mommy Ever After blog, which she started after the birth of her daughter.
While it was difficult to be public about that devastating time in her life, Starr wanted to advocate for other mothers. “I was so lucky that I survived. So many women are not as lucky as I have been,” she says. “How can I not help other women so they don’t have to suffer as much as I did? If speaking out helps one person feel less alone, I’m glad to share it. And mothers said it did.”
Last year, Starr decided to take her mental health advocacy work further by forming the company EVER, Inc. with two of her best friends. Through EVER (Empowerment Via Evaluation of Risk), Starr and her team are dedicated to improving access to, and the quality of, maternal mental healthcare. This is now her life’s work. “We have improved upon the existing screening tools that are used for mental health issues like postpartum depression,” says Starr. “It’s very early on. There’s not an appropriate level of care for postpartum depression and I’m hoping to help fix it.” And she’ll continue telling stories. Her fourth book is due in 2024.