“Let’s go ahead and blame the mother. Tell the pregnant woman she must eat, feel, and birth perfectly for the well-being of the fetus. She inevitably fails at this but still holds out hope she will be a glowing mother of her baby. Then, at the peak of her sleep deprivation, possible vaginal collapse, physical depletion from nursing, and isolation from a partner who doesn’t “get it,” she gets a little angry at the world. But do not feel your anger, honey.” (Caro May, 45).
Body Full of Stars honestly and candidly illustrates many challenges of the early stages of motherhood. Molly Caro May shares her vulnerable journey from a difficult pregnancy and unexpected home birth transfer through her daughter’s first two years of life, in which she exposes the growing disconnection to her body and her female power struggle. She battles with urinary incontinence, unbalanced hormones, marriage trouble, postpartum rage, postpartum depression and a loss of identity from a confident woman into a wounded woman. Her story is meant to be shared so women do not have to feel alone in their struggles that are often dismissed by those we love or trust.
I binged the Postpartum Stories podcast after my son was born and one particularly relatable episode mentioned this book. As a postpartum woman myself and a birth worker, I knew I had to read this rare memoir in order to gain insight into another woman’s sincere testament of motherhood.
Right away, I connected to the author’s story. I was relieved to know that I was not alone in my darkest moments as a postpartum woman. Many of her struggles were my struggles during my first postpartum journey.
It was liberating to read about Molly’s postpartum rage directed at those she loved most, especially her husband, who was not meeting her expectations of equal child care and support for everything she had to go through to bear and nourish this child. I had a few episodes of rage aimed at my husband for similar reasons. He and my mom were my only sources of support since we were new to the area and I had not found my tribe yet. I expected him to help me out more or at least acknowledge all that I was going through, despite the fact that I assumed he knew I needed help nor did I verbalize the hard time I was going through with my transition. When he consistently did not meet my expectations, I would explode. I know now that it was not fair. I set unrealistic expectations that I knew my husband would not be able to meet considering his personality and his physiology. I did not even consider his own transition into fatherhood. I would have benefited by seeing a therapist, admitting that I needed help and work on how I could change my mindset since that is all I could control.
Why you should read this book:
It tells the truth about postpartum mood disorders.
I will recommend this book to all pregnant and postpartum families that I work with in the future. I am very serious about educating the woman’s support team about signs of postpartum mood disorders as this maternal health crisis is very close to my heart. The book acknowledges male partners can also suffer during this transition into parenthood, through feelings of helplessness and loss of the partner that existed before motherhood. This book aids in normalizing the prevalence of mood disorders so women or men do not have to feel ashamed. Like me, some women need to know that they are not alone in their postpartum mood disorder and that it is important to seek help for everyone’s safety and mental health. Most health practitioners are not trained to recognize the signs of postpartum mood disorders so the responsibility rests on the woman and her support team to seek out the trained professional who can properly diagnose and advise care. This memoir serves as an important resource in the postpartum mental health arena.
The author’s emphasis on pelvic floor health.
Another reason I would recommend this novel is its emphasis on pelvic health and its impact on the postpartum experience. It should be standard care to visit a pelvic physical therapist before conception, during pregnancy and after birth for preventative care, education and re-connection. Molly’s prolapse and urinary incontinence could have been prevented if she was under the care of a pelvic PT during pregnancy. Her birth may not have required a vacuum delivery if she had supple pelvic floor muscles to allow the pelvis to expand fully and gently guide the baby. Fortunately, her midwife acknowledged that her postpartum incontinence was abnormal and knew where to direct her to receive help, which is sadly not the case for most women. Many women’s concerns regarding incontinence are dismissed as being a normal part of having a child, leading them to accept that wearing a pad is the solution. Molly would not accept that fate and she is letting you know that you don’t either.