‘I Felt Like an Imposter’: How I Overcame Baby Blues After a Traumatic Birth Experience

‘I Felt Like an Imposter’: How I Overcame Baby Blues After a Traumatic Birth Experience

Below, find a perinatal mental health recovery story from a former Thrive client.

I’m a first-time mom who had a wildly traumatic birth and postpartum experience. My baby was born in the car on the way to the hospital. I needed surgery and anesthesia to repair the extensive tear. My baby had jaundice and an extended hospital stay. Then, I was hospitalized a second time for a serious infection and other complications. After such a wild, chaotic, completely unexpected birth and subsequent hospital stay, I felt utterly broken and shattered into a million pieces. I felt like an imposter. I also wasn’t bonding with my precious new baby.

On the day we drove home from the hospital (the second time), my mother came to stay with us to “help with the baby” for three weeks.  We have quite the strained relationship, and I wasn’t coping with her visit at all. I was in total survival mode to the point where I couldn’t dress, nurse, bathe, or diaper change my baby without help from another adult. I felt like a complete failure. “I should know how to do this stuff. I’m his mom!” I thought at the time.  Add in all the sleep deprivation, around-the-clock nursing, trying to remember to take a shower and eat, and endlessly asking, “How do I get this baby to sleep?!” And on and on. It’s no wonder I developed severe anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.   

I was no stranger to talk therapy and had been seeing a different therapist shortly before becoming pregnant. I knew I wanted to see someone who specialized in perinatal mood disorders (baby blues), who could help me process this unbelievable birth story so that I could move on with my life. I needed someone who had walked other women through their own birth and postpartum experiences.

I found Thrive Wellness of Reno through a friend of a friend of my midwife and immediately reached out for help. Of course, this was right around Thanksgiving and the subsequent holiday rush, so the next available appointment was a month away. That was the longest month of my life. I was literally counting down the days until my appointment when I would finally be able to talk with a professional about what the hell happened to me!

At long last,  that first appointment finally arrived, and I was almost giddy with anticipation and excitement. I wanted to get right to work! I was ready to focus on myself (at least for that one hour), and I was looking forward to leaving the house by myself. 

I was a bit apprehensive as well since I had never met Kat Geiger, LCSW, CEDS, the owner of Thrive Wellness who would be my therapist. But as soon as I walked in, I felt right at ease. The waiting area had these gorgeous, ocean blue couches, a fish tank, soft music playing in the background, and a calming, cream circle rug on the floor. I loved all the care and attention to detail that went into setting up the cozy, tasteful space.

Kat walked in with a big, warm smile and welcoming presence and ushered me back to her office. She specializes in maternal mental health, and I came to love plopping down on that couch, ready to unburden my soul. I remember Kat going through her usual “let’s-get-to-know-each-other” intake questions, and I just had to interrupt because I desperately needed to share my birth story with her. I didn’t want to run out of time. (It was a long list of bullet points by that time). 

Kat was very gracious and accommodating and allowed me the time right then and there to retell my birth story. She showed deep empathy, understanding, and compassion towards me, starting from that very first appointment. For the first time in a month, I felt like I was breathing fresh, cleansing air. She heard me. She saw me. She validated the treacherous journey I had been on thus far. I felt myself physically relax during that appointment.  

During our initial session and the ones that followed, Kat Geiger was truly my lighthouse in the dark, stormy season that was my postpartum. Her unwavering empathy, support, and encouragement were exactly what I needed. She always validated my experiences and helped me come to view those moments from a new, less reactive perspective. I learned actionable strategies to help me cope hour-by-hour and day-to-day. Kat went above and beyond to make sure I was managing okay, even offering to do phone call appointments while she was out of town. Kat provided a safe haven to share anything and everything that I was going through or worrying about. She also shared bits of her own personal story which helped me feel more connected and less isolated. 

I learned that we may never know why certain events happen the way that they do, but we get to choose what happens next. We get to write the ending. I allowed myself the time to grieve for the birth I had dreamed of, and all the emotions that came with that. I learned how to set boundaries with family members and that it’s healthy to do so. I learned how to stand up for myself and trust myself more. I learned how to ask for what I need. I am forever grateful for my time with Kat and Thrive Wellness. I am now able to be the parent I’ve always dreamed of being, and I truly feel alive again.