Salima is a single mom with a three-month-old son, Arman. Salima experienced a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy and was relieved when she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. The first month was a big adjustment for Salima, but overall things were going as well as she could hope. She was finally getting into a routine with feeding but Arman wasn’t sleeping for long stretches and Salima was exhausted.
About four weeks after Arman was born, Salima unexpectedly started to experience unexplained periods of dizziness. It felt like the room was spinning and things were unreal or dreamlike. She would have to sit or lie down until the sensation passed. Also, out of the blue, her heart would suddenly feel like it was racing. She would feel jittery and nervous, like she had too much caffeine. These sensations were especially likely to happen if she had been worrying about something for a long time. Salima completely lost her appetite and only felt like eating a few items like green apples and toast. Salima’s doctor asked if she was feeling depressed but she thought the symptoms didn’t quite fit. She wondered if her physical and mental changes were due to hormonal changes and lack of sleep.
During this period, Salima began to read and re-read parenting books on newborn health and sleep habits, hoping to find answers to Arman’s sleeping problem. She started to realize that parenting books are a double-edged sword for her. Instead of being helpful, the books made her feel as if she was doing everything wrong because Arman wasn’t responding. Their glowing anecdotes made it sound as if he would if she just followed their instructions on sleeping, feeding, and schedules. Salima started to distrust her own instincts. She began to constantly and repeatedly ask others for advice.
Usually a very outgoing and social person, Salima began to isolate herself at home with the baby. Timing errands between naps became more and more stressful, so she started to avoid going out unless it was absolutely necessary. Salima was able to get groceries and other necessities delivered to her apartment. This, however, has started to make her feel like a prisoner in her own home. She also worried about taking Arman out in public in case he started crying and she couldn’t calm him down. She wondering if her life would always be like this, never feeling like she could take a leisurely trip to the bookstore or coffee shop. She wondered if she would always be a slave to this new life. She found herself missing her old life and then felt guilty about thinking this way.
On the rare occasion she pushes herself to go outside for a short walk, worries pop up about Arman’s safety, like whether he is too cold, or whether a car might drive off the road and onto the sidewalk, or whether someone would grab him and run. She has stopped watching the news on television because it would create more new worries.
Most of the time Salima is too wound up to relax and enjoy her son. She feels extremely guilty and is worried that she won’t be the happy, secure mother that Arman deserves. Salima feels crazy with worry most of the time and is increasingly overwhelmed about her new role as a single mother. She says to herself, “How am I going to do this for the next week, much less the next 18 years?”