Without an instruction manual, but with many pitacos coming from all sides, motherhood is a plunge into the dark. There are many ups and downs of each month of pregnancy, the insecurities and happiness of birth and then the beginning of creation, in which we begin to learn to take the first strokes. However, even though it gives us tips to improve nights of sleep, to relieve newborn cramps and to have a sincere conversation about not having to take care of everything, some discoveries are experienced only in practice. And one of these teachings that nobody tells us is that the maternal is also a visit to childhood itself.
Who speaks about this is Carolina Valomim, 37 years old and mother of three girls: Giovanna, 14, Maria Fernanda, 11 and Ana Beatriz, 5 years. The translator and advisor for the legalization of foreigners reports that upon discovering that the middle daughter is autistic, she started to remember her own childhood, adolescence, youth and even adulthood and realized that the behaviors brought by the child’s psychologist also fit for her. . Thus, he began his journey in search of his own diagnosis.
Still in the same year that Maria Fernanda received the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) report, months later, Carolina was also diagnosed with the condition. Since then, her mission has been a plunge into self-awareness to be able to welcome her daughters and herself – recognizing the challenges brought about by the comorbidities of autism in her maternal and fighting for less prejudice during the process.
See her account in full:
“The first diagnosis of autism in my house was Maria’s and I didn’t understand anything about the disorder. All my life, I had a completely wrong idea about the subject, which unfortunately most people also have. It is what we see in the films, that is, one person having a crisis after another, who is locked up at home, has no life or is a ‘misunderstood genius’.
So it took me a long time to get help and arrive at her diagnosis. Although Maria Fernanda only started to have functional speech around the age of four, she was always a calm child, but very shy, introspective. People said it would grow and these issues would improve.
Only when she was about seven years old, she went from completely peaceful behavior to episodes of violence, like breaking things when she was frustrated and crying a lot. It started to bother me and I decided to listen to my intuition. At the time, the family was not very supportive. Nor did my husband want me to start looking for any help. They thought it was an exaggeration, a child’s tantrum, but I decided to research it.
She had a question in her speech, in which she said the wrong “s” and “z” sounds. The impression I had was that she had a tongue, so the first professional I looked for was a speech therapist. It was very curious because in the first consultation, she was already speaking correctly.
Then the phono told me that she was going to give Maria some exercises to do at home, to get used to speaking the right way, but there was no need for her to continue the sessions since she had fully functional speech. Still, he recommended that I seek therapy, because I suspected that we would find something ”.
The diagnosis process of both mother and daughter
“I followed her advice and went to see a psychologist. Maria did about eight, nine months of therapy, but she was a professional who had no specialization in autism. After that time, she called me in the office, explained that it was not her area, but she believed it was TEA. So, to close a report, I would have to look for a neuropediatrician.
She was already eight years old, almost nine years old, when the diagnosis happened in February 2019. Except for everything I learned over time, since I always had to be in contact with the psychologist, I identified myself with what she was teaching me – because, despite not being an expert on the subject, she was doing research to help both my daughter and me. It made me decide that I also needed to find out if I was autistic.
While Maria’s diagnosis was in February 2019, mine was in September of the same year. I went to a psychiatrist for a few months, because I didn’t want to be unlucky enough to find a doctor who wouldn’t go through this process. I had read many reports that it was difficult to get any diagnosis in adulthood if you were not a severe case. But I found this specialist who accompanies me until today.
She did several written tests with me, with several questions, and then in the office we were debating the answers that I gave in these questionnaires that she gave me. We arrived at the diagnosis: I am autistic, I have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), depression (something I have lived with since childhood), chronic anxiety and, three weeks ago, I discovered fibromyalgia.
My husband is also autistic, but he doesn’t have a report because he doesn’t want to go to the doctor. But with everything we learned on this journey, he saw how important it was to seek help. Initially, he didn’t want me to take Maria to specialists and he had his reasons. I think it’s ashamed of the family, but today it’s quiet.
He helped a lot during therapy and also learned. In fact, he saw the whole process and said: ‘I am that too!’, It was very funny. I asked if we would go to the psychiatrist, he said he didn’t want to go and I respect him. But he has stereotypes with his hands (repetitive movements) and several other characteristics, I remember talking to my mother-in-law and she was reporting … Anyway, it was a general and great discovery for the family.
Now, we are starting an investigation also with my youngest daughter, who is five years old, because we do not know if she may have a high ability, opposing disorder or even ASD. We are at the beginning of the process, but later on we will know what she has.
Why it was so important to discover autism
“What motivated me was to want to create a different story. My mother and I have never had a good relationship. She is a person with a series of psychiatric issues, but who never agreed to treat and this has reflected on me my whole life, especially in our relationship. I understood that I can love her, but I don’t need to live with her, because there is no way.
So, first, I left Rio de Janeiro and came to Paraná, nine years ago, to get away really, because I come from a very toxic family and I wanted to make sure that I would have a different story from my mother because I suffered a lot with anxiety , depression, OCD and did not seek help.
When I started investigating my daughter’s issues, I saw how good it was for her. I noticed how it evolved and is still evolving, because it continues to be in therapy. So, what motivated me was to see how good this discovery was for everyone and I also wanted to be well, for the first time in my life. I wanted to be well to live a lot, to see my daughters grow up and I had reached a limit that was not going forward ”.
The maternal care of an autistic woman
“OCD, a comorbidity of autism, makes me an extremely fearful person and this has meant that I have not let my daughters be really children. Besides the fact that I hit a lot with my eldest, because I couldn’t understand certain things.
She is very vain and I am a person who only now, at 37 years old, I want to change, touch my hair, do my nails. But clothes, for example, I have ten pieces in the closet. So, I saw my daughter asking for makeup, clothes and I thought it was absurd. It pissed me off a little. She said that I didn’t understand her, she was upset with me, me with her, and in the end it’s just respect. After the diagnosis, our relationship improved a lot.
And about my fears, I’m glad my husband likes adventure more. He was always the one who encouraged me a lot, because I was always really scared, of not wanting to let them do anything, not going anywhere because of my anxiety and that influenced my motherhood a lot ”.
Representativeness on the internet
“After the diagnosis, I also understood how important it was to talk about the subject, because there is still a lot of prejudice and a lack of information. On my Instagram, I try to spend my day to day, my experiences in a light way. It’s just that we don’t always talk about good things, after all, we have bad days, but it’s real life. It is a mission for me to demystify everything that exists around autism, which I didn’t even know ”.