As much as the news of winning a child is received, most of the time, with euphoria and enthusiasm, for us women, it is always accompanied by a fund of doubts and insecurities. After all, the responsibility is unprecedented, the bodily and emotional changes are unpredictable and the challenges that we will have to deal with later, with the little one already in hand, are impossible to measure.
But if this box of uncertainties is already home to many mothers, it may be even greater for those who already deal with physical and social barriers related to disability on a daily basis. It is the case of Quelen de Oliveira, 35, resident of the municipality of Itajaí, in Santa Catarina.
A wheelchair user for 12 years due to a motorcycle accident, the catarinense thought for a long time that she would never realize her dream of building a family. Prejudice on all sides and sequelae resulting from spinal cord injury seemed difficult obstacles to overcome, but they were unable to prevent her from experiencing motherhood with her husband Felix Carvalho, with whom he had his son, Hector, now two years old.
On this Family Day, celebrated on December 8, we publish this report that shows the capacity that family connections have to transform ways of life, to make us rethink our limitations and even to heal. Quelen tells us how he faced his first pregnancy, how he is being pregnant again in the middle of the pandemic and still leaves a very important message for women who want to be mothers, but who are afraid of disability: “We have a capacity that we do not even know , and it is going through the difficulty that we understand this ”.
Read the testimonial in full:
“The first child was not planned, so it was a scare. I even knew I could get pregnant, but I have a device implanted in my spine that I use to control pain and it shocks my abdomen, and I thought this shock could pass on to my son. Then I was able to speak to my neurologist and saw that it would not be a problem.
Even so, doubts arose as to whether I could handle it. Because I lived alone before I met my husband and I knew I could take care of myself, but I didn’t know if I could say the same thing to a baby. So at first I was really scared, I thought a lot, I thought I would be limited …
But no, it was a normal life until the age of eight months. I worked until the fifth month as a commercial assistant, then I increased the homes because of the pressure, the risk of thrombosis, urinary tract infection, things that a woman without a disability can also face. It was a peaceful pregnancy and I was letting it happen without rushing.
After Heitor was born, I adapted myself according to the needs. I sewed and made a very large breastfeeding pillow, which he could fit on top – so I could move the chair with him on my lap. I also had a little bag that I could wear on myself, because I didn’t adapt to putting the sling on by myself.
The most difficult thing was to deal with the sequelae I have of the spinal cord injury, which came back because I had to stop taking the medications. I had, for example, a lot of urinary incontinence, so every time I was breastfeeding I ended up losing urine and had to wait for my son to finish breastfeeding, burping and sleeping so I could change and clean everything. At this time, my husband worked during business hours and only arrived at night ”.
The deficiency in Hector’s eyes …
“My son has always understood my disability and helps me a lot. Everyone looks at a wheelchair and thinks that someone is limited, so knowing that a person depends entirely on me and that I was able to meet those needs is a great achievement.
Hector’s relationship with disability is entirely natural. He never asks me to get up, because he knows I can’t do it. When he wants me to get something, he asks me to sit on the chair. Sometimes I go to the ground to do something and he thinks I fell and then tries to help me … He is very concerned about me.
In addition, I believe that having a wheelchair mother helps him to deal with differences, because since I was a baby I asked for help from people on the street because of my limitations and I never chose color, gender … I asked whoever was passing by. He has always been friendly and because he understands that Mom needs help sometimes, he also wants to help everyone, whether a child or an adult. When he sees a situation in which the person needs something, for example, he immediately manifests himself and wants to do it for others ”.
How is being pregnant during a pandemic
“The initial plan was to get pregnant next year, but it ended up happening this year. I wasn’t going out much anymore, because I have difficulty taking my older son to places, because he doesn’t stop still. So I adapted: I ask for things at home or go to the nearest markets, where people already know me and attend me in the car.
The lack of support was not new. During Heitor’s pregnancy, I no longer had a support network, because we went to live in a neighboring city where we had no family members around. So now I think I’m getting more outside help than before: sometimes they send me something, do something for me on the street, or if I need to go to the doctor, I leave it at the home of a close friend so I don’t have to take him . So I’m getting more help now than before the pandemic.
The biggest difference is in relation to the symptoms. Because in the first pregnancy I didn’t feel sick, just a little heartburn. In this one, I have a lot of tiredness, shortness of breath, my belly grew faster – so I’m more limited in making transfers -, I feel very hungry, I feel bad with smells and I’m more emotional.
I don’t know what it’s going to be like taking care of two, but I’m not thinking about it too much. I was more scared in the first pregnancy, because I had no idea how it would be, but as I already have the experience with Heitor, I imagine it will be easier, even more because he already has some independence.
In addition, my husband will take a vacation when the baby is born and then he will be on leave for another 20 days, so it will be almost two months at home. I am relieved, because in the first pregnancy I was unable to take this rest – I had the baby and I went to cook and take care of him.
I believe that the biggest difficulty will be paying attention to two. Not that there will be a dispute, but more demand. In fact, Hector looks very excited – he sees a baby and already wants to take care of him, he does everything to stop crying … He is a love and recently started to understand that there is a baby in my belly, but he is immediate and asks to take it out the brother to play with him. I think it will be a super companion ”
The routine in quarantine
“I usually wake up first and start cleaning the house. I make my son’s breakfast, I wait to eat with him and my husband. Then I’ll sew a little bit – I’m a commercial assistant, but I’m away, sou do all my baby’s layette. Then I make lunch.
Heitor does school activities every day and I always participate when they involve manual skills, but when I can’t, I wait for my husband to come and do it with him. In the afternoon, we take a break and at night I cook, watch a movie or do something together.
Now, I had a period of relaxation with him and I thought I would have a lot of difficulty, because my house is not adapted and I can’t get into the bathroom without help. But no, he taught himself, how to get in, use the toilet, wash his hands … It was something so natural, it was a great achievement for me.
The only thing that regressed during the quarantine was food. Heitor did not eat salty food for three months, I took it to the doctor but we found out it was due to stress. We started walking with him in more isolated places, where there are not so many people, and he started to eat better ”.
With social networks, new possibilities …
“Although now people are not watching my growing belly, today we have social networks and I can share a little there, so give me a supply. But I miss being able to meet with friends, share experiences …
Before, I was very reserved, I didn’t post much… But lately there are so many people asking, and I am seeing such a great return on all types of issues – both disability and motherhood. It makes me feel good to know that I am transmitting good things with posts that are so simple in my daily life, that for me they are normal routine activities.
There are people who say that I am a warrior, that I am extraordinary … But I don’t think I’m a warrior, because I’m not at war with my disability, I am well resolved in this regard ”.
Maternity that heals
“The dream of my life was to be a mother. And for many years I gave up on him, because I thought I would not have a family or a husband, because there is a lot of prejudice and he ends up imposing this thought on us. And suddenly my life took a turn – I have my husband, my son, now I am being a mother again … I feel fulfilled.
In addition, motherhood was a cure for me. Because I suffered from neuropathic pain for many years, I took several medications, had several surgeries, implanted a neurostimulator, almost had to put a morphine pump inside me, and nothing worked. I found out later that some of the pain was due to spinal cord injury, but most of it was psychological.
When I got pregnant I thought I would have a lot of pain and the doctor too, because of the growing belly and because I had to stop the medications. But, to my surprise, the pain stopped. The neuropathic pain I felt was gone after I got pregnant, it was my cure. Now, in the second pregnancy, I don’t have any pain either and I didn’t need to take any more medication ”.
And for those who dream of becoming a mother …
“I would say that all difficulties will pass, regardless of being disabled or not. They all have limitations – some are physical and more visible, others less – but the people who determine whether this obstacle will affect our lives.
I decided not to, so I do things my way and I have no problem asking for help. Fear will appear for everyone, especially when it is the first child, but we can handle it … We have a capacity that we don’t even know, and it is going through the difficulty that we understand this ”.