Falling through the Cracks: a Birthmother’s Impact
I sat on the rock outside my place and I wanted to cry. This emotion was evoked because I had shaken hands with a few homeless men that day, near where I lived. You see, my birthmother was homeless most of my life, but I had no knowledge of this until a conversation with my sister. My biological sister had called me around that time and explained much of my mother’s life story to me. Suddenly, a whole new perspective on homeless persons came into my life and my understanding. All of the sudden a lot of what ifs and questions came to mind as well.
If my adoption had been open, maybe my parents could have helped my biological mother in some way. If the adoption agency had let them know she needed assistance, maybe they would have been good samaritans to her. And, why did the agency leave her destitute anyway? They gained loads of money in the process.
Instead, she was left out in the streets because of mental illness for many years to come. Years that reduced her mind further and further. My sister saved my mother from homelessness finally, but no one can recover her mind and the trauma now. Her brain is wrecked because of the length of time she had been without proper care.
Our fears of mental illness as a society come from places that are not unfounded, yet also in many ways the fears are no longer relevant. Even in the eighties, when I was placed for adoption, there was treatment for my mother. Treatments are not perfect; treatments are far better than no treatment at all though.
It was the system that lost our mother. Our fear should be of the disorganization surrounding the intersection of mental illness and poverty, which lets countless individuals fall through the cracks and progress into irreparable madness, when it could be prevented or lessened greatly.
The agency that placed my eight siblings and I could have done much more for our mother, who had diagnosed schizophrenia at that time. I blame the disease, schizophrenia, disorganization of agencies and mental health systems, and frankly, greed for her suffering. The agency made a great amount of money off of our mother’s progeny, all eight of us. She was left to suffer and people involved pocketed this money instead of providing her appropriate assistance.
Schizophrenia is an assaultive disease. There are many symptoms: positive, negative, and cognitive symptoms of the disease. Combined these symptoms wreak havoc on persons with schizophrenia. Here is my biggest concern when it comes to individuals like my mother: it can be diminished with treatment. Without proper treatment though, there is a sort of dementia that happens with sufferers of schizophrenia. My mother is one of the many persons who if helped sooner, could have retained much of her brain functioning and have an enormously greater quality of life. The problem? Fear, shame, and stigma prevented many persons from assuming responsibility for my birthmother.
It is past time to reclaim our understanding of adoption, our understanding of homelessness, and our understanding of mental illness. My purpose for this blog is to share one persons’ experience of adoption and the heart of the matter. It is to show the intricacies involved and to uplift the forgotten and the betrayed. I did not grow up motherless or fatherless, yet my mother suffered unimaginably and unnecessarily. Her pain and helplessness has no doubt impacted all of my siblings and now that we are adults, we are the voices of adoption. Yet, we were the voiceless as children and so was our birthmother due to her illness. I will speak up for my mother and for my siblings. I will not let their sufferings fall through the cracks any longer, I will rise to the cause.