Being a kid is hard enough at times, but when your mother is mentally disabled it’s even more difficult.
Heidi lives in a small world. Her world mostly consists of her block, but mainly her apartment and the apartment of Bernadette the neighbor. Bernadette has been around as long as Heidi can remember, since Heidi was about a week old actually, which is a good thing because Heidi’s mother, who calls herself So B. It, cannot take care of Heidi. Heidi’s mother can say about twenty-three words. She needs help getting showered. She needs help going to bed. She did learn how to make tea, but that’s about all she can do.
Bernadette has been a mother to Heidi, but that’s not easy either because Bernadette has agoraphobia and never leaves her apartment. The only ways she comes into Heidi’s apartment is through a connecting door. At about twelve, Heidi begins to wonder where she has come from. Why don’t they have bills for the apartment. What does the word soof mean? Soof is something her mother says occasionally, but no one can figure out what it means.
Heidi discovers a disposable camera in a drawer and has the film developed. There she finds a piece of her mother’s past that she has never seen before. Her mother was surrounded by other people who were like her. It was at a place called Hilltop Home. Heidi uses her powers of luck to get money for a bus ticket to New York to go and find the answers she knows are there.
At first no one is welcoming, but the truth comes out. Heidi’s mother had a name and a mother herself. Heidi has a father, but none of it is how Heidi had dreamed. Things aren’t as flowery as she had hoped. The truth was harsh to Heidi. She learns that she had to take a step out into the world on her own now that she’s found the truth.
What I liked
I’m going to tell you something, once I started reading this book, I couldn’t stop reading it. I read it in one sitting before going to bed. It was mesmerizing in a way. Heidi’s life was just so intriguing and the mystery of her past was even more intriguing. Really, where does a person come from? That’s a pretty large pull on someone. We all want to know where we’re from. We want to know what country on ancestors came on a boat from, or if they had lived here for more generations than anyone could count.
Having a mother like Heidi’s mother would make the desire to know where one has come from even stronger. How in the world did her mother come to be pregnant? How did she come to live in this apartment? What about relatives? People don’t just come from nowhere.
Throughout the entire book I pulled for Heidi to find her past. Not knowing anything would have been a stumbling block for her during the rest of her life. I’m glad that she found where she came from even though things ended sadly.
What I didn’t like
I may sound like a total jerk when I say this, but…it’s a bad practice for anyone with mental deficiencies as severe as Heidi’s mother to reproduce. Generally, there are hysterectomies and tubal ligations involved in a situation like this. I used to work in a nursing home. I took care of people who were mentally handicapped in some way. Generally speaking, if they were of child-bearing age, they had most likely already had a hysterectomy or had their tubes tied.
You run into a lot of problems in one of these situations. Heidi’s mom had no business having a baby. She was severely mentally handicapped. Who was going to take care of this baby? The worst happened. There was no one there to help Heidi’s mom take care of Heidi. That’s the logistical problem with all of this, but there are other problems as well. This is where we get into ethical problems. Should we risk the possibility of another child being born into the world with the same condition(s) as the parent(s)? That’s a question that is left up to individuals. The possibility of passing on Bipolar Disorder is one thing; the possibility of passing on some severely mentally debilitating disorder is an entirely different thing. Then on top of all of this, people who have mental difficulties often have difficulties having a healthy child. We’re not even talking about inherited disorders here; we’re talking about the ability to carry a child to term. Often in these cases there is something wrong with the mother that prevents her from carrying to term or there is something wrong with the fetus and a spontaneous abortion happens, aka, a miscarriage.
If it were my decision, this never would have happened. I may sound harsh for saying so, but it’s generally not a good idea.
Can you imagine what this woman went through when she was in labor? Did she know anything about what in the heck was going on? She can’t comprehend tying her shoes–do you think she could comprehend giving birth to a child?
I found this to be an enthralling book with ethical questions.
If it were your decision, would you have allowed Heidi’s mother to be in a situation where she became pregnant? Why or why not?
Heidi turns out alright, but there is a large chance she might not have. Do you think you’re the kind of person that would have taken those odds and had a baby anyway knowing that it might be just like Heidi’s mom?