gallery Dear Adoption, You Are Everywhere


Dear Adoption, You Are Everywhere

I grew up with the idea I could blame you for nothing. Because you didn’t exist in the minds of my parents who adopted me, you didn’t exist in mine.

Hold on, those aren’t the right words.

Because you didn’t exist in the minds of my parents who adopted me, I learned to keep you hidden and to only occasionally take you out, as a kid might pull a pocket knife out in front of friends and strangers.

“You look just like your mother.”

I pull out the pocket knife, open the blade. You think you know me, but you can’t because even I have no idea who I am. This is my greatest power. I’m like mercury: you can’t pin me down. Because if you did somehow get me trapped, you would see the terrifying truth I run from 24/7: There is nothing to pin down. I’m not real.

“That’s so funny. I’m adopted.”  

“So your parents aren’t your real parents?”

The pocket knife goes back into the pocket.

“They’re real. They’re the only parents I know. I don’t know who made me.”


Suddenly the other person seems to have a pocket knife of their own. The car of my life, yet again, careens wildly on its tracks.

“So you don’t know your real parents?”

I’m not sure how this happened, but I’m cornered and no matter what I say, I’m going to betray someone.

“It’s hard to explain. My parents are my real parents. Do you want to go get a Slushie?”

Somehow, yet again, the carpet of my life was ripped out from under my feet. Nothing is truly mine. Not my parents, not my life. I’m not even mine because I have no idea who I really am.

But adoption isn’t a problem in my life. I’m the problem. For some reason I’m not like the rest of my friends. For some reason I have trouble focusing, trouble doing well in school, trouble maintaining my moods. For some reason almost every day I think about killing myself. This is not something I can tell anyone. I don’t know where these thoughts come from. I just have to keep trying to be who everyone wants: good Anne. It’s a full-time job.

Fifty-two years have passed, and now I blame you for almost everything. I have had more jobs, more homes, more husbands, more pets, more debt, more crying jags, more boyfriends, more trouble just getting from A to B than almost anyone I know. I am hungry almost all the time.

The funny thing is that many of the folks around me seem to think I’m a happy, go-lucky person. I blame you for the people-pleasing puppet I grew up to be. I blame you for not being able to tell my friend which restaurant I want to go to. I blame you for getting a sick feeling when my phone rings or a letter arrives with my name on the envelope. I blame you for thinking I’ll never get this life right because I’ll never know how to comfortably exist in my own skin. I blame you for thinking a married boyfriend is a safe choice. I blame you for wanting to cry when my daughter is late to meet me. I blame you for having low self-esteem. I blame you for not being able to understand maps. I blame you for making sure every room is just as I entered it when I exit. I blame you for giving away my pets. I miss them. I wish they were still mine.


After teaching writing at San Jose State University for over fifteen years, Anne Heffron retired to work full time on screenplays with her writing partner, Antonia Bogdanovitch. In 2015, Phantom Halo was named New York Times Critics’ Pick

Last year Anne left for New York on a trip she called Write or Die. She said she was not coming back home until she had done the one thing she’d been wanting to do for over thirty years: write a book about adoption. Ninety-three days later, she had the manuscript for You Don’t Look Adopted. And the name of her birth father.


  1. I have gone though giving a child up for adoption most of my life I have wondered where she was but due to being told I had no rights at all I went through times of do I try to find her or I have no wrights as she is happy with new parents who have told her nothing this haunts you for all of your life you never know if you are write my sister was on ancestry and she found my daughter I have gone through hell for most of my life and now I have found her I hate the Salvation Army as they put me through hell I was treated as a blot on the landscape but was the father held to ransom no and he was a salvo as well there is no justice we were all made to suffer and we still do

    Liked by 2 people

    • I am so sorry for your suffering. It is unnecessary and ridiculous. My hope is that this is the time that adoptees and birth mothers voices get really loud and let people know just how damaging the separation is. (I don’t mean to say that I’m against adoption–I’m against secrecy.) I am so glad you found her.

      Liked by 1 person

    • That makes me sad for my birth-mom, she had me in a salvation army hospital. It rips my insides to think they may have been cruel to her as she gave birth to me. She died 9months (a gestation period?) before I found her family. I found them through her obituary…

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Quote Buckmister Fuller:

    “you cannot change how someone thinks, but you can give them a tool to think differently”. The Internet.

    Suffice to say, the internet is a great place for adoptees to tell what being adopted feels like…
    The writings of adoptees are the true “leverage” that will stop “infant-stranger-domestic-international” adoptions. And will offer scientific-legitimate human reasons to develop social policy’s and laws to maintain families, not separate them.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Other than the husband thing (of which I somehow managed to have only one) I could have written this word for word. Thank you for being someone who gets it (although I’m sorry you do! No one should have to feel this way) and for writing something to show others what goes on in my head.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I can teach you how to have more than one husband if you want. (Better yet, how about you teach me how to have just one?). Thank you for your note. I still can’t believe this is the kind of stuff we carry around and that there aren’t health centers all over the world built to address our very pressing needs. xox

      Liked by 2 people

  4. So true. I also think of death every day, trouble with maps, feel disoriented a lot, get the sinking feeling whenI get mail. Have trouble navigating life -like everything takes sheer will power. I did well in school but in the end it didn’t matter. I’m also from SJ, btw.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Isn’t it crazy? I actually did well in school after I started doing my homework, but I sure could have used some help with executive function (getting stuff done). Maybe we can meet for coffee and see if we can both figure out how to get there. Can you find me on Facebook?

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Hi, I will look for you on fb. I would love to get coffee except that I live in Fresno now. I do spend time in SJ occasionally, though. I’m guessing you are still there? Also I’m a SJSU grad. I just read what you wrote about leaving a room exactly how you found it. I do that too -never connected it as an adoptee thing. Maybe like I am not supposed to be here?

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I am in the Santa Cruz area now. I hadn’t connected the room thing with adoption until someone pointed it out to me and I realized I try to make it like I never was there. Good lord. What do we do that ISN’T touched by adoption?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have always thought when the time comes,I will surely adopt a girl child but after reading your post I can somewhat understand the depth of it.. Thank you !
    PS: I am not dropping the idea but I can give it a thought more wisely now.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Children separated from their biological family are neurologically programmed to a life-long state of anxiety.
        The trauma becomes biological according to several psychologists. see below.
        Adoption should happen ONLY if the child is truly an orphan..which is rare.
        A biological family member should be the first choice.
        Most children adopted from 3rd world country’s are a product of trafficking.
        You may be interested in the United Nations Rights of the Child.
        Read everything you can about the mental health of adoptees.
        Korean adoptees are returning to Korea (Jan. 2015 New York Times), check out Black Babies WWII Europe,
        And Dr. Nancy Verriers book: Primal Wound, Dr. Allen N Schore: Trauma Attachment; Dr. David Kirschner, Adopted, Uncharted Waters…and lots more..

        Liked by 3 people

  8. It has taken me 40 years to utter I am adopted (without shame) and face that truth and the destruction I caused to myself and others around me. Thanks for posting. We need more conversations like these.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I am the widowed mother of one teen daughter who we adopted when she was nine months old. My late husband and I were so foolish to dismiss the depth of the impact that adoption would have on our daughter! You have described perfectly so many of her traits … Add to the adoption equation the unexpected death of her beloved father at age 15, a strained relationship with me, resistance to counseling, and the typical angst of the teen years, and you have one extremely unhappy girl. Now we have reunion ahead of us this summer (thanks internet). How can I best help this precious child? I am all ears. Please, respond with the wisdom of your years. I do appreciate your perspective!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Dear Liz,

    As an adoptee who completely relates to your mother daughter relationship I would say the thing that brought us back together and built trust and that bond was her support of me finding my birth family and helping find my story and allowing me to talk with her about it. It has ment a lot and has helped me understand her better too. I am still on my journey, but I have found 5 siblings from my birth mother’s side and second cousins. My mother has been missing for 30 years and her mother passed just 2 years before I found her. She left my siblings when they were 8 and younger. They never saw her again. So the mystery continues…


    • Thank you, Denise. I am wholeheartedly in favor of reunion, as was my late husband. In our judgment, waiting until our daughter had College behind her (21-ish) seemed best given the potential for life “disruption” (+/-) at reunion. Thanks to the internet, it looks like reunion will happen just before or just after 18. Other than encouraging her to think carefully through the “what ifs,” I am all for this. I wish it weren’t on the heels of grieving her father’s death, but we will play the hand we are dealt. I absolutely loved the euphoria she had at connecting with younger siblings via social media. This kid needs a break; I hope and pray reunion will be very positive. I’d appreciate any counsel you can give me to be the most help to her. Thank you very much for reaching out.


  11. Liz,
    Your willingness to support her through her reunion is the best first step you can take. As an adoptee, if I knew that I had the support of an adoptive parent even at my age of 47 and only 8 months into reuniting with my original family it would mean the world to me. Even if your relationship has been tenuous with one another in the past she is going to need to know now that you will always be there for her through this and anything else and tell her this often. If she is reluctant to get counseling maybe she will read some of the books or essays available on the subject.


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