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  • Writer's pictureAnne Heffron


I'm trying to figure something out. Why are so many adopted people so deeply unhappy? Before you start telling my that your cousin is adopted and that she's always smiling, let me remind you chances are very good what she tells you and what she tells me is the difference between shellac and an original surface.

If we have a core fear of being abandoned, why would we show you our dirty basement? Why, even, would we show ourselves? It's not like we can move to another body. It's so much nicer not to think about all this stuff. The only trick is the subconscious brains doesn't believe that and, like a kid giving his dog treats under the table at dinner, your subconscious feeds you memories and sensations from years ago that most of you doesn't think about, ever. Your subconscious says, Hey, Buddy. Here's something to chew on. Here's something to wake you up to yourself. Here's something you need to process because it's a wild gorilla in your guts, making digestion a big problem.

Maslow's hierarchy goes from the base physiological needs of breathing, food, water, shelter, clothing, sleep, up to self-self actualization at the top of the pyramid: morality, creativity, spontaneity, acceptace, experience purpose, meaning and inner potential. Between these ends there is safety and security, love and belonging, and self-esteem. As I looked at the Maslow's pyramind and thought about adopted people, I felt like I was looking at a balloon that was rapidy losing air.

In my writing classes, what I hear more than anything is that ALL of the needs in this pyramid are problematic. Even the most basic needs of breathing, eating, and shelter are more often than not sources of anxiety or stress. I know this is true also for humanity in general, but, yet again, adoption is the human experience intensified, so while you may say, yes, but what you are saying is true for everyone, I'm saying, yes, but more adopted people suicide than non-adopted people, so give me some wiggle room, please.

What if we added the need of connecting with the mother to the base of the pyramind? Just as a recipe tells you how long a cake should be in the oven so it comes out fully baked, what if the mother time is essential to the baby being fully baked and able then to go out into the world as themself, not undercooked and damaged by every finger that touches it?

Maybe Maslow assumed a child stays with their mother when he made his pyramind. I wonder what our understanding of basic needs would look like if Maslow had been adopted.

I understand not every baby can be with their mother, but if we were to fully recognize the importance of what happens in the mind and body of both mother and child as they share space, maybe we could come up with some ideas on how to help a relinquished child get what they did not receive so they could more easily tackle that pyramid as they grow up.

My guess is that the new base would put such a high importance on the mother that the patriarchial culture would either have to shift power dynamics for the health of all or keep doing what it's doing--intentionally dividing the living for the economic benefit of the few.


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Jun 20

Just yesterday I watched a small film about baby elephants, who were without their mothers for a variety of reasons… This wonderful sanctuary keeps the babies for years… Years! Because they know how important what was lost was. They know these little ones are now extra vulnerable so they take extra care. Imagine if we did that for baby humans.


Jun 20

As someone who is adopted and constantly thinks about the importance of a baby’s time with their mother, I found this such a good read. Thank you for being able to put these thoughts into words. You are truly and enlightening writer.


Jun 18

Given how much of a spotlight there is on the effects of childhood trauma lately, it amazes me that adoption is rarely addressed as part of those discussions. Might it be because the adoption industry would have to walk back the prevailing narrative that as long as the baby develops a strong attachment/connection with someone/anyone, they will be “OK”?? As the adoptive parent of a struggling young adult international adoptee, I feel incredibly duped and angry. This is not going to turn around until the adoption industry takes ownership of the fallacies they have continued to promote, and helps clean up the mess these lies have created.

Jun 18
Replying to

The adoption industry lies to everyone. But as long as adoption is seen as the alternative to accepting one’s fate as a childless adult, it will never stop. Some people simply don’t care if it’s all a lie, they want a baby and they don’t care what it does to that human, when they stop being a baby. You, as an adoptive parent, can make more impact in your own community, than adoptees ever can. Hopeful adoptive parents deem adult adoptees as ‘angry one offs’ who just had a ‘bad experience’, and say we are just trying to selfishly ruin their dream. It is going to have to be APs like you, who change the narrative in your own community.…

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