To Tell or Not To tell “The Secret”

Fall is here.  The leaves are changing and falling.  It's a time of planting.  For some, after placing a child for adoption, it is a time of planting secrets.  Over time, the issue of keeping secrets regarding placing children for adoption has been coming to the surface.


Fears of family reactions, the possibility of being talked out of your plans to place your child, fear of judgment from others, fears of what your other children will think, and even fears of being disowned because of your pregnancy or adoption plan , are just a few of the reasons some birth parents choose to keep the adoption story a secret for some period of time.

Every birth parent makes a decision whether to talk about their adoption story openly, to only tell one or a small number of people, or to never tell a soul.  That decision is yours to make.  Sometimes birth parents tell their future spouses and their children.  

There will be opportunities in everyday life to talk about your story. Sometimes a conversation with someone else will spark feelings you thought you'd done a good job of  burying.  Sometimes a news story or another member of your family considering adopting or making an adoption plan for their own child will push you one step closer to being ready to talk.

You may not be initially comfortable with this conversation.  The first step may be to share your experiences with someone who is supportive and non-judgmental.  This will help you to gain confidence.  We live in a world where more information is available and more things are coming to the light.  Having less secrecy now means having less to explain later in life.

You may have fears that your other children will be mad or think badly of you.  At the end of the day many children are curious about the story and especially about their half-siblings.  The earlier this conversation takes places with children, the more "normal" it is in their eyes.

As you live your life you'll decide when and where you will bring your story up/respond to questions about your story.   Think about who is asking, where you are, is it appropriate, possible reactions, etc.  If you feel comfortable talking, it may become a teachable moment.  On the flip side, you may feel like darting in the other direction when this question comes up.  Answering the question may help someone else and may make you more and more confident in yourself and your decisions.  You'll probably be surprised at the number of people who are connected to adoption in some way.

It all starts with one conversation.


If you are one of the many birth parents who has decided to keep your story a secret we'd like this to be a safe space for you to talk about it in any form, a poem, a comment, a letter to your child(ren), Anything!  If you are a birth parent who has made the choice to tell people about your story feel free to comment too!  You may encourage someone to be one step closer to sharing.



Roles, Patricia. (1989).  Saying Goodbye to a Baby Volume 1-The Birthparent's Guide to Loss and         Grief in Adoption. Washington, DC: Child Welfare League of America.


7 Responses to “To Tell or Not To tell “The Secret””

  1. I recently was found by my birthdaughter. She is almost 21. Only 2 people knew about it, and then the adoption was final and it was all over with. I have always known who she was, but never wanted to contact her – that was up to her. Well she did, and everything is wonderful, except for She has been a secret from everyone – including my husband of 4 years, my 6 year old son. My husband is loving and caring and drove me to meet her, but I am unsure of having my son meet her because I have a fear of him thinking I will give him away. Is this selfish? I don’t know how to approach this situation and I NEVER have a problem saying anything. Any suggestions?

  2. I also need some advice. I found out that my birth daughter is sick with CF, and she recently got out of the hospital for something else that is related to CF. Knowing this breaks my heart. I did not know she had it when I was pregnant, but knowing now makes me KNOW 100% she would have never survived. But I feel the GUILT, even though she tells me over and over that she nor her parents are angry with me. I do not know what to do or how to react.

  3. Hey Sussy,
    You are in a very common situation. Birth parents like yourself have a valid fear of what your children will think when they understand what is going on. So I’m thinking that those feelings of selfishness may just be your feelings of wanting to protect your son. When you feel the time is right you may want to tell him in a way he understands, assuring him that he is going to continue to live with you and that you will always take care of him, etc. Being honest about your feelings at the time and your feelings now may also help. He may mirror your emotions so if you normalize it and are happy about it, he may see it as a positive thing, an addition to his family instead of something to worry about. If he enjoys drawing or writing you all may express your feelings this way.
    Regarding your second comment, we often feel like we’re responsible for things that we may or may not really have had any control over. Even when we know we are forgiven, the guilt remains. You said you don’t know what to do. Is there something that you feel you should be doing or that you haven’t done yet?
    Thank you for being so open and talking about these things.

  4. Sussy Que

    I am the type of person that can do things to fix the problems. ANd I guess over the past few days of reflecting on this its not so much the question “what am I supposed to do” its more on the lines of how close to do I let this relationship get. I have a natural love for her, she is a mini me, there was no questioning of anything and I know this is also how she was raised. But I don’t let many people get in my life as I am a private person. However for those people that are in it, I cherish them to the point that I would do anything for them. And this is the dilemma that I am having with my own self.
    As for my son – I want to get a book about adoption – we love to read. And just read about it together. He constantly asks questions when we read together. He is quick, and I think a bit too quick for his own good (or mine for that matter). Does anyone have any suggestions???

  5. I was surprised to find a site that is current. I’m desperate for help but very hesitant. I feel very much like a villain. I’ve reached out for help or support dozen times over 25 years. The silencing is breaking my heart. If I had one wish, I would never have placed my son.

  6. Bashi,
    It sounds like you have tried to care for yourself by seeking support. Just your presence here shows that you are a brave woman. If you placed with an agency, are they still around to support you? If not, or if they aren’t around, is there another agency nearby that has counselors available, even if just over the phone?

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