"I don't believe it is my secret to tell"

We haven't met, and it seems unlikely that we will. I am your older sister, born in 1972 and given up for adoption. Our parents were unmarried teenagers at the time and felt unable and unprepared to raise a child. I was with them for one week in hospital before they went through with their plan to have me adopted and I was moved into foster care. They married six years later and went on to have you both. Less than five miles separated our homes as we grew up, and even now I live less than an hour away from you.

Read the rest of this letter at The Guardian, series: A letter to...

 A letter to … my secret siblings


  1. Campbell ~ this letter is heartbreaking. The sisters are adults... I just don't understand continuing to keep this secret. How sad.

  2. I can't really understand it either Susie, except for when I think of how a lie can work, or rather, lack of truth, I can imagine the fear of revealing such a thing. Who knows the parent child dynamic of the bio family, if it's already fragile, or so close that admitting to having kept such a secret feels like it would be too destructive. Maybe there are already family problems or one or both of the daughters have strong views on adoption that would be in conflict with what their parents did or haven't done. Perhaps the parent's marriage would be at stake, if one wants to tell the truth and one doesn't. Maybe parents who do this are afraid of losing another child, or two, or their whole family.

    I don't know, it is sad though, for everyone.

  3. I personally think she should reach out to the grandmother (if she can find her) whether the parents like it or not because there are no secrets or surprises there. Given the circumstances it seems outrageous for her to be prevented from contacting her grandmother on "territorial" grounds. The sister is another story, I guess, though let's face it: her parents are holding everybody hostage. Sad all around, as you say.

  4. Yeah, that's true Jess, the grandma does already know. I reread and the parents say no to the woman telling because the sisters should be told first, which they apparently refuse to do. It's kind of like the adopted woman's consideration for her siblings' feelings is being used against her.

  5. The problem with lying is that they just grow and grow; the truth gets harder to tell. There is no “good” time to come out with “hey I have been lying to you your whole life.”- At least not for the liar.

  6. "The truth gets harder to tell". You got that right Sunday.

  7. "I don't believe it is my secret to tell"
    I think this is less about 'truth' than about responsibility, and where it properly lies. It seems to me that by evading their responsibility the bio-parents they have forfeited their right to consideration.

    It occurs to me that the writer has a responsibility to her siblings as well as herself. They deserve to know of her existence.

  8. @ Anonymous

    Very interesting way to look at it and ethically, maybe you're right. It's difficult for me personally to place such a huge responsibility on the writer/adoptee. There is much at stake for her, in my opinion. The act of going against the parents could have huge ramifications and end up painting her as the villain in her sibling's eyes.

    I agree the siblings deserve to know of her existence but unfortunately it's impossible to know what their reaction would be and how finding out from the writer and not the parents would influence the situation.

    I just never understand how people can live with something like this hanging over their head, wondering every day if this could be the day they'll be exposed. I think the threat alone would motivate me to come clean as I feel pretty sure the kept daughters would prefer to be told by their parents and not the adopted sibling.

  9. I think what her mother and father are doing is completely wrong. They have no intention of telling their kept children about her and are just stringing her along.
    I think she should make contact with her grandmother who wanted to keep her before it's to late.
    As others have said, contacting the siblings directly could end up with her (the adoptee) as the bad guy, but grandma is a whole different story.

  10. I agree with Sunday. Actually, it seems like the longer the lie goes on, the worse it gets. The parents should tell the sisters as soon as possible.

  11. "I don't believe it is my secret to tell"
    She's almost right, its not her secret to keep.

    "so I won't burst into your lives." I'd hardly call 39 years "bursting".

    "Maybe that makes me a coward, too." Yes. Yes it does. And when she's on her death bed wondering if they would have been happy to know her, she can find comfort in the fact that she was not pushy and never upset her parents.

    Every child of character has at some point disobeyed their parents wishes and the world keeps turning. Its not like she's cleaning out their bank account. They are chicken because they'll look really really bad for hiding her from them and 1 year of correspondence is plenty long enough to know that she's not going to disappear and to establish that she won't bash them to her brothers and sisters. Of course that would be selfish too but its human nature. They don't own her or their other children or her grandmother.
    Not introducing herself to her siblings is selfish of her actually. Now she's the one whose keeping a secret an enormous secret. What a dirty damn trick that is. And she's going to do it just to spite them? Is it passive agressive? Does she not want to loose her parents after she just got them back? Does she look at it like a gamble? Bet the parents to win the siblings? What if she does not win the siblings and she looses the parents? Are they much of a prize as they are? Are they better than the nothing she might end up with?

    She's acting like someone trying to please an abuser and we know how that always works out. I was one of those. She should go for the siblings and have no regrets. Her parent's have had more than enough time, they could just be dicks in which case the other kids probably have some stories of their own to tell.

    I only met one person who was not happy to meet her sister who had been adopted out. Thats one spoiled brat out of hundreds. Not being happy to be found is totally different than not getting along, one is a spoiled brat thing and the other can be a difference in politics or personality and the latter is not so scary as the first.

    She needs to snap out of it and just do it. I know someone else whose waiting like that. But her Dad and stepmom who are happy to be found have an adopted daughter in high school and they are scared how she'll feel being adopted and learning that her adopted father has a daughter that he's really happy about well he also has a son that he's really happy about too and a slew of kids. He donated sperm because his wife was sterile.


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