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Secrets, Healing, and a Mother's Love

I was about 10 years old when secrets became a huge part of my life.  My father began to drink and my childhood changed forever.  By the time I was a teenager I had taken on the classic characteristics of the oldest child of an alcoholic.  I knew not to tell, trust or feel.  Everything was about appearances, and what was going on behind closed doors was a secret; life was like that in the ‘60’s.  I would numb out to cope with the unpleasant, and some times scary things, going on around me.  I became an expert at pretending things were fine, when they were not fine. 


Karen and her son Lance

My big secret.  I was a senior in high school when I became pregnant as the result of what would be called a date rape today.  The guy was long gone by the time I realized my condition, and because of my father’s drinking and our chaotic, dysfunctional family, I already felt invisible, alone, and like I didn’t matter.  My parents finally realized I was pregnant when I went into labor at home as they drove me to the hospital late that night in July 1966, to give birth.  I don’t remember being given much of a choice, other than adoption, and I was too numbed out and shut down not to agree.  I got home from the hospital, no one ever spoke about it again, and for me, life went on.


Secret alive and well.  For forty years my secret held me captive, buried deep in my soul, as I fed it with my shame and guilt.  I gave it my power and fought to protect it, no matter how toxic and destructive it had become.


Shattered secrets.  In May of 2006, I received a call that set me free and changed my life forever.  My son, Lance, with the help from the adoptive father, had found me.  Suddenly I was overcome with a rich mixture of joy, excitement, amazement, sadness, regret and grief.  But, most of all, my heart was broken open to finally allow the love I had always carried to flow forth and bathe that connection between mother and child. 


No more secrets.  Today it is so clear to me how much I allowed myself to be stuck in the past.  I was the one who cultivated the shame and guilt, and by keeping my secret, the hold remained.  I see now that the secret became powerless, once told.  Sharing my story, whenever possible, gives me the power and opportunity to help other women from my generation who are still held hostage by their secret.


In my quiet moments, I reflect often about how my life changed forever because of that one phone call.  I am reminded that it really is a small world and events and circumstances do have their own rhythm as if orchestrated by Divine appointment.  For that, I am deeply grateful.

Karen Liebgold is a reunited mother and past Co-coordinator of Adoptees in Search - the Colorado Triad Connection (now ASRC.) Contact her at


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