I thought by keeping my secret it could no longer hurt anyone. I would protect myself, protect my child, protect my parents, and keep everyone happy. It’s taken twenty-one years for me to learn how wrong this thinking was. It hasn’t protected anyone; it has only caused pain and created barriers suffered in silence. Deafening silence that I can no longer stand.

The telling of my secret wasn’t easy. When I said to my partner of 9 years “I have to tell you something, I had a baby when I was 16”. I felt physically ill. I don’t really know what I thought he would do or say but all the old feelings, the shame, the guilt, the fear all came back like it was yesterday. Then going to see my parents was worse. How do you start a conversation you should have had over twenty years ago with the people you felt you most disappointed? Ironically, for all that fear I received nothing but support. Most people don’t really understand but most try and not everyone has reacted as I expected or maybe wanted but I haven’t lost any friends or family.

The secret had started to lose its meaning. There was no point to keeping the secret any more. As I talked it became clear to me that the people being hurt by the secret were those I sought to protect. My daughter had contacted me and we began to get to know each other. We met and then we spent ten days together. All through this time, this person who is my daughter by birth has started to become real to me and no longer a secret to be kept hidden. Someone I want to be part of my life.

My parents seemed not only willing to talk but relieved that I finally spoke and hope to meet and get to know their granddaughter. For myself I have realised that along with the secret, I had locked away a good part of myself. I had stopped feeling, I think I had stopped loving and now slowly, as I feel the grief and the sadness, the good feelings are coming back and I’m looking differently at my life, at myself and others.

No one could underestimate the effect of releasing such a secret not only on yourself, but on those around you. For me it has been a difficult journey that still continues, but at the end is my beautiful daughter and the knowledge that it’s “OK”. That I don’t have all the answers, I can be fallible and still loved. Now I feel free to tell whomever I wish as it comes up, and I really have no hesitations. It is an extraordinary experience after 21 years to talk freely. It is extraordinary to hear my mother tell a shop assistant, that the gift I’m selecting is for my daughter’s 21st. It is extraordinary for friends and family to ask about my daughter and to meet her.

There is still one secret that will never be divulged to me. How would it have felt to hold my baby and see her grow up?