Information Sharing: Privacy vs Secrecy
“I’m just not going to tell him. How he got here is not important. What’s important is that he’s here.”
“I am just going to sweep it under the rug.”
“It’s my burden to bear not his, he didn’t ask for this.”
“It’s nobody’s business”
“It’s private, between me and my husband.”
“It will be my child’s story to tell if he should choose to tell it.”
“I don’t want anyone to judge him, tease him, or make life hard for him.”
Those are all the reasons that I used to tell myself daily before I underwent DE IVF to have my child.
From the moment I conceived my son via egg donation I was bound and determined not to tell him, or my family, or the world how he was conceived. I wanted to all of that behind me. I felt it was private and it was my secret and no one needed to know.
Not long after that I met an amazing fellow mom via egg donation, Carole LieberWilkins who just happened to be a therapist in this very specialized area. Carole was several years ahead of me in her journey and had the lay of the land, and had figured a whole lotta stuff out.
Carole was so patient as I rationalized my reasons for not wanting to tell my son or anyone for that matter the truth about his origins. And one of the best things she ever taught me was the difference between privacy and secrecy.
You see many people get the two confused. That’s because those two specific words are used interchangeably a lot of the time. The reality is they don’t mean the same thing.
A secret is always something that you are going to be afraid to share with anyone because you will worry what someone may think about you when they learn it. And the reason we worry about secret information is because with secret information there comes the stigma of shame because of the judgment that almost always follows.
So when we use the word privacy we really are meaning that private things are those things that are really nobody else’s business like:
• How much money you made last year.
• How much you paid in taxes.
• How often you have sex and with who.
• Special names or terms of endearment you have for each other.
• How many alcoholic beverages you drink in a week.
• If you do your housework in the buff.
Carole so wisely taught me that secrets are things that we feel shame, fear, or embarrassment about. And if you take a look at the items above and change those items from private to secret they can look like:
• Instead of how much money you made last year—you filed for bankruptcy.
• Instead of how much you paid in taxes—you didn’t file your taxes or you cheated on your taxes.
• Instead of how often you have sex with your partner you have sex with lots of other people with or without your partner, and you keep it on the down low.
• Instead of how much alcohol you consume in a week, you might not talk about how much alcohol you drink because you have a problem with your alcohol consumption. Or you abuse prescription drugs.
• And just maybe you do your housework in the buff with all your shades open because you know that the guy across the street watches.
All of the above are almost always, by most people kept secret because for many they are embarrassing or shameful. We as a society don’t often talk about the kinds of issues within families like alcoholism, spousal or child abuse, sexual abuse, infidelity, or any addiction really as those things are almost always secret.
So when we talk about how we build our families becoming a parent is our goal. We utilize resources, we ask for help – (or we should be asking for help), we work through and overcome challenges and obstacles as well as working hard to achieve that dream of becoming a mom or a dad.
So let me ask you is sharing information about how your child was created really the same as bankruptcy, child abuse, lying or cheating? Of course not.
Your family building story ( As Carole so beautifully says) is a love story and while it may be a private matter — discerning carefully who and how and when to share it — it most definitely ought not to be a secret.
The other piece to this is that your child story is not just their story. It’s your story too! Your entire family shares the story of how your family came to be. I can’t tell you how many parents I’ve heard tell me “This is my child’s story and I’m not the one that’s going to tell it until my child decides if they want to tell it.” So okay- yes, it is your child story but it’s the parents story as well. When I share our family story with others I am not taking anything away from my son. I am sharing my perspective and my experience. After all, it was my uterus that received the embryos, and it was my body that carried my son, and it was me that deliver him safely into the world.
I get that this whole sharing of information, disclosure stuff, can be and is often scary and overwhelming. That’s why we begin early and often, and we take baby steps. We reach out to others who have gone before us for help and support. And we learn the important distinction between the word privacy and the word secret.