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Adoption Blog: Double Vision

Do They Know?

Ten years after adopting our twin girls, the question that still surprises me the most is, "Do they know they're adopted?" followed closely by "When did you tell them?"

The question is surprising to me because, in this day and age, I can't imagine why anyone would keep adoption secret. Or even that anyone would have an actual sit-down conversation with their children to disclose "the truth." We've told our children that they are adopted about 47,000 times since they joined our family and I expect we'll mention it another 470,000 times before we leave this early plane. There's nothing embarrassing, weird, or evil about adoption, so why not just let it be a part of our family's history?
But then I ran an adoption support group at a twins club convention, and one of the moms there had decided not to tell her children the circumstances of their birth and the other was on the fence.
The reasons? Because their children weren't really "adopted" -- one set was born through egg donation and the other through embryo donation. With new technology, it seems, come new questions and new ethics.
It's not my place to tell anyone how to run their family; if you want to keep this information secret, that's between you and your child(ren.) In most of those cases biological parents aren't known (although some embryo adoption organizations do keep those records), so it's difficult to have any sort of open relationship with biological relatives.
But that doesn't mean they don't exist. And the truth always has a way of coming out.
During our group discussion I posed what I believe to be the most important question in dealing with any adoption (or frankly, child-rearing) issue about which you lie or conceal the truth: What are you going to say when your children find out the truth? For me, this includes everything from the existence of Santa (I lied to preserve some magic in your childhood) to high school hijinks (gotta tell the truth about this one if only to serve as a cautionary tale to my daughters) to the choices their birthmom has made since placing them with us (shared gently, as they have gotten older).
If you think you've got a good reason for concealing the truth and you can handle the emotions of your child when he or she finds out, then go ahead and keep the truth to yourself. I'm not sure if egg donation or embryo donation is a good enough reason to keep the truth to yourself, though.
Both women in the workshop believed that telling would only confuse the children (and what adoptive parent hasn't worried about that once or a million times?) because they don't have a way to find out additional information about their biological families. It would only make them feel less connected to their family, one of the moms said, and it would serve no additional purpose.
So I asked myself if we would speak about adoption in our house if Banana and Little Bit's adoptions were closed. Or if their birthparents were completely unavailable. Or if their birthparents were predators or deviants. Or if there was no way they would ever find out.
And for me, the answer was always yes. The truth is the truth, and we all come from a gene pool that is both pristine and polluted -- it is what you do with this body and soul you've been given that's important. As humans, we have a right to know as much as we can about that -- even if it is simply that you are not biologically related to your parents. For me, that should be true if your parents worked through an agency, a country, a lawyer, or a test tube.
Agree or disagree?

Related Posts on AdoptiveFamiliesCircle


Good post!  Agree—for the most part.

I don’t know why anyone would even dream they could get away with lying about a child’s origins nowadays.  Egg donation and embryo adoption aren’t the only new technologies.  Genetic testing is readily accessible and affordable.  All it takes is the slightest curiosity about one’s origins, and the cat is out of the bag. 

The comment about how the truth would only confuse the twins and serve no additional purpose is the worst, though.  No additional purpose?  How about knowing one’s own family medical history—or at least knowing that you don’t know it.  These kids will grow up, get married, and have children, all the while supplying wrong information.  Heaven forbid serious health issues, but it does happen.  And when it does, it’s nice to not be leading the doctor astray with erroneous family medical history.

I do disagree that it’s not someone else’s place to insist the children know the truth. 

I grew up with parents who told me the truth, but that was just the luck of the draw.  I could have just as easily been adopted by a couple who kept the truth from me.  Any couple waiting for a child at the time I was born could have become my parents.  It’s extremely easy for me to put myself in the place of other adoptees because the reality is that I could have just as easily been raised by their parents as they could have been raised by mine.  I wouldn’t have wanted to have grown up like that, and I think everyone has the right to know something as basic as his or her own origins.  From the bottom of my heart, I think that should be a right protected by law.

If a person or a couple is too afraid of the truth to face it, I don’t think they have the right to seek out another human being and force that individual to foot the bill for their fears.  I honestly believe that’s wrong, and I believe it’s wrong for society not to have prevented those situations.

By Jeanne on Wednesday, August 01, 2012 at 6:50 pm.

Truth, truth, and more truth! It’s truly shocking to me that some parents are still keeping it from their children. What is this, the 1950’s? A very important post.

By Barbara Herel on Thursday, August 02, 2012 at 4:54 pm.

I also have twins through embryo donation, and we are fortunate to have a wonderful open relationship with the donors.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  My boys are only 7mo old, but we already talk to them about their biological family (they have twin sisters also).  We have photos of the donor family on display in our house.  My husband and I met the donors prior to the confirmation of my pregnancy, and the donor mother met the boys on their 1mo birthday.  All four of us parents are Facebook friends, and I text her whenever I have a question regarding family medical history, when the sisters hit various developmental milestones, etc.  I know we have a unique situation as far as 3rd party reproduction goes, but we feel very blessed that our boys will not have those unanswered questions hanging over their heads.  We’re thankful for donors who are respectfully involved without ever questioning our parenting decisions. 

Should I come across someone who is considering embryo donation, I would recommend that they go through a nonprofit (such as an adoption agency) to be matched with donors, as opposed to through their fertility clinic.  This way you have more control over preferences regarding openness, and the agency can facilitate communication if you are only comfortable with a semi-open relationship.

By skitteny on Saturday, August 04, 2012 at 2:39 am.

Of course you are correct, the biggest problem with concealing this is that other people know the truth, and sooner or later some helpful family member or friend will tell the child.  Then it is a “secret”, and won’t the child feel hurt and betrayed? 

I work with a young man who adopted his wife’s older daughter.  She has known him since she was a baby, and calls him Dad (she is four).  I told him I thought it was a mistake not to tell her the truth for this exact reason.

By jszmom on Monday, August 06, 2012 at 5:44 am.

Skitteny, that is really interesting and I’m glad you made that decision and your children will benefit from this biological information. Since I wrote this blog I have learned that there are several organizations that will share embryo donation information. Thank you for sharing your experience!

By TracyRaz on Saturday, August 11, 2012 at 7:39 pm.

AGREE!  I applaud you in bringing up this subject!  You will find my story funny.  I was asked, if I had told my children that they were adopted.  The funny part…I am white, they are Korean.  Silly, silly, silly!  I wonder sometimes…where do these type of people come from. 

The very sad issue with this mind frame of some people is that keeping secrets such as being adopted makes that child’s life is a lie.  Secrets are shameful.  There is nothing shameful about adoption. 

The child should know the word adopt from the time they are able to communicate, and this can start with simply reading books such as:  Susan and Gordon Adopt a Baby: (Reissue) (Sesame Street Books).

By Forever Mom Of 2 Beautiful Children on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 3:41 pm.

Dear TracyRaz,

I just responded to your post, in which, you discussed telling your child about being adopted. 

I am curious about the picture that you have used.  The photo appears to be of a woman’s back with a knife in it, and as if there are marks on her back, as if she had been whipped.

Do you wish to discuss this?

By Forever Mom Of 2 Beautiful Children on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 4:49 pm.

The picture that accompanies my blog is a shot I took of a heart etched into a tree trunk… so I’m not sure if you’re referring to a different photo. I checked through my posts to see if there was some other photo, but couldn’t find one.

By TracyRaz on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 6:52 pm.

It’s wonderful to hear that you’ve had such a great experience with open adoption.

Embryo’s alive always encourages our families to be as open as they feel comfortable. We love the donor sibling registry option (

Embryo’s Alive

By embroysalive on Saturday, August 25, 2012 at 5:03 pm.

Even if they don’t remember consciously, they do know they were adopted .. they know that they were taken away from their natural mother and they were traumatized from that.  They will need help their entire lives.  They will have identity issues, abandonment issues, trust issues, relationship issues.  The best advice I can give you is to refer you to the ‘bible’ of adoption:  Nancy Newton Verrier’s “The Primal Wound”.  This will give you the knowledge you need to help your traumatized adopted children.
Does that answer your question?

By Tsamara on Thursday, August 30, 2012 at 11:36 pm.
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