'My run-of-the-mill extended family is filled with secret children.'


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My family is pretty run of the mill. Or at least I thought it was.

My dad, who raised my two siblings and I alone, has two brothers and one sister.

I’m close with my dad’s family. We spent a lot of time together growing up and these bonds have followed us into adulthood.

But I found out something the other day, and I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s following me around like an unwanted guest.

Somewhere in the world, I have two cousins I’ll never get the chance to meet.

My dad’s brother and sister both have secret children. And by ‘secret’ I mean not even their children – who I grew up with – know about them.

Image: iStock.

I discovered this double-whammy family skeleton a couple of years ago after my grandpa told my sister. His health had deteriorated quickly and we knew he wouldn’t be with us much longer. So when my sister relayed the news, I wasn’t sure if it had backing or if it was something grandpa had said in the final throes of his battle with cancer.

At the time I didn't say anything to dad: the family was consumed with grief already and I had no reason to cause further unrest. Time went by, life went on and I simply forgot my sister had ever said anything.

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Until a few months ago.

I was on the phone with dad when somehow the topic of family secrets came up. The revelation leapt into my mind and, without thinking, I asked him if it was true.

His reaction was definitely not what I expected.

Rather than being surprised or startled, he spoke as if he had told me the news himself years ago and I was just confirming the story.

Image: iStock.

First, dad told me about my aunt. She left school when she was 16, studied nursing then headed to the UK to work. That was almost 40 years ago. Before she moved to the UK, she broke up with her on again/off again boyfriend. My aunt was still a teenager, but her free spirit couldn’t be contained  to our small NSW country town.

So she set off. A few months after her arrival, she found out she was pregnant. It was her ex’s.

As a young woman with little to no means of support herself, let alone a child, she came back to Australia to give birth a few months later. The baby boy was adopted out just hours after he was born.

Dad was adamant my aunt had never tried to contact the child, who would be in his 40s by now. This is what’s plaguing me. Does this man even know he’s adopted? If so, has he ever tried to seek out his birth mother? What has his life been like? Where did he grow up? What does he do for a living? Does he have a family of his own? I'll never know. Worse, my much-loved cousins have a brother out there that they have no clue about.


If they knew would they try and seek him out?

Jodi from McLeod's Daughters was a secret child.

My uncle, as I found out, had a similar situation. During his early 20s he’d moved to a new city, and met a girl a few years younger than him. They dated for a while but as far as dad knew, things were never serious. Then he called home one night and told my grandparents this girl was pregnant.

My grandparents are very traditional. They believe in no sex before marriage even in this day and age, so I can’t begin to imagine what their reactions were 35 years ago. Dad knows less about this child; apparently my uncle has only ever spoken about it once, when the girl was pregnant. He said she was expecting, that they weren't going to stay together and she would raise the child. My dad doesn't even know if it's a boy or girl.

A part of me wishes I'd never known. These people, these strangers might not even know they have biological brothers and sisters that don't know they exist. As soon as dad told me I asked if he'd had any secret children. He assured me he hadn't, but who knows anymore.

Sometimes it's best to keep secrets buried.

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