My Unspeakable Loss

A Birthmother’s Memoir About Adoption Secrecy

by Alicia Kay Lanier


Book Details

Mother Reveals Saga of Secret Baby Given to Strangers

In 1965, Alicia Kay Lanier finishes her University journalism studies in Texas and embarks on an exciting career as a daily newspaper reporter in another state. She has been raised in a Christian home and she is still a virgin.

Alicia quickly finds her new job and friends to be as thrilling as she had expected. But, a few months later, Alicia discovers she is pregnant. The fact that she is unmarried, combined with the recent death of a parent, influences her to give her infant to strangers who want to adopt him. Alicia keeps this baby a secret from her family and friends for over two decades.

Alicia later marries and the couple has other children. In the mid-eighties, a series of family crises threatens the family’s serene image and the marriage; the author says: “To family and close friends, my life at age 48 looked pretty good: Longtime marriage, pretty daughters, professional career, lovely home. What they could not see was the marriage was on shaky ground, my daughters were in distress, and I had kept a sad secret for over two decades.”

Alicia’s saga includes a nostalgic portrayal of her parents and early family life in addition to intense truth telling about the marital-family dilemmas she encountered while ending secret-keeping. Confronting a closed adoption system, which hides information from all parties involved, Alicia and her daughters persistently search for lost family; that journey has surprising twists and turns and presents new challenges for Alicia and her children in reunion and relationship renewal.

Covering several decades, her memoir draws from Alicia’s vivid memories and extensive personal journal and family letters. Written in the style of a contemporary novel, there are flashbacks to Alicia’s years as a teenager learning to deal with the opposite sex and intimacy; her life as a daily newspaper reporter in Oklahoma and Texas; reflections about her months living in a “home for unwed mothers;” meditation on the shame and grief felt by birthmothers of the closed adoption era; and Alicia’s evolution into being a writer and advocate for adoptee rights and other issues; and more.

See reviews at on book page for My Unspeakable Loss

Alicia's Blog:


Book Excerpt


The color Polaroid picture was fading away; it had been uncovered while I was sorting through a big box filled with loose photos saved for decades. It was a picture that had been snapped quickly before brunch on the last Mother’s Day, almost 30 years earlier, that we had celebrated as a united family. I scrutinized this last family group photo: Three teenage daughters, my husband Tom, his Mother, my Mama, and me. It set me to musing about how rare it is to find a snapshot of an actual tipping point in one’s life.

As was our custom in those days of marriage and accommodation of two extended families, my husband and I had invited both our widowed mothers to celebrate their motherhood and mine. Tom’s mother lived just a 15-minute drive away, mine about 45 minutes; Mama had driven over the previous day to spend the evening and night with us.

The suburban hotel near us had announced a special Mother’s Day brunch and I told Tom it sounded like a nice outing and he had agreed, if somewhat reluctantly. When we arrived that Mother’s Day Sunday, we all waited in a long line in the ballroom to be ushered to our luncheon table. While we all stood in line, a photographer approached and asked whether we wanted a photo taken to mark the occasion. I don’t remember the discussion, but the seven of us did group together for picture taking.

As I examined the photo all these years later, it was at first amusing to see our mostly-bouffant hairstyles and brightly colored, shoulder-padded clothing, but I finally focused on Tom towering over all us petite womenfolk: he at 6’1”, and 18-year-old Kathee, at 5’4” the tallest of us women at that time. Looking more closely, I could see that none of us wore a genuinely happy smile; most seem strained, as if our collective future has suddenly become apparent, but we’re trying to avoid the foreshadowing. Or, perhaps I read too much into our expressions; maybe they were simply the awkward smiles of family members ordered to “Say cheese!” by the photographer.

A few minutes after the Polaroid picture was finished and handed to us, we were being led by a hostess to our assigned table for brunch when, halfway to our table, an uncovered electrical wire laid across the floor tripped my elderly mother-in-law; she almost instantly landed face down. Our family and many others watched, horrified, later as paramedics lifted her onto a stretcher and carried her off to the hospital. Both jaws had been broken and her recuperation took months. Sadly, it was the first of several crises that charged up family emotions and ripped us apart; that instant photo documented when our lives began changing.

When our family chaos ended two years later, I finally stopped lying to myself, keeping secrets, and admitted that all our family portraits had been incomplete.

NEXT: Chapter 1. Sex and the Good Girl


About the Author

Alicia Kay Lanier

Alicia Kay Lanier is a writer and activist who lives in North Texas. She began her writing career as a daily newspaper reporter in Oklahoma and Texas. Since then, she has written about real estate, technology, adoption issues, political topics, and for business and corporate publications. Alicia was editor-writer for the periodical, Adoption Triad Forum ; co-founder and founding president of TxCARE; former board member for Concerned United Birthparents (CUB) and California Open; and presenter at American Adoption Congress (AAC) conferences. She was the first birthmother to serve on the Board of Directors for Hope Cottage Pregnancy and Adoption Center in Dallas, and is editor of the book, Hope, A Collection of Birthfamily Stories, Poems & Letters, which contains Alicia’s essay, An Invisible Tattoo. She spends much of her leisure time with friends and family, especially with her four grandchildren whom she calls her Joy Buttons because of the fun they add to her life.

Alicia's Blog:

See reviews at on book page for My Unspeakable Loss