01/20/2007 at 01:00 PM EST
Oprah Winfrey was shattered when a relative revealed in 1990 that she'd had a baby at 14, she says in the new issue of her magazine.
The February issue of O, The Oprah Magazine,
has the theme, "My first" – and Winfrey writes about her first betrayal: A family member's revelation to the National Enquirer
that Winfrey gave birth as a teen to a baby who died in the hospital weeks later.
Winfrey writes that the relative, whom she doesn't name but whom the Associated Press identifies as her half-sister, Patricia Lloyd, "sat in a room, told them the story of my hidden shame and left their offices $19,000 richer."
When she found out, Winfrey writes, according to the New York Post
, "I took to my bed and cried for three days. I felt devastated. Wounded. Betrayed. How could this person do this to me?"
Before the article came out, she says, "Only my family and closest friends knew. I would tell no one until I felt safe enough to share my dark past: the years I was sexually abused, from age 10 to 14, my resulting promiscuity as a teenager, and finally, at 14, my becoming pregnant."
She worried that if anyone found out about the pregnancy, it would damage her career: "I imagined that every person on the street was going to point their finger at me and scream, 'Pregnant at 14, you wicked girl ... expelled!' "
But in fact, she says, "No one said a word ... not strangers, not even people I knew. I was shocked. Nobody treated me differently. For 20 years, I had been expecting a reaction that never came.
"And I soon realized that having the secret out was liberating. ... What I learned for sure was that holding the shame was the greatest burden of all."