Janeen Jackson’s DNA Surprise


Race. Ethnicity. Heritage. These are complex topics without the added nuance of a DNA surprise. Author Janeen Jackson grew up with two younger brothers and her parents in an African American household. In this week’s episode, she shares how, through a DNA test, she not only learned that she is adopted, but that her biological father is a white man. 

Janeen discusses the complexities of navigating familial bonds, and her journey to acceptance and understanding. She also reveals the purpose behind her children’s book, Hello, Sweet Baby An Adoption Journey which helps children and adults navigate and understand the nuances of adoption and identity.

Thank you for sharing your story, Janeen.

Resources:

Hello, Sweet Baby An Adoption Journey

Blog: Mixed-Up Diary




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Episode Transcript

Transcripts are AI-generated and may not reflect the final published episodes.

[00:00:00] Janeen: It is very odd to know that people have been celebrating my life. My maternal side of the family, I was told that, every Christmas, they would think of me, make me a stocking and, pray for me.

[00:00:14] Janeen: That is so odd, especially when you are a kid dealing with depression and you think you’re the only one going through something in the whole world. And, um, Little do you know that other people are celebrating you. That is, it’s still, it’s going to take me a while to digest that one. It’s, it’s a fantastic thing, but it’s still

[00:00:34] Janeen: strange.

[00:00:41] Janeen: Hi, my name is Janine Jackson. I’m 51 years old and I live in Evanston, Illinois.

[00:00:48] Janeen: In 2017, my father passed away, and when he passed away, my brother and I, I have two brothers, a middle brother and a younger brother, we decided we wanted to finish working on a family tree we had started years back because we lost.

[00:01:03] Janeen: Our father. And so in that discovery, um, and, and, and trying to find family members on the tree, my brother was gifted a DNA test and so he found additional family members and it was so exciting. And so I decided I wanna take a DNA test too. Later that year, let’s see, my father passed away of January of two.

[00:01:28] Janeen: And in December of 2017, I decided to take a DNA test with my brother. And when it came back the following few months, I learned that I was not matching in anybody’s tree in my family and I couldn’t understand why. And I remember making a lot of phone calls. To the DNA testing center because I knew that there was a mistake and within 24 hours I learned that I was adopted in foster care and I was mixed race And it was a complete shock and I found out All of this information in less than 24 hours because family, family, I’m putting in air quotes, I guess biological family members, reached out to me and, told me this adoption story that they’ve known their whole life.

[00:02:19] Janeen: In a nutshell, that’s how I found out that I was adopted.

[00:02:22] Alexis: so growing up, what did you believe your ethnicity to be?

[00:02:28] Janeen: African American. Just two black parents, African American, and yeah.

[00:02:34] Alexis: Take me back to when you, you take this test, you get the results, and you’re like, I’m not connecting to anyone, because most people that come on the podcast, They have an NPE, and it’s just one parent, just in quotes, but you know, just one parent. So they connect, they find out that they have half siblings, or just their mother, just their father is their biological parent.

[00:02:59] Alexis: You are discovering you do not match with anyone on either side. So how are you feeling? What was going through your mind?

[00:03:07] Janeen: Well, I remember, I had just gotten back from a trip in Hawaii and my brother was out there fishing and I remember giving him a call because he had taken the test and I wanted to find out If he had set his, privacy onto, I think it was called like hidden, like he hid his privacy and he’s like, I’m fishing.

[00:03:27] Janeen: What are you talking about? I can’t talk to you right now. And I said, all right. So I called my younger brother, and we were trying to figure out what was going on, and we knew we had an uncle that had a couple of kids from different women, so we were thinking, okay, I’m not matching, but maybe uncle so and so is my father, because he’s my godfather, and maybe Everybody knew he was my father.

[00:03:55] Janeen: I mean, we were just trying to piece this all together. And then my brother says to me, you know, this is before I found out I was

[00:04:01] Alexis: hmm,

[00:04:02] Janeen: So hours before I found out I was adopted. My younger brother said, why did you just call mom? I was like, oh, oh, yeah, let me give her a call. So I give her a call And I say to her, I was like, hey mom, I just wanted to let you know that my results came back and I’m not matching to anyone.

[00:04:19] Janeen: I’m not matching to my brother or his daughter, my niece. I’m not matching to anyone. And my mom’s response was, why are you calling me with this mess? I told you guys not to take that test. Now your DNA is compromised and they are falsely convicting people and my husband and I had just watched, I think, one of those 48 hour mysteries or something like that where someone was falsely convicted, through DNA testing.

[00:04:46] Janeen: And, um, I said, oh my gosh, what did I do? What did I do? What did I do? And before she left, I

[00:04:53] Janeen: I said, okay, this is really weird. But mom, before I left. You go, I have a quick question for you. She’s like, what, what is it? And I said, what’s an Ashkenazi Jew? And she said, why are you asking me that? And I said, well, because my DNA

[00:05:09] Janeen: results are saying that I’m 25 percent Ashkenazi Jew. And what is an Ashkenazi Jew? And so my mom tells me a story about my grandmother on my father’s side who is part German so that would be my great grandmother and I knew all of these things, but I’m thinking okay Something is really weird. This is not adding up 25 percent So then I started thinking, oh no, my mom’s Mom’s One of my mom’s parents is not one of her biological parents.

[00:05:41] Janeen: I thought it was my

[00:05:42] Alexis: You thought that your mom was an NPE, which totally makes sense because the 25%, you’re

[00:05:48] Janeen: because at 25 percent my mother had, was, I was told that my mother has a Jewish name, a traditional Jewish name from back, back during that time. So I was thinking that’s what it is. So I called my youngest brother back and we were trying to figure it all out. But we knew one of my, I was related to To one side of the family, but we just couldn’t figure out who and then, text through the, company in which I took the DNA test from started coming in and messages and, one person.

[00:06:22] Janeen: Uh, sent me a text on my cell phone that said, I’ve been waiting for you waiting for this moment my whole life. I cannot believe we found you. You’re my sister. Please give me a call so we can discuss. And I’m thinking, what is going on? And , why would someone send a text like

[00:06:40] Alexis: Right. That’s so confusing.

[00:06:43] Janeen: it sounded like, like, you know, meet me at Starbucks. Let’s just chat for, so my husband, you’re my sister. I’m like, we’ve been looking for you our whole life. I can’t believe this has come. This is a dream come true. So my husband saw me kind of floating around and. And just acting out of sorts.

[00:07:03] Janeen: He’s like, what is going on? And I tell him, and he’s like, Janine, I can, I understand that you miss your father. And I don’t know what it feels like to, to experience something like that, but I wish you had never taken that test. You have compromised yourself now. And I started feeling really bad and he says, Do not call that person.

[00:07:25] Janeen: It’s probably a scam. Well, I think I was a cat in another life because curiosity was killing me, right?

[00:07:31] Alexis: Yeah, I was gonna say, did you think, did you suspect that it was a scam? Or how were you feeling when you saw that? Okay.

[00:07:40] Janeen: Absolutely. I thought I was, because of the messages that were being sent to me, email, like, uh, this cousin of mine said, Oh, we’re definitely, because I asked her, it says that we’re related, but I can’t figure out how, who, who, it was asking about who the family members were in their family.

[00:07:57] Janeen: And she replied, we’re definitely related, and I have an honor. aunt that knows a backstory. But, I can’t get in touch with her right now because I’m really busy

[00:08:08] Alexis: Mm.

[00:08:09] Janeen: and I’m thinking, okay, I see what’s going on here. I am part of a scam and I’m asking too many questions and all of these people are trying to, I’m going faster, you know, too fast for them.

[00:08:20] Janeen: They can’t think of a response. So I really thought I was part of a scam. And then,, I left the house. I ended up. Calling this person who ended up is now my paternal half brother. I call, he says, hi, Janine. And I’m like, whoa, who are you? Why are you calling me? And what is going on? And he’s crying and he’s like, I cannot believe we found you.

[00:08:48] Janeen: And he tells me this story about his dad and this little baby that was placed in adoption and he never. His father never met him and her name is Jennifer and, and I’ve said, I’m so sorry, I’m not that baby you’re talking about. And he’s like, you are. And I’m like, I’m not. And he said, well, have you noticed that you’re not matching with anybody on your DNA test?

[00:09:12] Janeen: And I totally lied. And I said, I am. I’m, I’m matching with everybody. So many people, but inside I’m like, Oh my God, what is going on? What is happening? What is going on? Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. I, my head was spinning. I couldn’t understand what was going on. But I said to him, I said, well, I am, I’m matching to some other people that I don’t know.

[00:09:33] Janeen: And my family members and that I’ve always known as my family. And he goes, but that can’t be possible, I guess. I’m like, well, Science is weird. So, and he says, I don’t, and he says, I don’t, I’m saying I’m sounding very nice because when I spoke to him, I was quite

[00:09:49] Alexis: Mm. Okay.

[00:09:50] Janeen: I felt, I felt confused and attacked and scammed.

[00:09:54] Janeen: He says, I don’t understand why you’re talking to me like this. I’m kind. I’m like, how did you get my phone number? He said, well, I purchased a background report. And I said, you’ve purchased a background report on me. You’ve sent me text and emails. You’ve sent me a LinkedIn, Facebook invite. I don’t know who you are.

[00:10:12] Janeen: And you’re a white guy. I’m not related to any white people. And he got really quiet. And I said, it sounds like you really miss this little girl. I’ll help you find her. Why don’t you give me, you said you’ve been writing the adoption agency for years. Why don’t you give me the adoption agency information and I’ll find out what’s going on.

[00:10:32] Janeen: And he said, Oh, that’s a great idea. And I said, that’s a great idea.

[00:10:39] Alexis: So your denial is just fully protecting you from facing reality at this point.

[00:10:46] Janeen: Well, because it was still wasn’t reality to me. There’s only one reality that I know, and these people and this guy, they aren’t it. And I did just watch this television show about how this guy got falsely convicted through DNA testing, and I just didn’t

[00:11:04] Alexis: And you just, and you just talked to your mom and she says nothing at all.

[00:11:10] Janeen: She says nothing at all, nothing at all, and so I, gave the guy, I asked him, I said, do you have my email address? He said, no. I said, oh, I thought that would be in the background report. And so, and so, I, I Established a new email account, and I gave him the address, and I said email me the information when you get a chance.

[00:11:35] Janeen: So at this point, I’ll be honest, I don’t remember anything from that conversation until that email later that evening. I, I can’t even tell you how I got home. I don’t, I remember I was at a friend’s birthday party and it was all you could eat seafood and I love shrimp. And I knew something was wrong because I didn’t want any seafood or any shrimp.

[00:11:58] Alexis: Wow, yeah.

[00:11:59] Janeen: the only thing that I remember. And so I get home. I guess life happened. I don’t remember. I remember. I do know I didn’t share anything with anybody about this conversation. And about maybe 10 o’clock that evening, I got an email from this guy and it said, here’s all of the adoption agency information, the case manager’s information, my supposed birth name, all of this information.

[00:12:27] Janeen: And I said, all right, great. I’ll follow up. And it was in, this baby was born in New Jersey, which is where I was born. But again I’m not thinking anything until he attached a newborn picture of me to the email. And when I saw that photo, I felt like I was just blasted into outer space.

[00:12:49] Janeen: Because at that moment, it hit me. That I have never seen a newborn picture of myself.

[00:12:55] Alexis: Oh, wow.

[00:12:56] Janeen: I’m a very visual person and I’m from, I was raised in Virginia and I remember always going through my baby book and my brother’s baby book and seeing that picture reminded me when I asked my parents, how come I don’t have a newborn baby picture?

[00:13:11] Janeen: And I was told, well they didn’t do that at that time. Now here’s the funny thing, at the time I was a newborn photographer

[00:13:18] Alexis: Oh,

[00:13:19] Janeen: So, everything started adding up and I’m, I’m adding and not adding up. And I was saying, thinking to myself, wait a minute, what is going on? And I looked at the picture.

[00:13:30] Janeen: I was like, no, no, no, no, that can’t be me. And I’m visually in my head going through my baby book. And I remember I had just earlier that year, I had gone. Back home to go visit my mom and I had taken a couple of baby pictures of me the ones that I’ve seen I think I was like three or four months old I’m maybe four or five months old and I grabbed that picture and I put it besides the computer screen and the only thing that made me realize that it was me is because I Clinched my fists in a particular way.

[00:14:01] Janeen: So later that evening right after I finished reading that email, I text my youngest brother and I said, Is this me? Because this was a couple days after It was April 6th, 2018. My brother replies, Haha, funny April Fool’s joke. Of course That’s you. And I said, oh my gosh, what is going on? What is going on?

[00:14:23] Janeen: What is going on? Yeah, and then the next day I go to work. I call the adoption agency. I still think it’s a scam. I asked them when they, how long they’ve been around. They said since the late 1800s. That threw me off because I’m thinking scammers wouldn’t even think about that. I was told because of my, the year I was born, my file was in the basement.

[00:14:46] Janeen: I’m thinking, okay, they don’t have this on the computer. Like

[00:14:48] Alexis: Yeah, right.

[00:14:50] Janeen: And so they called me back a couple hours later. Again, I’m thinking that all the parties are getting together and they’re trying to figure out what to, you know, I don’t know what they were trying to scam me for, but then they called me.

[00:15:04] Janeen: The case manager called me back and she told me that I was adopted. She told me my birth parents name. She told me, that they were high school sweethearts. She told me that, she gave me the name of the family that adopted me and which was my mother. I guess my mother had to put her maiden name on the certificate at the time. I said, okay, I don’t understand. Okay, alright, I’m adopted. Okay, alright, alright. She gave me the name of my birth father. And I said, What kind of name is that? And

[00:15:38] Janeen: she said, Oh, it’s a Jewish last name. And I said, what? She says, Janine, your birth father is white. He’s white, too.

[00:15:48] Alexis: Oh

[00:15:49] Janeen: And I’m thinking, what? I’m biracial? like, I’m looking at your ID, and it looks like I said, Ma’am, if you saw my father’s side of the family, we, we all look alike. And we all come in so many shades and tones. Unless they’re adopted and mixed race.

[00:16:08] Alexis: Right!

[00:16:10] Janeen: And I said, she’s like, you had no idea. I said, no. So why are you calling me again?

[00:16:17] Janeen: And I told her about the DNA test. And she said, you know, ever since DNA tests have been coming out, we’ve been getting more and more calls like this. And I started trusting her until I said, wait a minute. You just told me that my adoption was sealed. If my adoption was sealed. Then why are you telling me?

[00:16:35] Janeen: And in my head, I’m like, haha, caught you, right? And she said, Oh, well, in 2017, on, on, I think she said January 9th, 2017, the adoption laws in New Jersey were lifted. And I began crumbling and crying hysterically. And she said, Oh my gosh, Jeanine, are you okay? I said, my father died unexpectedly on January 9th.

[00:17:04] Janeen: 2017, the day the adoption laws were lifted.

[00:17:08] Alexis: Oh, that gave me goosebumps.

[00:17:11] Janeen: It’s still, um, sorry, but it still

[00:17:14] Alexis: time. Yeah.

[00:17:16] Janeen: it still makes me really emotional. I said to her, I said, I think I know what happened. My mother was told that she, She was not pregnant. She or she couldn’t get pregnant and then on some cosmic level I believe that my birth father said, oh I’m gonna have this baby talking to my dad I’m gonna have this baby that I’m not gonna be able to care for could you please take care of her for me?

[00:17:41] Janeen: But just promise me one day you’ll return her back to me and my Dad, as I always know as my dad, Mr. Jackson, said yes, and that they made this cosmic, you know,

[00:17:56] Alexis: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:17:57] Janeen: decision. And then, I said, okay. And she said, that is the most beautiful story I’ve ever heard. And I said, all right. And then she, and I said, when was I adopted again?

[00:18:07] Janeen: And she told me, I think she told me May or June. And I said, wait a minute. I was told that I was born in March, and I’m a very proud Pisces. Please don’t tell me I’m a Taurus. And that’s when she told me, No, you were born in March, but you were placed in foster care. And I said, Okay, I can’t take any more.

[00:18:23] Janeen: And then I asked her, I said, What do I do? I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do. She’s like, I’m here if you need me. Just sit with this information and call me back later. Then I call my husband. I tell him what happened. I found out my birth name is, was Jennifer from Jersey. So I called my husband and told him that what happened.

[00:18:43] Janeen: And then I’m Jenny from around the block. And you know, and he said, have you called your mom? I was like, nope. She wasn’t sounding too nice yesterday and I’m afraid to call her today. Besides, I can’t do this without you because I’ve got a feeling that my life is really going to be turned upside down.

[00:19:02] Janeen: And I’m not. I’m not calling her unless you’re ready. And he said, I appreciate that Janine. It’s not about me. It’s about you. I was like, Nope, it’s going to be about us. And then I called my mom. My husband told me to sound just be matter of fact. I said, Hey mom. She’s like, Hey buttercup, what’s going on?

[00:19:22] Janeen: And I’m laughing because in my head I’m like, Oh boy, she’s not going to call me buttercup after this because I still didn’t, I had to hear it from my mom. You know what I’m saying? I had to hear it from my mom. I said, I was told today that I was adopted, and I was wondering if you could confirm that or not.

[00:19:38] Janeen: She’s like, who told you that? And I gave her the name of the adoption agency, and then she said, and she told me, she confirmed that I was adopted. And I was okay with it, until I said, well, then that means that my middle brother and my younger brother adopted too, right? And she said, you know, that’s the funny thing.

[00:20:02] Janeen: Uh, your father and I used to call you our lucky charm because I got pregnant a year after you adopted Janine and that’s when I crumbled.

[00:20:11] Alexis: Why did that hit you so hard?

[00:20:13] Janeen: I’m really close to my brothers and We, we don’t look alike, and so we all three would find different things like, Oh, I’ve got so and so’s ears or I’ve got so and so’s lips, or we would try to find things that made all three of us connect.

[00:20:28] Janeen: And we such a strong bond. And I felt as though the bond was broken, even though it, it wasn’t, but it was at a physical sense.

[00:20:38] Janeen: I felt like the world or the universe whatever little bit of Thread that was there Tethering me to the earth every time I grab on to another Strand it popped. So I’ve adopted. I’m not biologically related to my family So I’ve got this big rope and you know a rope has lots of threads to really make it tight and thick, right?

[00:21:06] Janeen: And so that popped. Okay. I’m alright. I’m okay. I’m okay, but the universe was like, Nope, we still got a puller then You are biracial. I don’t have an issue with being biracial. I just have an issue of not knowing where I was living a life in which I thought I was one thing and I’m not and it doesn’t matter what the race is.

[00:21:28] Janeen: So then that thread popped and then another family cared for me for a small amount of my life. So there’s an, I was in some people’s hands and arms and homes that I don’t even know. Then my brothers. Aren’t even, I’m not even biologically related to them. They’re related to each other, but I’m, I’m the odd one out.

[00:21:49] Janeen: That’s how I felt. And so everything just got ripped away from me. And, and I was 46 years old at the

[00:21:58] Alexis: Mm hmm.

[00:22:03] Janeen: I felt like my life was like as an as seen on TV commercial. But wait, there’s more,

[00:22:09] Alexis: Right. And then you have this other family that’s trying to reach out to you and I kind of want to back up to this family reaching out to you and knowing so much about you because I think for a lot of people who have experienced DNA surprises, We’re the ones doing all of this intense research about the people that we are looking for, and so they are trying to find you.

[00:22:33] Alexis: They’re doing tons of research, and I would love it if you could explain a little bit more about how that works. How did that feel? Because I know when we’re just trying to find our family, we’re so excited and we want to find everything. But it sounds like that’s a lot for somebody to come at you and say, I know all of these things about you.

[00:22:52] Alexis: I found you on Facebook. I found all of this. So how did that feel? What were you? I mean, I know you were thinking it was a scam. So how did it feel?

[00:22:59] Janeen: I felt vulnerable. It’s very strange to know that a large group of people know about you or know, yeah, know about you and know about something that you don’t even know about yourself. I mean, a group of strangers. And in addition to that, I found out on the paternal side of my family that they celebrated my birthday every single year.

[00:23:24] Alexis: Oh, wow.

[00:23:26] Janeen: And that still feels strange to me.

[00:23:29] Alexis: Mm hmm.

[00:23:30] Janeen: And I think it feels strange because growing up, I, I battled, , a lot of insecurity and depression. And I think about, you know, being a teenager, I, I, I was, they call it bullying now, but back in the day, they just called it bullying. Teasing or picking on you. I was picked on a lot because of my skin tone.

[00:23:54] Janeen: I was called a reverse Oreo cookie. I am white on the outside, but black on the inside. I was made fun of because I was Asian. Rail thin, my birth father is rail thin, and I was called class skeleton. I actually was even used one time in fourth grade as the school skeleton, and I would come running home crying, asking why are people making fun of my weight, and my hair, and my skin complexion.

[00:24:23] Alexis: up predominantly in, like, black neighborhoods, or?

[00:24:28] Janeen: No, I, I grew up right outside D. C. and, it was a predominantly white neighborhood, but I, was always seeking for black friends because my family’s black, my cousins are black, my brothers are black, and so I wanted to be with my own people, play with them. I mean, I wanted to be with everyone. I mean, I know that sounds a little

[00:24:50] Alexis: No, no, it totally makes sense, but, you know, the skin color thing is so nuanced, like, within the black community, so that’s part of why I was asking, yeah.

[00:25:00] Janeen: Absolutely. And you know what? And actually, I wasn’t seeking them. I just, that’s what I knew. I mean, when I wasn’t at school, we were always going to black churches and family reunions and outings. And so, naturally, I’m in school. And let me tell you, especially in middle school, middle schoolers are so mean.

[00:25:21] Alexis: yeah.

[00:25:22] Janeen: I remember one time, Um, this, I was driving my brother to school and this girl that liked my brother wanted to beat me up in the locker room because she wanted to be with my brother and she wanted to kick my butt. Right? And I’m like, I’m his sister, and she thought I was lying, and, um, you know, this fight was about to happen on the school grounds, and this one woman who, well, girl, she’s a woman now, but who used to tease me all the time, who’s Black, vouched for me, she’s like, no, I know her and her brother.

[00:26:01] Janeen: They’re related. That, that’s the brother and they were confused. Everyone was confused. And I would come home a lot and ask, I don’t understand why people, what, what is this that people see that I’m not seeing? And I was just told, you know, you’re really pretty, people are jealous, but I could, Since people were seeing something that I could not see, but I could not, for the life of me, figure out what that was.

[00:26:29] Janeen: And so I thought that I was a deeply insecure person. I thought that I didn’t know how to make a decision. Confident decisions. And what I’m learning through this process is that I am confident. I do know how to make sound decisions. I was just feeling the vibrations of the secret that my parents were keeping from me.

[00:26:54] Alexis: Right.

[00:26:55] Janeen: They were putting their secret, their, hidden agenda, whatever you want to call it, And I’m a very sensitive person, and I can sense those things.

[00:27:06] Alexis: So you, you find out the truth. You talk to your mom. She calls you her lucky charm, her good luck charm. And everything. It is real. What do you do next?

[00:27:20] Janeen: After a lot of crying, screaming, blackouts, because there’s lots of times, lots of things that I don’t remember, I started calling everybody, all of my family members, that I’ve always known as my family members, and started telling them, what I said was, I want to tell you something that I found out about myself. I actually didn’t know that they knew. I was calling uncles and aunts, and they were like, Janine, we knew, Janine, we knew.

[00:27:44] Janeen: And after every phone call about Janine, we knew, Janine, we knew. It was just another. punch in my gut. As I was saying, the threads were just falling apart and I felt like I was part of some strange play or in on some type of strange joke. Everybody knew but me and I became very angry and but my brothers didn’t know and my cousins didn’t know.

[00:28:10] Janeen: So none of the children knew that I was adopted. Of course my brothers were like, okay, so you’re adopted. You’re still our sister. I said, I know, but it’s going to take me time to process all of this. I told my mother, I said, My birth parents are alive, and I’m just letting you know that I’m going to contact them and find out who they are.

[00:28:32] Janeen: The contacting didn’t take too long because I ended up calling my half brother back that day that I found out and said, Hey, I just want to let you know I found out, um, Yep, we’re related. And he started crying and says, Oh my gosh, you’ll never believe what my sister just sent me.

[00:28:50] Janeen: And he sends me A screen capture of, I think it was April 7th, 2018. It was National Siblings Day.

[00:28:57] Alexis: Oh,

[00:28:58] Janeen: that make me angry. And I got mad at whoever invented that.

[00:29:02] Alexis: Yeah, yeah.

[00:29:05] Janeen: And then his side of the family, my paternal side, they were very aggressive. They were just like, we’d love to come out.

[00:29:11] Janeen: My, my dad would love to come out and meet you. We can be there tomorrow. I’m like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. I said, you all have to understand that you all have known about me my whole life. I’ve only known about you all 24 hours. You need to give me my space. You need to just lay back. And, my, my birth mother, she’s a lot more laid back.

[00:29:33] Janeen: She was just like, take all the time that you need. I’m here. I don’t even know if I’m ready to even meet you yet. So just take your time.

[00:29:41] Alexis: How long did it take for you to feel like you wanted to meet them, or talk to them, really?

[00:29:47] Janeen: Um, let’s see, I found out on or April 6th and I met them in July, the 4th of July weekend.

[00:29:53] Alexis: not, not too long. How did you learn what happened to you? Was it when you were talking to your brother? Did you chat with your parents about it?

[00:30:02] Janeen: My half brother, I asked him to stop contacting me because I, I, I did tell him, I said, you are ruining every possibility of me meeting your father.

[00:30:13] Alexis: mm hmm.

[00:30:14] Janeen: I said, because you’re being really pushy. This experience has taught me to set boundaries, which I’ve never really been great at. I’m an expert now.

[00:30:23] Janeen: I could give you a masterclass on setting boundaries, but I did find out through the adoption agent that. They were high school sweethearts. Even my mom and dad knew that they were high school, high school sweethearts, but that’s about to the extent of the information that they received.

[00:30:38] Janeen: Um, but when I met my birth parents, so I hired, a documentary film person and a photographer, and I reached out to a small art gallery in Santa Monica and explained this story to me and I explained my story to them. And I asked, could I have a gallery space? To meet them because I wanted to meet them in this, in a, in a space where the walls were clean and white.

[00:30:59] Janeen: And because I’m now creating my real birth story.

[00:31:05] Janeen: So I called both of them. They agreed. I said, I know that I’m asking a lot. My birth father wanted to bring his wife and I said, she can come for, but she cannot join us on the meetup. And I said, If she’s uncomfortable with that, I, I get it.

[00:31:22] Janeen: I understand is a very big ask, but I just want it to be the three of us. And my birth mom said she hadn’t seen my birth father, I think in about 10, 12 years. And so she said it was going to take her a moment to get herself together, but they agreed to come out and we filmed the whole thing in the gallery.

[00:31:40] Janeen: I learned the story about, what happened. I’m, I learned that I was answering a lot of mysteries for them because he didn’t think she wanted to talk to him anymore. She thought he was doing this and was interested in some other girl while she was pregnant. And so, I cleared up a lot of mysteries for them because I was able to bring them together to sort out all the information.

[00:32:10] Janeen: And it was a, it was anger that they both carried throughout all these, shoot, almost for 50 years. And I remember they kept saying, you know, well, you, my daughter, and I, every time they said that, It popped me out of reality, so to stay anchored, I kept saying to myself, Alright, I’m doing a talk show, and I’m just going to let them call me their daughter if that’s what makes them feel good, because I’m really not their daughter.

[00:32:37] Alexis: Oh, that’s so interesting. So you kinda like dissociated yourself from all of it

[00:32:42] Janeen: I had to because, and I’m going to back up a little bit, when I, when the car pulled up to the gallery And I saw my birth parents come out, my first reaction was, I cannot believe those two strangers are biologically related to me. I cannot believe that they gave me life. What is going on? What is going on?

[00:33:05] Janeen: And then I hugged my birth mother. And, every cell in my body became activated, I think from a, from birth, from my, you know, that moment in 1972, it was like a deeply repressed memory that came out and my cells just kind of oozed. Mama, and it was the strangest feeling I’d ever had because I’m hugging this stranger, but My physical and spiritual being knew that I was with my birth mother

[00:33:42] Alexis: Mm.

[00:33:43] Janeen: That doesn’t take anything away from Miss Jackson the woman that I that is my mother and I’ve always known as my mother but my birth mother Gave me something that I didn’t know was missing

[00:33:56] Alexis: Right.

[00:33:57] Janeen: I think it was just that natural

[00:34:00] Alexis: Yeah.

[00:34:01] Janeen: mother connection.

[00:34:02] Janeen: It was the strangest feeling. And then my birth father hugged me. I was quite resistant to him because my dad, Mr. Jackson, I’ve always known was this

[00:34:12] Janeen: big burly guy. Big life, big things, and here comes my birth father, who was really tall, barely 125 pounds, just thin, tall, white,

[00:34:24] Alexis: Yeah, I was gonna say and white.

[00:34:26] Janeen: and white. I mean, Mr. Jackson, he was fair, too, but more like, um, his, you know, had this beautiful olive complexion,

[00:34:35] Alexis: Right, right.

[00:34:37] Janeen: fluffy hair.

[00:34:38] Janeen: I’m just like, okay, Okay Guy. You know, I, and I could feel his love for me, which I didn’t, I was very resistant to and didn’t like because I also had this tug, I felt like I was cheating on my dad. You know, my dad passed away and I don’t have anything to bounce off. I, I can’t run back to him and hug him and say, dad, I feel this way.

[00:35:03] Janeen: My mom is still here so I can go back to her. But I felt as though, and sometimes I still do feel like, um

[00:35:13] Janeen: I hate using the word cheating, but yeah, I kind of like Cheating on my dad,

[00:35:17] Alexis: that’s I’ve that is something that I hear often is that feeling it’s like you’re betraying your family. Yes. Yeah.

[00:35:24] Janeen: but it was my dad, only because he physically isn’t here anymore. And so that is, you know, that’s another thing that I had to navigate, feeling like I betrayed a person who I can’t even talk to anymore. plus, , my father, Mr. Jackson’s very conservative dresser and my birth father, I’ll just say this, his, his gold teeth, like in the, like his,

[00:35:49] Alexis: Oh, wow.

[00:35:50] Janeen: of his front teeth are gold and he has a little country accent and I, I really didn’t understand how to process any of that.

 How do they explain their decision and how they felt about your adoption and what happened to you when you were born?

[00:36:06] Janeen: My birth parents, my birth mother, who’s black, my birth father, who’s white. They were, high school sweethearts. And you could kind of say that my, Let’s see, my maternal grandmother kind of raised my birth father. His family was very, they were kind of like bohemians.

[00:36:29] Janeen: And so, my birth mother’s family wanted to offer him a little bit more stability. So during the day, He would spend the whole day with them, go to school, sometimes even go to church with them on the weekends, but he would come home in the evenings. And so, naturally, my birth mother was the youngest, I believe, of nine or ten children.

[00:36:51] Janeen: They became really good friends. He was a year younger than her. , I guess they fell in love, and he was 16 when I was born, she was 17, and she told me that in her gut, she knew that she had to place me. In adoption, they have had other family members in their house that, were placed in adoption.

[00:37:17] Janeen: After my birth mother, Discovered she was pregnant. She didn’t talk to my birth father anymore, really and dropped out of school for a year, but came back and graduated from high school. This was the 70s. It’s a lot different than it is now, where women, young girls get a lot of support.

[00:37:33] Janeen: She didn’t, tell him that she was going to place me in, up for adoption. In, up, and I also want to apologize, I’m new to this adoption world, I don’t know the terminology, and I know that sometimes I offend people with the words that I use, but I’m using words that make me feel comfortable.

[00:37:52] Alexis: And I just would like to validate that. One of my big things that I always say is we don’t get to tell other people how they feel about their stories. And so whatever terminology you are comfortable with, I will respect that. I know some adoptees say relinquished and things like that instead of, given up for adoption or, but yes, totally understand.

[00:38:14] Alexis: This is a lot of new language that we’re learning here.

[00:38:17] Janeen: yes, and again, I just want to, I respect that, but I’m using what. It feels comfortable for me. And so when my, my birth mother made that decision without conferring to him. He found out through another family member, I think they slipped a note, and he said that when he found out, he begged his parents, like, can we please keep this baby?

[00:38:38] Janeen: Please, please, please. And they were like, we don’t have room for another baby with our lifestyle. In addition to that, you are young. We’re gonna be raising this baby on our own, and we’re so sorry. This, this can’t happen. He was devastated. He said that there was a hole in his heart.

[00:38:55] Janeen: He really, really, really wanted me. So then, My birth mother, she said the day she realized that she was having contractions, she went to the hospital. And back then, if you said that you were placing your child in adoption, you didn’t get an opportunity to bond with your child. So she said she gave birth to me.

[00:39:16] Janeen: They whisked me away. She never saw me. She believes that she thinks she saw my finger or my hand or my foot. And she definitely saw the blanket. And she said it was a really tough day, but if she had the opportunity to do it all over again, she would still place me in the adoption because she knew in her gut it just was the right thing to do.

[00:39:39] Janeen: She couldn’t explain it, but she knew that that’s what she was supposed to do. then that night, he found out. That, my birth mother gave birth to me and so he hitched hike. He didn’t have a driver’s license.

[00:39:52] Janeen: So he hitched hike his way to the hospital and when he got there, so he’s 16, he gets to the hospital. He doesn’t understand how any of this works. So he, so when he went to go to the nursery, he thought he couldn’t see me because there were orders against him to not see me. And so he said he left the hospital with a hole in his heart,

[00:40:12] Alexis: Oh,

[00:40:13] Janeen: a baby that he always wanted.

[00:40:14] Alexis: That is heartbreaking. How did you feel hearing that from him?

[00:40:19] Janeen: I felt for him. I mean, I’m a parent, but I also was kind of like, I feel sorry for you, but don’t try to get close to me. Um, I could feel a bonding moment and I was just so resistant, to him. And it was again, because of my dad. It would have been so much easier if my dad was here. And it’s interesting, several people have asked me, Are you, are you resistant to him because he’s white? No, I’m resistant to him, or was resistant to him, because I just lost my father. I was still grieving the loss of this man that I love so much. I am Mr. Jackson’s, you know, little girl.

[00:40:59] Janeen: I was wrapped around his whole fingers, hands, and toes, right?

[00:41:04] Alexis: Yeah.

[00:41:04] Janeen: because I’m such a sensitive person, and I can feel this other man who’s my birth father, the endearment and the love that he has for me, I’m kind of a little bit allergic to that, because I’m like, I only have space for one man, one father in my heart.

[00:41:21] Janeen: Not one man, because, you know, I also love my husband. So,

[00:41:24] Alexis: Yeah. It’s, but like you said, you were in the midst of grief and, and all and levels of grief, right? Because it’s not just grieving your dad. Now you’re grieving that

[00:41:37] Alexis: you thought,

[00:41:37] Janeen: the loss. Of who I thought I was, but am still, but not, but still am. That whole, that whole thing. And my birth father and his son, my half brother, have such really strong personalities. They have a hard time giving you space to breathe.

[00:41:59] Alexis: Okay.

[00:42:00] Janeen: And so that was in it again. I could feel his desperation.

[00:42:03] Janeen: He’s like, my baby, my baby. I’ve carried this baby picture of you my whole life, my baby, man. I’m like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, you know, I’m 46 years old, right?

[00:42:12] Alexis: Right, you’re not a baby anymore.

[00:42:14] Janeen: I’m not a baby and I’m not this image that you’ve created of me. I’m a full grown woman. And, and so I need you to kind of turn it down a little bit.

[00:42:29] Janeen: Right.

[00:42:30] Alexis: What did they think about the fact that you did not know that you were adopted? Or did you tell them that?

[00:42:35] Janeen: they knew, they knew it was a sealed adoption. Um, my birth mother never really reached out to try to look for me. My birth father, however, he knew he wasn’t allowed to, but he, his, his children looked for me and wrote letters to the adoption agency. And they got a response. So this is the other thing. The adoption agency has been calling my parents, my family’s house throughout my whole life. And I didn’t know that all the way up until I was about 28, 29 years old. Or actually a little older than that. Um, right before I got married. And my parents were like, you are not supposed to be contacting us. And if you contact us one more time, we’re gonna have to sue. Please tell those people to leave us alone.

[00:43:24] Janeen: She is healthy. She does not know she is adopted. She has a fantastic job. She’s doing wonderful things. Please take this information and leave us alone. She does not know. And my birth father told my, his, his children, leave it alone. Just leave it alone.

[00:43:42] Alexis: Okay, so they knew that you

[00:43:44] Janeen: They knew I had no idea.

[00:43:48] Alexis: Wow. All

[00:43:49] Janeen: They, they had hoped, and I want to just add one more thing to my birth story.

[00:43:53] Janeen: So when my birth parents met me, one of the things that my birth father found out was that, his mom snuck off in the middle of the night to go visit my birth mom and that she held me and I believe she sang to me and she is the only biological family member that ever held me as a baby.

[00:44:14] Alexis: Um, uh

[00:44:15] Janeen: I thought that that was so interesting and profound because later that year, December of 2019, right before the pandemic, his mom, was, you know, dying.

[00:44:26] Janeen: She had an accident and she was not recovering very well. And so as much as it was emotional for me, I decided to fly out with my children because I couldn’t do this by myself. I started having panic attacks on planes. And I said, well, if she welcomed me into the world and said, hello, the least I can do is thank her and tell her goodbye.

[00:44:54] Alexis: Oh my

[00:44:54] Alexis: gosh.

[00:44:55] Janeen: That’s what I did. And I sang to her and it’s kind of funny because when I came in, my sons, were really young at the time and she says, do I know you? And she said, you seem familiar. And I reminded her who I was and I gave her my birth name. And then I said, these are your grandchildren.

[00:45:15] Janeen: And my children are darker than I am, especially my youngest one. And she looked at them like, who are these two little black boys looking at me? And why are she, why is this woman telling me that they’re my grandkids? And it was the funniest, it was the funniest and most interesting expression that she had on her face.

[00:45:36] Janeen: And then as soon as I came back and I landed, um, she passed away.

[00:45:43] Alexis: That’s amazing that you had that experience. That’s so full circle.

[00:45:47] Janeen: It really, wow, it really is, know, I do understand that a lot of people don’t have An adoption story that ends up being kind of warm and fuzzy. All adoption stories, I can tell you now, have some type of emotion to it, but It doesn’t always come out the way that I believe adoptees want.

[00:46:09] Janeen: I know, I have a lot of friends who are adopted and either their family doesn’t want anything to do with them or they do, but the birth mother doesn’t want anything to do with them or you know, or they find out some terrible situation on how they came to be or their parents didn’t died right before the hours before they met them.

[00:46:31] Janeen: I mean, and my now that through lots and lots and lots of therapy and writing, I’ve been able to really process this and, and learn that my story is absolutely. A beautiful blessing in my life and, , that my family is a lot larger than what I ever imagined it to be. And most importantly, I’m learning that family is not just about blood.

[00:47:01] Janeen: It’s about who you make relations with. That’s what family really is about. The adoption agent told me that, I was in foster care for a while because during that time in 1972, the agency was having a really tough time placing black and mixed race babies.

[00:47:19] Janeen: One. Uh, baby that had one black parent into homes because white people did not want a black child or child that had a black parent and black people didn’t want to have a child that was connected to white people. But my parents, found me in a newspaper article because the agency placed all of us in an article or wrote something about all these babies, mixed race and black babies that were available.

[00:47:45] Janeen: My parents found me in a newspaper article one morning and decided to place an application in and the, The agent told my parents, this is what my mom told me, Ms. Jackson told me, that the agent was like, I need to tell you there’s something about, this little baby that you should know. And they thought that she was going to say that I was sick, but instead she says, I just want to let you know that this baby is mixed race and her birth father is white.

 My mom said that my father got so angry and said so many expletives and said, What does that have to do with anything? This is an innocent baby that needs a home and she is a black baby. To me, she looks like my family. So do what you need to do because we’re taking our baby home today.

[00:48:34] Alexis: Oh, wow. Wow. What would you say that your relationship is now with your newfound family, your biological family? Mm.

[00:48:50] Janeen: We might talk to each other once every two months or so. I love that she allows me to grow and expand in a way that I want. I want and need. And we also have this connection. Like I know she’s there if, if I need her and she knows I’m here if she needs me, which I really, really love.

[00:49:08] Janeen: My birth father, he’s very much in my life. He’s been to California multiple times. He’s already been here in Illinois several times. He’s met my mom, Miss Jackson. He is very much, very, very, very much involved and active in our lives. We, Our relationship is a little complicated. We have had to have conversations around race and I asked him to get some healing and therapy around that so that we could move forward.

[00:49:37] Janeen: But we have a really great relationship and as I said with my birth mom and all of my siblings and all of my cousins, we all have relationship, I have a relationship with all of them. In fact, some of them have relationships with my brothers and their children.

[00:49:54] Janeen: And

[00:49:55] Alexis: And I’m assuming you’re now back on speaking terms with your brother that you’ve told to back off a little bit?

[00:50:02] Janeen: yes, we, we are actually. Kind of cool. He’s kind of

[00:50:07] Janeen: cool. He did say he knows. Yes. He said I know that I’m a lot I’m like, well, I’m glad that you’re self aware.

[00:50:14] Alexis: And, Your mom, Ms. Jackson, she is supportive of you pursuing relationships with your birth family?

[00:50:24] Janeen: Absolutely, she said it she doesn’t have a right to tell me how I should navigate my own story if Anything my mom is so relieved. I told my mom I said you guys have no idea How you all were pioneers back in the day? Do you even understand you did something that was unconventional that I probably still would have been in foster care if you guys were hooked up on race, indifferences, and because my parents adopted me, I have adoptive cousins.

[00:50:58] Janeen: They were, I had no idea that they were inspired by my, but what my parents did with me

[00:51:03] Alexis: Oh, wow.

[00:51:04] Janeen: cousins knew that they were adopted.

[00:51:06] Alexis: One question that I wanted to ask you is that, that race factor. You know, your parents, they didn’t care. They said, we’re, we’re adopting this baby. Sounds like you’ve had some navigating to do with your birth father. How are you navigating this new identity?

[00:51:26] Alexis: Do you still consider yourself to be a black woman? Do you consider yourself to be biracial? How are you figuring this out? Mm

[00:51:35] Janeen: with my husband because I have a lot of biracial friends and they have these, These biracial issues about having to choose and they all tell me you’re so lucky Janine that you didn’t have to navigate that. And every once in a while some thought will seep into my head. I’m like, oh, look what you have to navigate now.

[00:51:54] Janeen: And I said, you know what? I’m fully formed. I am a black woman. I’m a very fair skinned black woman with very fine hair, but I’m a black woman. But what’s interesting about that is my youngest son, he would always ask my husband and I around four and five years old, how come, they keep calling mommy African American when she kind of looks like a white lady, like my teacher,

[00:52:20] Alexis: Oh, interesting. Okay.

[00:52:23] Janeen: oldest didn’t ask, never asked that, but he’s kind of fair, not as fair as me, but.

[00:52:30] Janeen: Um, and has, thick, thicker hair, but my youngest, he, he just came out and asked. And before I knew about my adoption, I told him, I said, well, you know, let’s pretend that people are candy. We are the chocolate family. We’ve got light chocolate and we’ve got milk chocolate and dark chocolate, and I am Alpine chocolate. And he said, well, then what’s my teacher then? And I said, she’s a lollipop. We’re all candy, but we’re the chocolate family and she’s the lollipop family.

[00:53:07] Alexis: Well, and I mean, I know I don’t need to explain it to you, right? But there’s a lot of different factors that go into all the different shades of Black people in the United States. So you really cannot assume. You could be of two Black parents.

[00:53:24] Alexis: And you just never know. So,

[00:53:28] Janeen: mistaken, um, as Creole

[00:53:30] Janeen: and I’m like, no, I’m, I’m not. And they would look at me like, are you sure? like,

[00:53:36] Janeen: yep, I’m sure. So after I found out I was adopted. About maybe, that was July, so I think around November that year, I hadn’t told my kids. I was talking to my birth parents in secret, and I, I didn’t feel right about that, and I said, I’m not gonna do what my parents did.

[00:53:54] Janeen: So I’m just gonna tell the kids. My oldest, when I told him that I was adopted, he said, all right, okay. And they, I worked at a school at the time. So I told him in my office and I recorded this whole, you know, his whole reaction. And he was okay until I told him, I said, you know how people are always asking about my skin complexion and your little brother’s asking, he goes, yeah.

[00:54:17] Janeen: And I said, well, let me tell you why it’s because my birth father is white. And my son looked at me and he says, I love you, but I cannot speak to you right now. And he left my office.

[00:54:28] Alexis: Oh.

[00:54:30] Janeen: And I remember looking at my phone cause I’m recording this and thinking, and I said, this is not the reaction I was expecting.

[00:54:37] Janeen: I don’t even understand what is going on. And about five minutes later, he comes back and he goes, okay, I’m okay now. And I said, what’s going on? He goes, well, I just can’t believe we’re related to a group of people who hate us so much.

[00:54:53] Alexis: Oh.

[00:54:55] Janeen: to give you a little bit of context, he was in fifth grade, so I think he was like 10 or 11.

[00:55:01] Janeen: So my son was born. under a black president and lived his first eight years of his life under a black president. And then we had a different president who’s not very kind and it caused a lot of racial tension in the United States. And so he was making those types of associations. Well, white people don’t like us.

[00:55:22] Janeen: And now we’re related to a group of people who, who can’t stand us.

[00:55:26] Janeen: I had to explain to him that love, love doesn’t know any color and that black people, love black people, black people, love white people, white people, you know, that whole thing. And then I talked about hate and I told him, I said, Barack Obama does not represent all black people and Donald Trump does not represent all white people.

[00:55:48] Janeen: I said, we define who we are. Not these two people and and I also told him that I’m part Jewish And I said, you know, what’s even more exciting you and I and your little brother are from a group of people who were oppressed from the black side and the Jewish side. And I said, we are the hopes and dreams and the prayers of these people.

[00:56:17] Janeen: We are the manifestation of the strength, the perseverance and the love of these people. And I said, we should always love who we are and we should always be proud. I said, we were standing tall and being proud as black people. I said, now we can stand tall. And, and be even more proud because of our Jewish background.

[00:56:38] Alexis: Hmm.

[00:56:39] Janeen: And he just, because he’s so young, he just goes, okay,

[00:56:42] Alexis: Now, have you explored your Jewish roots? Side, have you learned anything about Judaism or is that something that interests you?

[00:56:52] Janeen: not really. I, I I’ll probably eventually get to it. Um, there’s so many facets to my story and I’m just, I prioritize the chunks. I haven’t gotten to that one yet, but I do know where, The Jewish side of my family came. I do know that some of them were survivors of the Holocaust. I also do know that some of them were on the redacted side.

[00:57:15] Janeen: I do know that, I have family that came to the United States who are Jewish looking for a new life. They’re Hungarian and Polish and, they changed their names to become more Americanized. But what’s interesting too, is on the black side of my family, cause I was looking for Jackson family stuff.

[00:57:34] Janeen: I actually found a, um, a slave manifest for my maternal side

[00:57:39] Alexis: Oh, wow.

[00:57:39] Janeen: DNA just kind of connected me to so, so many things. And so I went from knowing nothing to knowing way too much.

[00:57:50] Alexis: Did your mom, Ms. Jackson, ever tell you why they decided not to tell you that you were adopted?

[00:57:57] Janeen: Yes, their plan was to tell me until my mother got pregnant

[00:58:01] Alexis: Okay.

[00:58:02] Janeen: they were afraid that I was going to feel like, I wasn’t treated the same. And I said, well, I wasn’t. And she goes, what do you mean by that? I said, you actually. Treated, you guys treated me better my

[00:58:15] Alexis: Oh, oh, wow.

[00:58:17] Janeen: and, um, you know, and we laughed for a quick second and then we got angry at each other again.

[00:58:25] Alexis: Now, can you tell us a little bit about your book and what really inspired you to write it?

[00:58:36] Janeen: a children’s book, it’s called Hello Sweet Baby, An Adoption Journey. The story came to me because of my youngest son, the one who asked me why I look the way I do. The day I decided to tell my sons, my youngest one, I was sitting on the school ground or school yard and I said, Hey, I have something to tell you.

[00:58:56] Janeen: He was in, he was in kindergarten, so I think he was about five at the time and he, and I said, do you know what adoption is? And they had just finished doing a family unit at his school about different types of families. And one of them was adoption. And he said, yes. And then he got excited because he thought that we were going to adopt a puppy.

[00:59:14] Janeen: And I said, no, I’m asking you about adoption because I wanted to tell you that. Remember when I took that test? He’s like, yeah. I said, well, mommy found out she was adopted. And he said, what the heck? I was like, I know. And remember when you asked me about my skin complexion and why it looks the way it does.

[00:59:33] Janeen: Does? And he goes, yeah. I said, well, guess what? Mommy also found out her biological father, the one who she is related to scientifically, he’s white. And he said, what the? Wait a second, mama. This is way too much information, mama. Wait. So, and then he was trying to say, well, who’s your real parent? Who’s not your parent?

[00:59:56] Janeen: And he was trying to figure out this whole. And I got very frustrated because again, this is part of my adoption journey that I had to, that my parents didn’t tell me about that had to figure out on my own. Right. I said, Oh my gosh, how am I going to tell this kid? And I look over and he, his school, his classroom had a garden of tomatoes.

[01:00:20] Janeen: And when I looked over, I saw, This tomato plant that had one yellow tomato and one red tomato. And at the bottom of the tomato, there was a little tiny one that had fallen on the ground. And I said, Mommy’s like, there’s tomatoes! Like the tomatoes! Um, there’s a red one, which is the black side of our family.

[01:00:38] Janeen: And the yellow one, which is the white side of our family. And that little orange one at the bottom is me. And they had to let me go. And with the help of a ladybug, that ladybug is going to help that baby tomato find a forever at family. Which would be called an adoption agent. And when he wasn’t looking, I took the little tomato and threw it over to the, a big red tomato vine, the next day he came back to school and he says, Mommy, Mommy, the tomato baby found a family just like you, Mama! just kind of started crying, but I used that, like I used chocolate and, Chocolate, because I felt that it was easy for people and children to understand differences when you can kind of you keep the color, but you take people out of it. Right. So I told him that the red was just like the rest of the red tomatoes, which was the black family.

[01:01:31] Janeen: And I said, but we’re all tomatoes. I will say though, after he’s trying to explain this to him, he did say to me, he goes, mommy, that means I’m just like you. Cause he asked me if he was adopted. I was like, no, you’re not. He goes, well then I’m just like you. And I said, what do you mean? And he says, well, you have a white daddy and a black mommy and I have a black daddy and a white mommy.

[01:01:52] Janeen: I’m like, dude,

[01:01:54] Alexis: yeah,

[01:01:55] Alexis: you’re like, I’m not there, no, yeah,

[01:01:58] Janeen: And so, um, during the pandemic. As we are all, you know, in the whole world sitting with our stuff and I’m still going to therapy and trying to heal, I just felt like something said, you should write this, you should write a children’s book, but not for people, just for the kids to leave a legacy.

[01:02:16] Janeen: And so I started writing this story. And so then I, was looking for, someone to kind of help me put the pieces together. And I met this guy. He’s actually my agent now. His name is Jesse Bird. He told me, Janine, this is a really amazing story, and I could see this being a children’s book.

[01:02:34] Janeen: I said, no way, no way. I am not ready to share this with the world. I’m actually having a hard time writing this myself. But he said, Janine, I think this would make a really amazing story. But when you are ready, let me know and maybe I can pitch this to help you get it published.

[01:02:51] Janeen: Time went on. So my background is art and design. So I found an artist to, create the book for me and I art directed her. And as this book was coming to life and I kept checking in with my agent, uh, who was not my agent at the time I started seeing the possibilities. So to make a very long story short, he pitched my book later that year, I think it was 2020 or maybe it was 2021.

[01:03:18] Janeen: I got a publishing deal and, Now I have this wonderful book, Hello Sweet Baby, An Adoption Journey, and when people read this book, I always stress the importance of reading my author’s note. It is so important for people to read that because I explain one, that this is an interpretation of my adoption journey and that I understand that every adoption journey is different.

[01:03:45] Janeen: In addition to that, I use language that may seem offensive to people in the adoption world, such as she’ll never look like me. No, we could never have anybody like that in our home because that I’m talking about. And this is what I say in the fort about the complexities of race. In my book, but I’m using it through vegetables.

[01:04:05] Janeen: And my story is about two tomatoes who fall in love in this garden. And I joke to myself, even some of my friends are laughing because I have them in some hay. So, but the little kids don’t really

[01:04:20] Janeen: understand what’s going on. We hope. And then I pop on the vine and this, With the help of this beautiful blue ladybug, he goes through the garden to help me find a forever home.

[01:04:31] Janeen: And he goes to different families who’ve, who were on. An adoption waiting list and what happens along the, along the whole journey and how I, found my forever family. and then they, at the end of the book, I have, um, things to consider section. So it’s an area where you can start talking about adoption.

[01:04:54] Janeen: and have conversations about differences. I have one family, it’s the green bean family. Well, they’re the purple bean family and they have a baby carrot. And I ask, how do you know that the purple family or the bean family have adopted? And the kids will say, Oh, because they have a baby carrot. And so, my book is lighthearted.

[01:05:15] Janeen: But it also talks about, a difficult journey, and it talks about, touches on race a little bit.

[01:05:22] Alexis: Okay. And just for listeners, can you repeat what it’s called and where they can find it?

[01:05:28] Janeen: The name of my book is Hello Sweet Baby, An Adoption Journey. You can find it at Barnes and Nobles, and you can also find it on Amazon.

[01:05:37] Alexis: That’s awesome. Congratulations to you for, you know, taking something that is difficult and a lot to process and turning it into something that can help other people, especially children. Because I talk to a lot of people who don’t know how to talk to their kids about these things and to have a book, you know, something that’s made for children and adults, but for children that they can understand is, is so incredible.

[01:06:03] Janeen: I would love people if they want to learn more about my story. I blogged my whole journey all the way up to my 50th birthday. And so if there are a lot of questions or if they want to see what I look like, I have pictures and videos. the text message that my half brother sent me, they can visit, uh, Janine Jackson.

[01:06:26] Janeen: com. That’s J A N E E N J A C K S O N dot com, Janine Jackson dot com, and, or if you just Google my name, you’ll find my blog Mixed Up Diary. And so, um, yeah, if they want to learn more, please go, I say get a nice, deep, deep bottle of your best wine and read my blog.

[01:06:51] Alexis: All right, and I will be sure to link both the book and your blog in the show notes as well. Okay, Janine, I’m interested on your perspective here. What advice do you have for parents who may be keeping a DNA surprise from their child?

[01:07:10] Janeen: I’m really happy you asked me that question because I do have friends that are doing that right now. And what I want to say to your listeners and to my friends, the longer you wait, the deeper the damage. Please tell your child about their future. birth story, about how they got here, about who their family is.

[01:07:37] Janeen: It is not fair that someone else holds such an important piece of information, the origin of their life, away from them. They do not have the right to hold it. No time, quote unquote, is a good time, quote unquote, but the longer you wait, the deeper the The damage. So please, please tell your Children. Tell your family.

[01:08:05] Alexis: Hmm, that’s such a good way of putting that. The longer you wait, the deeper the damage. And then finally, what advice do you have for someone who just uncovered a DNA surprise like finding out that they were adopted?

[01:08:20] Janeen: I say own every feeling that you have. You have a right to be angry. You have a right to not want to talk to someone. You have the right to talk to, to whoever you want to talk to. You do not have to protect your parents. I hear that a lot. Oh, I found out that my dad isn’t my dad. Well, I don’t want to say anything because I want to protect my mom.

[01:08:44] Janeen: I want to preserve my family. It’s not about them. It is about you and what you’re feeling is real, and it’s okay. You are not alone, and please find someone to talk to. A family therapist, or a post traumatic therapist. A PTSD therapist. That’s who I saw the first three months of my discovery. I saw a PTSD therapist, and then I transitioned into a family therapist.

[01:09:10] Janeen: So please love yourself. Give yourself grace and know that your feelings are real, true and valid and are okay.

[01:09:19] Alexis: Well said. Janine, thank you for coming on the podcast and sharing your incredible story and just being so vulnerable. Again, for anyone listening, I will link Janine’s children’s book as well as her blog in the show notes. I wish you the absolute best as you continue to navigate all of this.

[01:09:40] Janeen: you so much.

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