My birth story, according to my parents, was never clear. Whenever I’d ask about it, there were many “I don’t know,” “I can’t remember,” or slight changes every time I asked about it. Once, my dad said that he was at my mom’s side during my birth, and then another time, he’d said that a nurse told him to wait in the lobby. As I got older, I found it even more bizarre that my parents could remember details about my brothers’ births. My siblings and I are only 2-5 years apart. My parents would laugh when they’d tell their stories. “Jamar was almost born on Halloween!”, my dad would say. “I told her to hold it in! I don’t want a trick-or-treat baby!” We’d all laugh. By the way, Jamar was born on Election Day and my mother would chuckle because “It was the only time I didn’t vote.”
As I became an adult, I became bitter and started to believe that my dad couldn’t remember my birth story because, I thought well, maybe he wasn’t my father. I remember asking my mom if he was my real dad, and she assured me that he was. I mean, she wasn’t lying. He is my real dad, just not my biological dad.
After I got married and became pregnant with my first child, I remember asking my mom what it was like to be pregnant with me. Once again, her memory became foggy.
>>Pause. Let me tell you one thing about this amazing mom of mine. She has a mind like an elephant and never forgets ANYTHING. I mean nothing. She could tell you what coat she was wearing on her first day of school in second grade or what she had for lunch on April 2, 1981. So I found it peculiar that she couldn’t remember her pregnancy with me. What woman forgets about being pregnant with her first child? There may be a few out there, but my mother wasn’t one of them.<<
Because I didn’t want to upset her with all of my questions, I stopped asking. As my belly grew, I became overtaken with sadness because whenever I felt the desire to bond with her over my pregnancy, I felt lost. To her credit, she did what most excited mothers would do for their precious daughters. My mom would send baby clothes, talk over the phone about possible boy names, advise me to take my vitamins, pray, eat healthily, and remind me about my appointments. She even arrived 3 weeks before my firstborn was due. I often prayed to God and asked him to give me a sign about why she couldn’t/wouldn’t remember my birth. God heard my prayers; however, it wasn’t time for me to know and He also knew I wasn’t prepared for the answer—not yet. Because I didn’t receive an immediate answer from Him, I decided that the reason my mother couldn’t remember was that being pregnant with me must have been painful or miserable. Did she almost die giving birth? Had my mom become pregnant and was not ready? Maybe she was upset that she had a girl? All sorts of reasons came into my mind. I really desired a funny or endearing story about my birth, like my brothers’—just a nugget of a story! I didn’t care how much pain I brought to my mother’s body. Knowing that she remembered was all that I needed.
Anyway, it was early, and I needed to get ready for work. I had spent so much time discovering and thinking about my life over the past few days that I’d gotten behind on my projects. However, once I got settled at my desk, I couldn’t stop thinking about sending Sam an email. What would I write? “Hey there, Sir.” or “Hello man who thinks he’s my father but isn’t.” That’s when I thought about my own dad and began to cry. I really needed him… I wiped my face, blew my nose, and got my nerves together as logged on to my email account. I was ready to send a message. However, Sam had beat me to it.
Thursday, April 12, 2018 6:00 AM
First of all, Janeen, I want to thank your parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jackson, for BEING your parents. I am forever grateful to them, and I’m so sorry to hear that your father passed away last year… and what a beautiful name they gave you, Janeen Jackson… I keep saying it over and over, Janeen Jackson, Janeen Jackson, Janeen Jackson.
And you’re probably wondering, “Who is this “crazy” man who has loved me all my life.” My hope is that in “God’s time,” we will come to know each other as father and daughter and develop a true and loving relationship. But, we’ve got a lot of catching up to do…
It’s early morning here in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, just after 6:00 AM. I’m imagining you and your family as still sleeping in your beds in Santa Monica, CA. I’m not always an early riser, but today I woke up early with the feeling that I needed to begin this letter.
Yesterday, I created a “Janeen Jackson” file folder in my “Word Docs.” So that I’d have a place to put anything important regarding you. So that’s where this letter will go until the time comes to share it with you… I love you! (I feel a bit teary-eyed now… but my heart for you is so strong.) Anyway, I haven’t even made coffee yet, so I’ll do that, then come back to writing.
(I’ve got a nice hot cup of coffee now, and the sky is just starting to lighten up with the dawn.)
Something that is very important for me to tell you is that you were never an unwanted baby. As you may know by now, I was just 16 years old, and your birth mama was just 17 when you were born. We were both young, but I was even younger, and I was such a dreamer… I was quite proud to have an “older” girlfriend (your birth mother was a grade ahead of me in school). We were neighbors, and I worked for her father.
My parents, the Marens, and my sister were completely caught up in a lot of what I’ll call “controversy” having to do with civil rights, the anti-Vietnam war movement, and the “sexual revolution.”
Anyway, your maternal grandparents were our neighbors, and they took me in and gave me shelter from my family’s “controversy” and gave me a place of belonging in there large, lively, country-style family… Ten children, lots of soulful love, amazing 1960 soul music, i.e., James Brown, Wilson Picket, Aretha Franklin, and Black Gospel… Wow! I had arrived when they took me in. I was in a different world, and I felt like I belonged, really for the first time in my life. (I was 11 years old at that time). So… your birth mama was the youngest of all of the children. We were good friends, and I worked in her father’s auto salvage yard as a “junkyard mechanic” with her dad, her brothers, and at times Jeannie would even join us “down the field,” as we called the junkyard. Quite naturally, Jeannie and I became very close. Everyone seemed to see us as “best friends” and left us to ourselves.
Anyway, as I said earlier, I’ve always been a dreamer… and with my family’s “civil rights activism,” I began to daydream about essentially starting a “Racial Revolution” by having a child. But… I didn’t talk about my dream to Jeannie or anyone else. I was a “mixed-up kid,” and to my thinking, it would all just work out, and Jeannie and I would get married, and then I’d really belong. I’d be a son-in-law! Wow! What a “great” plan… I thought. So when I found out that Jeannie was pregnant, I was excited, but I was also a bit scared… especially when Jeannie stopped talking to me. Anyway, in September of 1971, one of Jeannie’s sisters pulled me aside and told me that “If Daddy ever finds out that you are the father of Jeannie’s baby, that will be it.” Well, I was really scared… I worked alongside Daddy Brooks every day… I didn’t know what to do… so, I did nothing and figured it would somehow all workout.
About two weeks before you were born, your birth mother slipped me a note saying that she was putting the baby up for adoption. So, I went home and told my parents that I wanted to raise my baby. My parents said “no” that I was still in school, and that they would end up raising my baby and that they didn’t want that. My dream was crashing down all around me.
On the day you were born, Janeen Jackson, I was working with Daddy Brooks at the local landfill, hauling old refrigerators, stoves, and other heavy metal on to the old 1952 Chevy 2 ton truck. Daddy Brooks had sent me, walking, over to a little nearby restaurant to get apple pie and coffee to bring back to the truck… it was evening, almost dark, and cold. As we ate our pie, just him and me, in the truck cab, he casually said, “Jeannie had her baby this morning.” I could tell from the way he said it, that he thought that Jeannie and I were still just “best friends.”
The next day, I hitchhiked to the hospital (In N.J. you couldn’t get a driver’s license until you are 17 years old), I was an emotional wreck, but I made it and visited Jeannie…I didn’t see you. I guess you were in the nursery, and I somehow didn’t think I would be allowed to see you.
Anyway, within a year, I left that “Sourland Mountain Home,” with a hole in my heart that could only be filled by “My Baby” who was you… That’s enough for now.
(I hope someday I can sign-off as Papa or Pop as I do with David, Asha & Mesha)
P.S. Janeen, I feel quite emotional. Janeen Jackson, I want peace and love and health and happiness for you! Yes, I do long to meet you and your beautiful family. But more important to me is your and your family’s emotional and psychological wellbeing. When you are ready to meet my family and me, you are so, so, so, welcome.
As I read Sam’s last words my heart began beating rapidly, I gasped and covered my mouth. I got my real birth story…from a stranger.
What’s your birth story?
Are you as connected to you mother or father as much as you disire?
Has your parent ever forgotten your birthday?