The Shocking DNA Discovery I Made About My Identity At Age 46

At age 46, Janeen Jackson received unexpected news through DNA technology: she was adopted and biracial.

Author and her children's book Courtesy of Author, PlazacCameraman, Kameleon007 | Canva 

In 2017, at age 46, my brother and I took a DNA test for fun. Our father passed away early that year, and we were trying to heal and make sense of his unexpected death. We thought that building an online family tree would be a great project to commemorate him and learn more about our family.

Besides, we had always been curious about our ancestry, and I was fascinated by our family's wide range of skin tones — from beautiful ebony to café au lait.


When my results came back, I was shocked to discover that I was biracial and not biologically related to anyone in my family.

In less than 24 hours, I learned I was in foster care and adopted. My birth father is white, and my birth mother is Black.

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I was completely shocked and didn’t know how to process this information. I had always thought of myself as a fair-skinned Black woman, just like some of the members of the family that I had always known as “my family.”

My entire world flipped upside down. I felt lost. I felt alone. I felt betrayed. I couldn’t understand why my parents kept my adoption and mixed-race background a secret. I felt like part of my life was living a lie.


I spent the next few months grieving the loss of everything I thought I knew about myself — my birth story, physique, and place in our family.

I cried myself to sleep every night for months and developed an eating disorder. I hated looking at myself in the mirror because I no longer recognized myself.

I found a mental health triage counselor who helped stabilize me and transition to a family counselor. However, a few years passed, and I still struggled with anger toward my adoptive parents.

Then, in 2020, something unexpected happened during the height of the pandemic. I began to write.

I started a blog about my family secrets, DNA, and the complexities of race and adoption. I wrote about my feelings of grief, loss, and anger about the secret kept from me. I wrote about how my mother and I attempted to make amends and my search for my biological parents.


Blogging helped me process my emotions as I journeyed toward healing and renewal, and I realized that I wasn’t alone.

I learned many other people had DNA surprises and experienced similar feelings to mine. And others could relate to my dance with grief and depression. I also began to understand that my story was important. I wanted to share my experience with others, hoping it would help them feel less alone.

RELATED: How Therapy Can Benefit The Whole Family During Adoption

One morning, my youngest son, who was five years old then, asked me about my skin tone — he’s much darker than me. I wasn’t surprised by this question because it was something he always asked me or my husband as early as he could talk.


Before my DNA results, I’d tell him my skin tone told a story about the complexities of America’s history and how Black people come in all shades. “That's what makes Black Americans unique,” I’d say. However, with my DNA information, I knew my answer was slightly different. I decided to tell him about my biological parents, adoption, and biracial identity that day.

My children’s book, Hello, Sweet Baby! An Adoption Journey is the story I created for my son to explain the complexities of my adoption journey.

He had difficulty understanding, and I was frustrated for both of us. I then looked over at his school’s garden. I saw a tomato plant with two tomatoes, a red and yellow one. At the bottom of the plant was a very tiny orange tomato on the ground below them. And the story was born.

As I wrote the book, I realized that my adoption and biracial identity weren’t burdens, but gifts. It has made me more compassionate and understanding and taught me that it’s okay to be different.


RELATED: I'm A Biracial Asian-American Latina. Stop Trying To Put Me In A Racial Box.

Hello, Sweet Baby! An Adoption Journey is about two young tomatoes in love, Momma Red and Poppa Yellow, who decide to have a baby tomato. However, they quickly learn that they cannot properly care for their sweet seedling and make the difficult decision to release her to another loving tomato family in Hopewell Garden, using the assistance of a helpful ladybug adoption agent.

It's a heartfelt, magical story about adoption, making tough choices, honoring differences, and celebrating diverse types of families. 


Writing the book was a cathartic experience. It helped me to come to terms with why my adoptive parents chose not to tell me about my adoption and the complexities of closed adoption. Writing this book has also helped me explore my identity in a new way, and I have been able to find a sense of peace and connection with others who have shared a similar experience.

I hope my children’s book will inspire others to embrace unique family types. I also hope that it will help children who have been adopted to feel loved and accepted.

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Janeen Jackson has over 25 years of combined experience in art and design, equity and justice, and education. She currently works at Oakton College as an Equity Coordinator for Black student success. Hello, Sweet Baby is Janeen’s first children’s book.