Jodi Beavers Girard

WIFE. MOTHER. PHENOMENAL WOMAN.

I never asked my mom or dad the whole time I was growing up why I looked different than everyone in my family. But growing up in rural small-town Iowa, I was keenly aware of it and it affected everything I did throughout my childhood. I was the only “black” child in my class, my school, my town, and the neighboring towns! There were times I hated my life. I for sure hated the way I looked. My mother straightened my hair from the time it was long enough to do so. Through no fault of her own, she had no idea how to take care of it. I hated my skin, my hair, my lips, my long arms, everything. I just wanted to look like my family, anyone in my family.

Growing up looking so different provided a number of challenges. It was never brought up when I was young minus a couple of rare racist comments. It causes you to question your belonging and worth. But when I started to get good at basketball and branched out away from my small hometown, it became the subject of questions I had no answers to. In college, it caused me to act out in many self-destructive ways as I tried to figure out where I fit in. The “white” world I was raised in, or the “black” world my physical features put me in.

So fast forward to being married, having kids, still completely insecure about who I am and now I have this beautiful rainbow of children that ask me questions all the time. When I’m out with my girls, we get asked ALL the time. People really are trying to be nice, they say, “Your girls are so beautiful, what are you?” That question makes me laugh. I would never think of walking up to a stranger and asking “what are you?”, but people do. Our canned response was always, we don’t know. And we say thank you and smile and walk away.

A midlife crisis (that’s what I’m blaming it on) caused me to take a DNA test through Ancestry at the ripe old age of 45. I got my results back on September 28, 2018, at 3:30 pm, a day that has changed my life forever! Within 72 hours of getting “the email”, I had a name for who my biological father was and had emailed two new brothers! One brother I figured out had grown up literally 15 miles from me. We knew who each other was (we were both good athletes) but didn’t know we were siblings! My world turned upside down when I found out my biological father was an African American, former NBA basketball player, his life so far from my rural farm town upbringing. But the story’s complexity magnified as I found out the true story of my conception, which was set in the middle of racial tensions of the 70’s. My mother never spoke of the event to anyone until the day I confronted her with the test results.

I’ve been dealing with the emotions of finding out who my BF is and the longing to meet the man who gave me life and yet hurt my mother, the difficult relationship with my mother now because she refuses to talk about it and let me understand what happened, the roller coaster of emotions involved in realizing I have no full siblings and now a slew of 1/2 siblings, meeting those new siblings and cousins and other family, dealing with an ethnicity I never felt like I could explore or embrace, dealing with my brother and sister I grew up with and their lack of understanding what I’m going through. My marriage particularly has taken a lot of work as my poor husband navigates this journey with me, trying his best to support me in something he can’t possibly understand.

I have always looked in the mirror and hated what I saw. I wanted blonde hair and hazel eyes, like my “family”. I wanted straight hair, not unruly curls. I wanted to sunburn, not be tan all year round. Now I know who my biological father is, an African American professional athlete. I understand why I look the way I do, I know where some of my athletic ability came from, my curly hair, my tan skin, my dark brown eyes. I look in the mirror and I make sense now. I finally feel like I’m free to explore this part of me that I always knew was there. My faith has grown in immeasurable ways and I am understanding that this journey of growth and learning to “live” my truth is definitely a marathon, not a sprint. Each day, the emotions of learning this information are staring right at me. Learning to cope with everyday life can be a challenge, but groups like the one Alesia started and others are lifesavers. It helps us know we are not alone in this!