I sat at the piano, working my way through a difficult song when the thought hit me like a lightning bolt: I should search my daughter’s birth mom on Facebook.

Up until that time, we were probably the last remaining people on earth that were not on social media. We had email, that is about it. There was no main reason; it just wasn’t a huge interest for us. After the adoption of one of our daughters, we were under the impression that her birth mom did not want any contact with us. We had started fostering this precious girl at 3 days old, just two months into our fostering journey. The adoption took 18 months, but even by then, we were pretty inexperienced when it came to birth families. It would take me another year for the lightning bolt to hit.

I had found a Trisha Yearwood songbook in a giveaway pile, and I thought I’d see if my beginner piano skills would allow me to struggle through a song or two. Struggling I was, and my mind wandered to this woman who gave birth to my daughter. Who was she? I had a name, but no face. Did she think about her daughter? Where did she live? I remember scrambling over to the computer, kind of in a flurry now. I mumbled something to Tyler, my husband, about it being time to get on Facebook. I created an account, plunked in a name, and there she was. This beautiful woman; it was the face of my adopted daughter staring back at me out of the computer. I scrolled through the photographs and could see instant similarities between mother and child. I was enthralled and could hardly believe what I was seeing. In that moment, I felt it press against my heart. It was time to reach out and contact this beautiful birth mother. I sent her a message and waited on pins and needles. A friend of mine cautioned that she might not see the message if it went to her “other” folder since we were not friends on Facebook. I waited a couple of days but could wait no more. I boldly (well, no…with shaking hands, I pecked out and deleted the letter several times before hitting ‘post’) wrote: “Check your other folder—I sent you a message :) .” The reply came rather fast: “What message?” I waited. Not long, only a few minutes. “OMG—I know who you are! That’s my daughter in those pictures!” She had gone on to our Facebook wall and immediately recognized her daughter which is no surprise. Every feature on their faces testify to their genealogy. That was the beginning of what is now a wonderful relationship. We messaged and talked on the phone. I sent photos via Facebook Messenger, and she sent some to us. We learned about each other, and mother and child talked on the phone. Eventually, when the time was right, we made the five-hour drive for the first get together.

No one can really understand what it is to put yourself out there and reach out. It is vulnerable, raw. You know that the other person could reject you, send you packing, tell you to never do that again. I have heard such stories. As human beings, we find rejection so painful, and we try to avoid it at all costs. In years past, a phone call would probably induce a white-knuckled sweat, whereas a mailed letter might reduce the immediate anxiety of a verbal rejection, but the waiting for a reply would be a brutal exercise. Current technology allows for so many ways to get in touch, but it also comes with new intricacies: seeing a message has been read, but waiting for a response; seeing a message is being typed in reply (and maybe even deleted, started, and deleted again), seeing a friend request has been accepted or denied, or seeing a “reaction” to a comment with a “like” or emoji. While I feel that behind our keyboards we can be a little braver than we are in person, there is still anticipation. Being able to literally see someone typing a comment on your Facebook wall can create just as many jitters as the thought of picking up the phone when it comes to these emotionally charged issues. Seeking out birth family or an adopted child or family member, comes with its very own set of emotions.

Since the first time we reunited with a birth relative on Facebook, we have done it countless times more. Aunties and uncles, grandmas and grandpas, elders and cousins, and even friends of the birth families. We are gearing up to adopt our 5th child in the next few weeks, and I recently had a beautiful message from a relative of the birth mom. She was kind, loving, and hesitant. She hoped she wasn’t being inappropriate by contacting us, and she hoped we wouldn’t mind. My heart swelled and smiled. Oh how I know those emotions. The desire to create beauty and not offend runs deep. I assured her I was thrilled to know her and thanked her for reaching out.

Honestly, I don’t think we would have the extensive network of birth relatives for our adopted children without Facebook. It is so easy to connect the dots and tag someone. It is so easy to search and look until we find. While I know that not all that happens online is good, I can say that Facebook has filled in the family tree for my adopted children. Where there were holes—or maybe no tree at all—there are now shoots and branches, bursting with blooms. What a beautiful thing.

Your first step in your search and reunion journey is to register in Adoption.com’s Reunion Registry