Our relationship with our daughter’s birth family is unique. I am close to the same age as our daughter’s birth grandma (or, as she is known to our daughter, Nana B.) Developing this relationship has been a fine dance. A give and take on both sides. It has a learning curve and a huge trust factor. It has ebbed and flowed through the past four years. From zero returned contact from birth until eight months, to almost weekly Facebook messages now. Our daughter is loved by her extended family and we love them back.
When I first sat down to write this article, it was with the aim of talking about how we show our child’s birth grandparents that we love them. But as I began writing, I realized that I do very little compared to what Nana B does to show that she loves us. Every Christmas and on our daughter’s birthday, a package comes from Nana B. In it are surprises just for her. Toys that are special to her four same-age girl cousins who are being raised by her birth family. A reminder that she has another family that loves and misses her.
One of our biggest treasures has been a Shutterfly book that was given to our daughter on her first birthday. In it are pictures of her birth family. It was originally made for her PaPa C’s mother who has dementia to help her remember family members, but was a perfect gift for us to see and put names to family members. Our new family members. It was a huge step for Nana B to give this to us. That fact is not lost on me. We only started to have tentative contact when our daughter was almost 8 months old. I received the first reply to my monthly emails on the day our daughter’s adoption was finalized. Four short months later, we received this book. It was a true gift that brought tears to my eyes. I pored over it’s pages daily. Looking for a glimpse of our little girl in any of their faces. Wondering what this family, whose DNA runs through our daughter’s veins, was like. Know what I saw? They are normal. Like us. They love, they laugh, they strike silly poses, they take great trips . . . just like us. And a connection was formed.
Since then, there have been many pictures shared. Pictures of our daughter’s birth mom and Nana B in matching dresses. Pictures of our daughter’s birth mom as a young child. Pictures of the four little cousins who are growing up at the same time as our daughter. Stories of a family that has merged with ours through adoption. They live on the coast and vacation on a lake. We live near a lake and vacation at the coast. Stories of their family blend with ours until we feel like old friends that live miles apart.
Last year our daughter received another treasure from Nana B out of the blue: A bracelet made by the grandmother of one of her same-age cousins. Not only did our daughter get one, but all four girls have one that match. I sent a picture of our daughter with hers on and Nana B sent me pictures of her cousins with theirs on. Another piece to the puzzle. Another memory connecting their family and ours. A gift that shared a story to our little girl about her birth family and how they love her still. They include her from afar. Her weave in the family is still strong and I love that. I love how she can look back on her life and see where her adoptive family and her birth family entwine, always loving her.
Last week at work I received a package from Nana B. Out of the blue. Pictures of a family trip. Pictures of our daughter’s aunt, grandparents, and cousins riding horses, swimming, dancing, enjoying each other. Once again I found myself poring over these pictures. Looking for traces of our daughter’s smiling face in theirs. Knowing that it truly didn’t matter if I saw it or not, because all that was important was the love between our families. And once again I realized how much Nana B has given me.
At first there was anger. Anger that her daughter chose adoption and not to parent. Anger that her grandchild was taken away. Anger at a situation beyond her control. As time has progressed and we have shared our daughter’s milestones, interests, funny sayings, and our love for her, Nana B understood that she didn’t lose her granddaughter at all. Instead, she gained us.
And with that, I realized that the way we have shown our daughter’s birth grandparents that we love them is by doing just that: loving them. We loved them when they didn’t respond back. We loved them by sharing pictures even when we didn’t know they were being seen. We loved them by keeping them in the loop. We loved them by asking for medical history, family history, and family stories so we could share them. We continue to show we love them by always having their granddaughter available to them. We share her daily life; our daily lives. We let them know she is treasured, loved beyond measure. Protected by three older brothers. Given all opportunities life has to offer. And that she knows about them. We show them that we love them by telling our daughter about them and letting the door into their lives stay wide open into our own. And that open door is the best thing there is to show our daughter love for her flows both ways, from the start.