It was the day of our finalization. E was 8 months old and we had not heard from her birth family during this entire time. I wrote updates, requested information, sent gifts, and was met with resistance every step of the way. My heart was broken for our little girl. Yes, she had us. Yes, she had two sets of grandparents and great grandparents, but the connection with her birth family—the people she looks like, came from—was not to be. Or so it seemed.

It’s funny how life turns out. As we hung up the phone with the judge who declared our sweet girl our own, I received an email. E’s birth grandma, Nana B, was reaching out. I immediately responded. It was a surreal experience. Had she known what that day was? It did not seem like she did. Her request was simple: Would I write to E’s birth mom in jail? Yes, I will. I did.

After the door was cracked open, the conversations started to flow. Stunted at first. Hesitant. Half truths and bits of information were shared. It was a fine dance between what I wanted to know, and what she wanted to share. Both of us trying to protect our daughters. Both of us trying to figure out how we fit into each other’s lives.

That year Nana B sent E a Christmas gift. And then a family history book for her birthday. And another Christmas gift the next year. Our tentative dance has become a relationship built on respect and love for a little girl and her birth mom. E knows her Nana B through pictures, letters, and gifts. And Nana B knows E through our Facebook pictures, updates, and shared stories.

Having this missing piece has been priceless to me. And one day, it will be priceless to E, too. Birth grandparents provide a history to our children. They offer a commonality, a place to go for answers and reassurance. When a behavior of E’s baffles me, I go straight to her Nana B to ask her. Because of this, her Nana can feel a part of her daily life, even without being there. And E will never have to go far to see people in her life like herself. To have any question answered. To know why she means so much to all of us. Through Nana B, E has gotten to know four cousins who are her same age. They share matching bracelets. And a connection that I hope will keep the girls close through the years.

Although allowing the birth family to be involved can be scary, it has so many rewards. I’m thankful Nana B and I have muddled through this relationship and come out standing side by side. She has so many things to offer our daughter that I cannot give her. Her willingness to reach out has given my heart peace. Her conversations have filled holes in our daughter’s life story. And to know how much she appreciates the love we give her granddaughter makes it even that much sweeter.

When E’s birth mom made the decision to place her baby, Nana B was unsure. She felt like she was losing a part of her life. She was hurt and angry. It bothered her that a missing link would be out there in the world without her knowledge. Being able to be a part of E’s life has brought Nana B peace. She knows what her granddaughter looks like, how she acts, her hilarious personality, her loving spirit, her sassy smile that is so much like her birth mom’s. Her questions are answered, too. And that makes my heart full. For all of us.