Building a bond between daughter and birth father

Friends & Family

When my wife and I adopted our daughter, Lily, eleven years ago, we knew we wanted an open adoption.

So we maintained contact with the birth mother, and fostered a very strong relationship. Building this relationship became a choice even more significant with the death of my wife, when Lily was only three.

As the years passed, I felt a growing need to build a connection between Lily and her birth father, Alex. Apart from a few email exchanges, Alex had remained on the sidelines.

“Who is this guy?” Lily would ask when his emails arrived. She had no interest in connecting. Alex was a stranger.

While I couldn’t expect my young daughter to understand the significance, I knew something felt incomplete. I would need to find a way to bridge the gap.

As Lily turned ten, the sporadic emails with Alex showed little hope of nurturing a relationship, much less a deep bond.

"Then something came along to change the course. I was introduced to an app called Marco Polo."

It began with a video conversation between Alex and I over Marco Polo. I asked if he’d like to use the same app to start a conversation with Lily—he’d be able to create a video message (a Polo) for her to watch and respond when she felt ready.

Alex was shy and nervous. I knew this about him. But he jumped in with a Polo for Lily—ready to break the ice.

I’ll never forget the day I approached Lily and handed her my phone. “Alex recorded a message for you. Would you like to watch it?”

“That’s weird,” she said. But she took my phone anyway, opened the app, and watched it. She could see his face. She could watch his expressions—oddly quite similar to her own. Her eyes grew massive and fixated in seeing and hearing the man who was her birth father.

When the Polo was complete, she didn’t even hesitate to send Alex one in return.

What began as a single exchange, blossomed into a flood-gate of conversations between the two. No matter how long or short the Polo, they each ended with a question for the other—simple pieces to discover who the other was.

Their Marco Polo conversations soon paved way for the first visit. It was Christmas. Alex brought enough gifts for an army. His deep emotion took over every expression. The exchange between him and Lily was so effortless and natural.

Something truly life-changing and profound was made possible. I knew having Alex in Lily’s life would complete a missing piece for us all.

And it has. A year later their relationship continues to grow.

I don’t see how the relationship between Alex and Lily could have ever happened without a way to bridge that gap gently. Using Marco Polo, they were able to ease into a relationship that was like meeting in person, but without any pressure. And their conversation on Marco Polo paved the way for a lasting relationship despite the long distance.

There is a bond that has formed that will continue to enrich their lives, and mine, in ways I’m truly grateful for.

[While this is a true story from a Marco Polo user, the names have been changed to keep identities private.]