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3 birth moms and 2 parents: how open adoption worked for an Alberta family

3 birth moms and 2 parents: how open adoption worked for an Alberta family
WATCH ABOVE: November marks adoption awareness month, and we are looking at the concept of open adoptions. It's an agreement that allows birth families to remain part of their child's life. Jill Croteau explores the joys and the challenges, in part one of a 3 part series - Forever Families.

Decades ago it was often the only way adoptions were conducted: closed. There was no contact between biological and adoptive families.

But a growing number of people are embracing the concept of open adoptions—in which the birth parent stays involved in the child’s life, even as he or she is raised by adoptive parents.

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This is Part I of Jill Croteau’s three-part series on open adoption: Forever Families. Click here for Part II and click here for Part III.

Erica Brunelle is one young woman who never hesitated when she discovered she was pregnant. At 22 years old she decided her unborn child deserved a kind of life she couldn’t provide.

Noah’s birth mom, Erica Brunelle
Noah’s birth mom, Erica Brunelle Nate Luit

“It’s probably the biggest unselfish thing I’ve ever done and probably always will be.”

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Brunelle poured through stacks of applications and had files of prospective parents. She was given the power to choose who was going to be her baby boy’s mom and dad.

“It made sense to me, they jumped out and that’s who I knew his parents were going to be.”

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Read more from Jill Croteau here

They were many cities apart—Brunelle was pregnant in Fort McMurray; Brock and Chantelle Beach were in Calgary on the open adoption list, anxiously waiting for a baby. Brunelle wanted the Beaches to become the parents of her child.

They all connected through the non-profit agency Adoption Options.

Executive director Sheryl Proulx knows families arrive at the adoption decision after exploring multiple other avenues.

“Everybody’s journey is unique and our couples come to the arena with loss but hopeful in achieving parenthood through adoption.”

The wait time at the Alberta agency continues to grow, with the average wait at three years.

Noah’s adoptive parents, Chantelle & Brock Beach
Noah’s adoptive parents, Chantelle & Brock Beach Nate Luit

Chantelle acknowledges the sacrifice Brunelle made.

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“It’s a huge gift but it’s tough because you’re feeling incredible joy and so happy having your dream of becoming parents realized,” she said through tears.

“There’s a lot of mixed emotions. It’s bittersweet.”

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Brock recalls the moment they held their son Noah for the very first time.

“When we realized we are going to be parents and leaving the hospital with our new son – it was unbelievable and extremely emotional.”

That was 14 years ago. Noah is now a bright, well-adjusted teenager who shares a relationship with his birth mother, Erica. It’s something his adoptive parents are grateful for.

“I love watching Noah with her,” Chantelle said. “They just have this amazing love for each other.”

Brunelle has just as much gratitude. She’s able to witness the wonderful life the Beaches are giving her son. She’s now married and discovered she’s unable to conceive any more children. She says she and her partner don’t want any children but it’s made her even more grateful to have Noah in her life.

“Just seeing him with them, especially now–they are his parents. He’s supposed to be there.”

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The experience was so rewarding Brock and Chantelle went on to adopt two more daughters — Sydney and Serena — both through open adoption. The three children all have different birth moms and they have maintained an open relationship with all of them.

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“I feel so lucky and so fortunate and so blessed,” Chantelle said. “I can say that with each and every one it feels like this is how it’s supposed to be.”