Top News

Birth mother tells emotional story of reuniting with her son after more than two decades


CHARLOTTETWON, P.E.I. — A Charlottetown native who gave up her son for adoption 24 years ago says being reunited with him is like finding the love of her life.

Melanie Cantwell, who now lives and works in Toronto, met her son, Francis Menard, for the first time recently.

“I have found the love of my life when we found each other,’’ Cantwell told The Guardian. “There is nothing ever that could top this.’’

Menard, a student and hockey player at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, was born March 2, 1992 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown. He was born Devon Giles C.

Menard had been searching for his biological parents for six years. Frustrated at the lack of answers, he contacted The Guardian just a few weeks ago in the hope that a story might help unlock the mystery.

Less than two hours after the story went up on The Guardian’s website, Menard got an email. It was his birth mother.

Cantwell was still in high school when she became pregnant with Menard. Her son was two months old when he was adopted by an Ontario family.

They finally met face to face recently.

“Oh, my gosh, it felt like home,’’ Cantwell said. “It was like I found my home, the warmth and the love he has shown me from the first email I can’t believe. There is absolutely no way I could want any more in who Francis is (as a person).’’

Menard also recently met his biological father, Alan MacQuarrie of Crapaud. Cantwell and MacQuarrie didn’t stay together but have remained close friends.

Menard said he was so nervous about meeting his birth father that he had to pull over after he crossed the Confederation Bridge.

“I got a little anxious and nervous. I had to stop and take a walk. Once we met it was good. It was like meeting someone for the first time but having that instant bond,’’ Menard said.

MacQuarrie, a fisherman out of Victoria-by-the-Sea, got a text about the initial Menard story in The Guardian while he was out on the water with his crew.

“All of a sudden I’m sitting (on the boat) crying. The boys looked at me like I was (crazy),’’ MacQuarrie said with a loud, hearty laugh.

MacQuarrie was also nervous leading up to his son’s visit.

“He was nervous, I was nervous but he came in and fit right in. (Menard is) probably the best thing that has happened to me in 20 years, that’s for sure,’’ MacQuarrie said. “You always wonder if you did the right thing. Us being so young at the time. It was so hard.’’

MacQuarrie has two young children with his wife, Stefanie. While Stefanie knew about Menard from the beginning, MacQuarrie only told his two children about their half brother just before they met him. Both children were excited, MacQuarrie said.

Menard said the last two weeks have been like nothing he has ever experienced.

“It has been an emotional ride. It’s been pretty crazy, a good weird,’’ Menard said. “They were both very welcoming, very open and generous. After (I met my birth father) I went to see my maternal grandmother and there was a lot of catching up to do.’’

Menard said both reunions featured a lot of happy tears and countless number of hugs, staring at each other and more hugs.

“It has been a dream come true. Everyone has been so open and supportive. It was an easy transition and very overwhelming.’’

Martine Chartrand, Menard’s adoptive mother, said she told Menard from the day he could understand that he was adopted and completely supported his search for his birth parents.

Chartrand and Cantwell have also met.

“Francis could not ask for a better birth mom. I also contacted Francis’ dad and he’s such a great man,’’ Chartrand said. “We are so privileged and blessed.’’

Cantwell and Chartrand hit it off from the start and have already begun work on a book about the story.

“I can tell you it’s going to be a best seller,’’ Chartrand said. “We are also thinking about a movie. Why not? If we can show people how positive adoption can turn for every part.’’

Cantwell said she and MacQuarrie knew their son was adopted by an Ontario couple but didn’t want to intrude so they never reached out. They hoped he would look for them one day but didn’t realize the adoption they thought was open had closed.

“I was so afraid that he would hold anger or resentment and have confusion,’’ said Cantwell, adding that they never “gave” Francis up for adoption, they “gifted” him.

Cantwell and MacQuarrie still remember holding Menard in the hospital, clothing him, changing him and loving him. And they never forgot what it felt like to let him go.

Menard said he spent six years searching for his birth parents. He was on a mission to thank them for choosing adoption.

“They never saw me as a mistake. They made a decision that was best for me at the time. A lot of people would have (chosen) abortion but they put me first, to put me with a family to get the best I could possibly get.

“It was one of the hardest things they could ever have done but it was best for me. I think what they did was incredible.’’

dave.stewart@tc.tc

Twitter.com/DveStewart

 

Melanie Cantwell, who now lives and works in Toronto, met her son, Francis Menard, for the first time recently.

“I have found the love of my life when we found each other,’’ Cantwell told The Guardian. “There is nothing ever that could top this.’’

Menard, a student and hockey player at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, was born March 2, 1992 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown. He was born Devon Giles C.

Menard had been searching for his biological parents for six years. Frustrated at the lack of answers, he contacted The Guardian just a few weeks ago in the hope that a story might help unlock the mystery.

Less than two hours after the story went up on The Guardian’s website, Menard got an email. It was his birth mother.

Cantwell was still in high school when she became pregnant with Menard. Her son was two months old when he was adopted by an Ontario family.

They finally met face to face recently.

“Oh, my gosh, it felt like home,’’ Cantwell said. “It was like I found my home, the warmth and the love he has shown me from the first email I can’t believe. There is absolutely no way I could want any more in who Francis is (as a person).’’

Menard also recently met his biological father, Alan MacQuarrie of Crapaud. Cantwell and MacQuarrie didn’t stay together but have remained close friends.

Menard said he was so nervous about meeting his birth father that he had to pull over after he crossed the Confederation Bridge.

“I got a little anxious and nervous. I had to stop and take a walk. Once we met it was good. It was like meeting someone for the first time but having that instant bond,’’ Menard said.

MacQuarrie, a fisherman out of Victoria-by-the-Sea, got a text about the initial Menard story in The Guardian while he was out on the water with his crew.

“All of a sudden I’m sitting (on the boat) crying. The boys looked at me like I was (crazy),’’ MacQuarrie said with a loud, hearty laugh.

MacQuarrie was also nervous leading up to his son’s visit.

“He was nervous, I was nervous but he came in and fit right in. (Menard is) probably the best thing that has happened to me in 20 years, that’s for sure,’’ MacQuarrie said. “You always wonder if you did the right thing. Us being so young at the time. It was so hard.’’

MacQuarrie has two young children with his wife, Stefanie. While Stefanie knew about Menard from the beginning, MacQuarrie only told his two children about their half brother just before they met him. Both children were excited, MacQuarrie said.

Menard said the last two weeks have been like nothing he has ever experienced.

“It has been an emotional ride. It’s been pretty crazy, a good weird,’’ Menard said. “They were both very welcoming, very open and generous. After (I met my birth father) I went to see my maternal grandmother and there was a lot of catching up to do.’’

Menard said both reunions featured a lot of happy tears and countless number of hugs, staring at each other and more hugs.

“It has been a dream come true. Everyone has been so open and supportive. It was an easy transition and very overwhelming.’’

Martine Chartrand, Menard’s adoptive mother, said she told Menard from the day he could understand that he was adopted and completely supported his search for his birth parents.

Chartrand and Cantwell have also met.

“Francis could not ask for a better birth mom. I also contacted Francis’ dad and he’s such a great man,’’ Chartrand said. “We are so privileged and blessed.’’

Cantwell and Chartrand hit it off from the start and have already begun work on a book about the story.

“I can tell you it’s going to be a best seller,’’ Chartrand said. “We are also thinking about a movie. Why not? If we can show people how positive adoption can turn for every part.’’

Cantwell said she and MacQuarrie knew their son was adopted by an Ontario couple but didn’t want to intrude so they never reached out. They hoped he would look for them one day but didn’t realize the adoption they thought was open had closed.

“I was so afraid that he would hold anger or resentment and have confusion,’’ said Cantwell, adding that they never “gave” Francis up for adoption, they “gifted” him.

Cantwell and MacQuarrie still remember holding Menard in the hospital, clothing him, changing him and loving him. And they never forgot what it felt like to let him go.

Menard said he spent six years searching for his birth parents. He was on a mission to thank them for choosing adoption.

“They never saw me as a mistake. They made a decision that was best for me at the time. A lot of people would have (chosen) abortion but they put me first, to put me with a family to get the best I could possibly get.

“It was one of the hardest things they could ever have done but it was best for me. I think what they did was incredible.’’

dave.stewart@tc.tc

Twitter.com/DveStewart

 

Recent Stories