Adoption in Alberta: Hard wait for couples vying for domestic adoption
On a snowy Friday in November 2014, Joanne Currie received a call on her cellphone.
“You’ve been chosen.”
It was the moment she and her husband Dwayne Von Sprecken had been waiting for — hoping for — for two years.
Four hours later, they were holding their baby son Jacob.
Not a day goes by without the now-19-month-old being told how adored he is.
Like any parents, Currie and Von Sprecken dote on their child. Their front living room is a playground of sorts: a large green playhouse, bright red plastic car and a toy xylophone are among playthings scattered on the floor.
“I’m sure all parents have a joy of being a parent, but when you wait for so long to have a child, there’s just a gratefulness that goes along with having a baby that you have an appreciation for everyday,” Currie says.
The word “grateful” is uttered frequently when Currie and Von Sprecken talk about their son. Not just that they have him, but for the sacrifice his birth mother made.
In Alberta, women who place a baby for adoption have 10 days to change their mind. Von Sprecken says by Day 8, he and his wife couldn’t imagine letting Jacob go.
“We just really appreciate how hard that decision must have been for her, to essentially cut off her arm and say, ‘Here — I’m giving up a part of me because I want something different for him,'” he says.
The couple tried unsuccessfully to have a baby for seven years. When IVF didn’t take, they turned to adoption.
For Von Sprecken and Currie, the hardest part was not when a baby would be theirs, but if it would happen at all. In Alberta, private adoptions like theirs are open adoptions, in which the birth mother chooses the family with which her child will be placed. So there are no guarantees.
“We just tried to keep our feet moving and live our normal life,” Von Sprecken says.
Instead of sitting and waiting at home, a baby room ready, they took vacations, kept occupied and tried to remain positive.
Currie has noticed that among those in her adoption support group, it’s the waiting that is, by far, the biggest hurdle.
“It creates stress for families. Waiting and not knowing and really wanting, more than anything, a baby in their life,” she explains.
Add to that the anxiety of infertility — which many couples have already dealt with for years — and it can put the strongest of relationships to the test.
Open adoptions are the norm in Alberta. It’s what Currie and Von Sprecken signed up for, but it was more than a year before they heard from Jacob’s birth mom, who assumed they would call her.
The communication gap bridged, they met with her and some of her family in April.
“She got to see he was in good hands, which is one of the things she wanted to know — ‘How’s he doing? Is he OK?’ They got to see for themselves that he’s great and wonderful and perfect,” Currie says, tickling her son.
They hope that relationship can continue and Jacob’s birth mom can be someone their child grows up knowing.
In short, Jacob’s parents want him to understand where he comes from.
The couple plans to make an album including photos of their son in his birth mother’s arms in hospital, and already have conversations with friends’ children about Jacob’s adoption.
“It will be his story and it will be very factual … and then there’s no room for interpretation,” Currie says.
“He doesn’t have to guess, he doesn’t have to wonder. He just gets to know.”