Here in Newfoundland, new families are entitled to a parental child benefit (better known here as Danny’s Baby Bonus). I discovered a few weeks after Everlee was born that despite her having been born stillborn that I would still be eligible to receive this money. Although $1000 could never help heal any of the burden in my heart, that money can go a long way towards covering the expenses of burying her tiny little body and ensuring her headstone was fit for the princess that she was.
Filling out those forms weren’t easy. Ticking that checkbox to let the folks on the other side of those government offices know that my baby was still born was hard. What was harder was realizing that because she was stillborn I wouldn’t have any birth certificate to send them, just the tear stains on the page to let them know that she was here and she was loved.
Fast forward a few months, and yesterday I received a letter in the mail from the department of finance. They had received my application, but were unable to process it because of the lack of birth certificate. A birth certificate the same government didn’t feel my daughter was worthy of. I called the contact on the letter in tears explaining my situation. She was very apologetic and told me to get in contact with Government services and that they would sort me out. After a very brief phone call I was quickly informed my daughter was not eligible for a birth or death certificate and that I would have to go there in person and explain to them what had happened so they could write a letter indicating what had happened, adding insult to injury.
In the eyes of my government, my baby never existed. I have nothing official to say she was ever here, and when history books are written, she will be left out.
That’s not good enough for me. So I have written the following letter to the Minister of Service NL, Hon Nick McGrath (and copied a number of his staff, as well as the hosts of the provinces two political radio call in shows) to see if something can be done to address this problem. I may be one person, but I am a mom first. And my daughter deserves to be recognized.
Here’s my letter:
Hon MInister McGrath,
I am writing you this letter because of a situation I recently encountered. I dearly hope that this is the first and last letter you receive on this subject, but I know it may very well not be.
On February 13th of this year at 34 weeks pregnant I gave birth to my first child, Everlee Rose. Having suffered from infertility for a number of years, her arrival was much anticipated and greatly longed for. Unfortunately, my hopes and dreams came crashing down around me when the doctor told me just hours before on February 12th that she would be stillborn. I was induced at the Health Sciences Centre, and went through 16 hours of labour before I delivered my beautiful sleeping daughter. As a parent, I was devastated at the loss of my beautiful little girl. Not 24 hours before I had heard her little heart beating at 154bpm. She was 5lbs1oz when she was born. She had my lips and my husbands nose. She was perfect.
In the weeks and months since I have struggled every single day with the pain of this loss. I lived every single day for 8 and a half months with her living inside of me, only to give birth to her after she had passed. I have received nothing but the best care from the doctors, and nurses at Eastern Health. However, it is the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador where I have found my biggest stumbling block. You see although I spent 16 hours in labour, and although I held that beautiful little girl in my arms, to the province she has never existed. She is not eligible to hold a birth certificate. She is not eligible to hold a death certificate. In the eyes of my home, she never existed. Now in order to get her affairs in order I have to go through the excruciating process of contacting vital statistics to confirm that my child did, in fact, exist. Each time opening a very painful emotional wound, and further hurting my already defeated family.
I recognize that this is not something that happens everyday, and that this is not an insurmountable task in the eyes of the Government. But to those that have to live through the nightmare that has become my life, this one simple gesture can mean the world. My daughter may have never cried to be fed during the night, smiled her first smile, or ever learned to walk or talk, and she may have been stillborn, but Minister, she was still born. I’m asking you, please, to consider one of two things to help bring just a little peace to families like mine that have to endure the worst pain that any parent could ever feel:
- Acknowledge the life of a stillborn child (<20 weeks gestation) with a birth and a death certificate.
- Acknowledge the life of a stillborn child (<20 weeks gestation) with a stillbirth certificate (as those in Saskatchewan, and Ontario for example)
I’ve not just lost a baby: I’ve lost a toddler, a school girl, a teenager and an adult daughter. A whole potential life has gone. The only tangible reminders I have left are pictures, as well as her footprints and hospital bracelet. I don’t even have a birth certificate to acknowledge that she was here, and that she mattered.
Minister, I respectfully ask that you consider what I have said, and make the right choice to move forward to giving families like mine the peace and the acknowledgement these little lives deserve.
“Each new life, no matter how brief, forever changes the world.”
If you require any further information, or would like to speak to me further on the matter, I ask you to please contact me at (709)6*******. I look forward to your acknowledgement and thoughts on this matter.
Marietta McGrath, Executive Assistant to the Minister
Donna Kelland, Assistant Deputy Minister (Government Services)
Vanessa Colman-Sadd, Director of Communications (Service NL)
Bill Rowe, VOCM Openline
Paddy Daly, VOCM Backtalk