Thank You. Thank you. Thank you.

What a whirlwind.

I had no idea last night when I wrote that letter and posted it on this blog that so many people would share my plight. In the 15 hours since I posted that blog it has been viewed almost 4000 times. It has been shared on Facebook 226 times, and retweeted on twitter 45 times as well.

Thank you. When I wrote that letter I wasn’t sure anyone else would care. I know there are a lot of people that care about Everlee and care about me and my family, but I had no idea that so many people would care that my little girl didn’t have the piece of paper to recognize her little life that she deserves. Thank you for sharing my blog, but most of all, thank you for caring about her.

I sent that letter to the Minister at 7pm last night, and by 9:18am this morning I had a response from him personally. It read:

Rhonda

First of All please accept my deepest condolences. As a father I cannot even imagine the pain you have to live with forever. I cannot make a promise of a change however I will Work to make a change.

Nick

And honestly, I couldn’t ask for anymore from him. I know how bureaucracy works, and I know that change doesn’t happen over night. So knowing that this was on his radar was more than enough for me right now.  It is so reassuring to know that we have a government that is so committed to listening to the things that matter to its people.

Shortly after I received that email I got a message from CBC On The Go (a drive time talk radio program). My blog had reached their desk and they wanted to talk to me about what I had written and the response I had gotten. As much as it hurts, and as emotional and raw as this is for me, I could not turn down an opportunity to talk about my little girl to anyone willing to listen. I did the interview and it is supposed to be airing on CBC NL at around 5pm this evening. (more on this in a second)

Not 5 minutes after I hung up the phone with Maggie Gillis, I got a call from the head of vital statistics, the department responsible for birth and death certificates and the ones who would have to write the letter I need for Everlee. They had received my email from the Minister’s office this morning and were contacting me with some  good news.

  1. They have filled out all of the forms I need and are couriering the letter that I need to my door this afternoon. They were extraordinarily apologetic for everything I have had to go though, and the subsequent hoops that has caused me to have to jump through.
  2. They are directly dealing with the Department of Finance to ensure that my application for the parental child benefit goes through without having to cause me further grief. I won’t have to complete any more paper work, or go into their offices to go through the whole pain staking story all over again.
  3. Most importantly, as of this morning they have started reaching out to other jurisdictions to see what is done across Canada in recognizing stillborn babies in an official way and they are moving toward implementing a stillbirth certificate in Newfoundland and Labrador in the coming months.

All because of Everlee.

CBC called back shortly after to clarify some things in the interview, so I happily updated them with the information from Vital Statistics and the good news that they are moving towards a resolution for families like mine. Although the interviewer was happy to hear that, because of the change in the story they were unsure if they would run the interview now. Which is a shame. It was a horrible thing, that has had a positive outcome. I think hearing a story like that would give hope to families like mine, so I hope to hear them run the story this evening. If they do run it I will be updating and posting the audio here on the blog.

In the meantime, Thank you to Minister Nick McGrath for moving so quickly to do the right thing. But most of all, Thank you to all of you for following my daughter’s story and sharing in our journey. My life for the last four months has been agony. I struggle to get out of bed every single day, and my heart aches every single moment of every single day. There hasn’t been a day pass where I haven’t cried. And there hasn’t been a day where I haven’t wished I could take her place. But knowing that so many people out there care about my little girl, and care about me, is what keeps me going.

And with my little girl in my  heart, we’re going to change this. She will be recognized.

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” – Winnie the Pooh

Recognize her

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:

  1. Acknowledge the life of a stillborn child (<20 weeks gestation) with a birth and a death certificate.
  2. 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.

Thank You,

Rhonda McMeekin

CC:
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