I was browsing the internet and came across a petition to change the law regarding birth certificates in several US states. In fact, there are a number of sources talking about the same topic (1, 2, 3). This brought back a lot of memories.
When our son Marlon died, we applied for a birth certificate here in British Columbia, Canada. Marlon was born alive and died two days after his birth. You would think that this means we are entitled to a couple of documents that all parents receive: a birth and a death certificate. Guess again. They refused to issue a birth certificate. Instead, we were given a birth/deceased certificate. While we were in the government office, I was struggling to restrain myself and to stop yelling at someone. To this day we have not been given an explanation why this happens and it still makes me angry. If we had applied for the certificate on his first day of life, would I have been given a separate birth and death certificate? It does not make any sense to me. And I am orginally from Germany. I know a thing or two about “bureaucrazy”. Of course everything needs to be done correctly and we don’t want our sons identity stolen or make false claims under the name of our deceased son. But I would assume that this can all be prevented with the appropriate records in the system. What difference does the piece of paper make? If an older person dies, the government is not going to retrieve the birth certificate to replace it with a birth/deceased certificate. These are separate documents for everyone else. Why are we not entitled to it?
This might sound like a small thing, but to a bereaved parent it is not. It is hard enough already to comprehend that your child is gone and was only with you for such a short time. Sometimes, it is even difficult to know that your child really existed. Thoughts creep into your mind that it might all be just a bad dream. I want to wake up and be able to hold my child in my arms! At other times it might feel like this tragedy happened to someone else I know and not myself. Or it feels so far away and unreal that I start wondering if our child really existed. This certificate is only a piece of paper, but it reassures each parent of one thing: the baby existed, he was with us and he will not be forgotten. Denying a parent a birth certificate is like not speaking the child’s name.
In BC they at least have a commorative birth certificate that we were able to get on top of the official birth/deceased certificate. However, Marlon was born alive and we ran into these issues already. We haven’t even started to apply for the documents for Tobias. He was born sleeping. I wonder what will happen?
According to the website of the Vital Statistics Agency we will have to apply for a Certificate of Remembrance. Again, we will not receive a regular birth certificate. In the case of a stillbirth I can see the reason, but a stillbirth is still a birth. Tobias was born. They should have named the document differently. Apparently, what the government issues is a “live birth” certificate. But in the case of Marlon who was born alive, that did not seem to be enough either.