Friday, February 12, 2010

Parents of stillborns deserve option of a birth certificate

Published in Newsday

Danielle Leacock of North Babylon is active with StillParents NY, a group of parents lobbying for the Certificate of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth bill (

Three years ago tomorrow, my husband, Eric, and I delivered our daughter, Kailen Marie. A moment that should have been filled with joy was full of grief.

The night before I sensed something wasn't right, as I had not felt my baby move. I snacked on a granola bar and some apple juice, thinking the sugar would get her moving, but nothing happened. I called my doctor, who instructed me to meet him at the hospital. A nurse there placed a Doppler on my belly to listen for the heartbeat. We did not hear it.

My husband and I prayed as we waited for an ultrasound. When my doctor arrived and placed the wand on my belly, I looked at the monitor and saw my baby girl, still, as if she were posing in a picture. Her heart was not beating. We lost her.

The words, "I'm sorry, your baby is not alive," echoed in the room. Our lives forever changed in that moment.

I delivered my baby by C-section, and while I recovered from the surgery we held Kailen and said hello and goodbye in a few short hours. We didn't want to let her go, but we had to. It was the hardest thing that we had ever gone through. Informing our 2- and 4-year-old sons that their baby sister would not be coming home was unbearable.

A week later, we buried our daughter, something no parent should ever have to do. After the whirlwind of events had passed, we realized that we never received documentation acknowledging her birth.

New York does not issue any certificate to legally acknowledge the nearly 2,000 stillborn babies who are delivered every year in this state. More babies are stillborn than die of sudden infant death syndrome every year - eight to 10 times more. But the issue of stillbirth has always been kept quiet. Mothers and fathers have been denied the acknowledgment, comfort and dignity that is due them.

For the past few years, a bill has been circulating in Albany that would allow parents of stillborn babies the option to request and purchase a Certificate of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth. The current Assembly bill is sponsored by Assemb. Janele Hyer-Spencer (D-Staten Island). Sen. William Larkin (R-New Windsor) is sponsoring the bill in the Senate.

Opposition to this bill seems to entangle stillbirth with the hot-button topic of abortion. But this is not a complex issue. It's about recognition and acknowledgment for mourning parents. It should not fall victim to anyone's political agenda.

There would be no financial cost to the state, as parents who choose to receive a certificate would purchase it; the fee would cover any costs that might be associated with producing the new certificate.

Parents are required by the state to bury or cremate their baby. Recognizing the process of childbirth these parents endured is the psychologically humane, medically appropriate and logical thing to do.

Twenty-seven states - including New Jersey, Massachusetts and Rhode Island - have already passed similar bills. But since its first introduction in 2003 and a redrafting in 2007, the bill has been stalled in New York. The Assembly has failed to push the bill to a floor vote. The Senate passed versions of it in 2007 and 2008 under then-Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, but did nothing with the proposal last year.

New York legislators should acknowledge families' grief by providing this documentation. The option for a Certificate of Birth as a Result of Stillbirth is what my daughter and the thousands of other stillborns in New York State deserve.


My Forever Child said...

Awesome job Danielle and Eric! Thank you for sharing your story and working so hard to help get the CBRS Bill passed. I left the first comment in the Newsday article. Let's hope we can get more positive feedback and action!!

Anonymous said...

I researching this movement as i never recieved a certificate of birth for my daughter Lilya Raine, born still September 26, 2009. I carried her for 40 weeks and 1 day. I delivered her and held her, and then i had to bury her. Lilya, and all the others born still in NY deserve to be recoganized! Thank you!!!