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Dublin: 4 °C Tuesday 11 December, 2018
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'I dread registering my child because I can't put his other parent on the birth certificate'

It breaks my heart that a member of our little family is being left out of the first document our son has to declare his status as an Irish citizen, writes Sarah Stone McDevitt.

Sarah Stone McDevitt Married new mother

THIS WEEK I have to register my child’s birth. He’s three months old, a bruiser at 10 pounds four ounces. I should be proud and happy to make it official, but I’m not.

To be honest I’m sad, angry and frustrated. I’ve been putting it off since the day he was born in November, hoping and praying that this day would never come. Why? Because I can’t put his other parent on the birth certificate.

My wife, his other mother, still can’t take legal responsibility for him. This is the reality that so many LGBTQ parents find themselves in.

My wife has been there since the start, from the first time I injected myself with the first IVF drug, through months of trying and failing, to the first time we saw his heartbeat. She has been there through it all, from the moment he was just a dream, up until the time she first held him in her arms.

She’s got up for the late nights and early morning feeds. She’s changed the exploding nappies, has been puked on and peed on more times than I can count. She’s loved him since the first day she saw him, and he her, but she can’t claim him as her own.

baby

It breaks my heart that a member of our little family is being left out of the first document our son has to declare his status as an Irish citizen, and the first we have to say we are a family.

‘Stressing about our future’

The Family and Relationships Bill was passed in 2015. Nearly three years ago. It allows for the third option of a co-parent on the birth certificate, allowing me to register as my son’s mother and my wife to register as a co-parent. In doing so she takes on all the responsibilities of being his legal parent.

However not all sections of the Bill have been commenced yet.

Just this week the chief executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance Tanya Ward described how this is really frustrating for many families who are still waiting for the recognition they are entitled to.

In the time that has passed since 2015 we have rallied anyone we could to write to TDs asking questions in an attempt to push things on. As so many LGBTQ parents have over the last few years, and in some cases decades. Each one despairing at the delay.

We understand it takes time to change things but this seems to be the last thing on the list.

Thankfully the rest of Irish society has moved on. Even in the hospital the staff didn’t bat an eyelid at us as a married couple starting a family (apart from commenting how lucky we were to take turns having our children). It all seemed rather common and dare I say normal, whatever normal is for having babies.

In the months before giving birth, at a time I should have been enjoying being pregnant, I was stressing about our future. Spending my time writing and waiting for responses. No minister or department seemed to be owning it. I was passed from pillar to post, each department blaming the other for the delay.

The response in September was they hoped it would be in place by the end of 2017. Yet here we are at the end of January 2018 and still nothing. Most recently the response is early 2018.

I can’t help but imagine a document sitting on a dusty desk in the Department of Justice just waiting for someone to pick it up and finish the job or the redesign of the birth certificate itself holding it all up.

Our choices are unclear. We hope to be allowed to change the birth certificate in the future but have no idea how hard that might be made for us and hundreds like us.

‘Far from a lone parent’

We’ve been here before. We married in December 2015. The right to marry started in November 2015, one month before our wedding.

We had the honour of being the first same-sex couple to marry in Roscommon, and given it voted no, it was an interesting and unplanned situation to find ourselves in. We had booked the wedding before the referendum, expecting a civil partnership.

I remember the joy at the time of getting properly married – and with the Family and Relationships Bill passed before that – I never worried about our family’s future.

Two and a half years later we are still talking about this ridiculous situation that so many LGBTQ parents find themselves in, asked to declare their co-parent doesn’t exist to get passports.

According to the State I am a lone parent. So should I apply for lone parents allowance? No, I can’t do that because I’m far from a lone parent.

As we face into another important referendum, I just hope and pray they finish enacting changes faster in the future.

Right now there are only two things I can do, give my child a name that includes my wife’s family and have a party welcoming our son to the world surrounded by family and friends that see my wife as also being my son’s mother.

For now, at least, that bonds our two families until a time when we get someone else in the government to agree with us on paper.

Sarah Stone McDevitr is a married LGBTQ new mother originally from Sligo but living in Dublin for 20 years.

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About the author:

Sarah Stone McDevitt  / Married new mother

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