A lesbian couple from Nova Scotia say they’re frustrated with the long and arduous process of trying to add both mothers to their daughter’s birth certificate.
Caitlin and Stacey Lamrock, who live in Wolfville and have been married for seven years, had their first baby, Gwendolyn, in mid-July at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax.
The infant was conceived via sperm donor and Caitlin was the one who carried her to term, though Stacey was there every step of the way — from pregnancy to birth, from diaper changes to playtime.
“Stacey is amazing. I don’t know how I could get through this without Stacey,” Caitlin said.
“It’s been a lot of late nights, a lot of early mornings. … Stacey has been a big support for both Gwen and I.”
But despite her many contributions to Gwendolyn’s life, and the deep love she feels for her child, Stacey has been unable to add herself as the second parent on her birth certificate.
Instead, that field says: “Not stated.”
The failure to recognize her as Gwendolyn’s parent has been “devastating,” said Stacey, as it could impact what rights she has in regard to her child.
“At the end of the day, she’s my daughter,” she said.
“It’s heartbreaking. I’m terrified that something would happen (to Caitlin) and she would be taken from me.”
How it happened
Although Nova Scotia updated its Vital Statistics regulations in 2007 to allow same-sex couples to be registered as parents on a child’s birth certificate, the Lamrocks said that didn’t help in their case.
After Gwendolyn was born, Caitlin said she used a kiosk to register her birth at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax. While filling out the information for the other parent, she was given two options: assisted conception, and a known donor.
While the couple knew who the donor was, they didn’t know him personally. When they received the donation, he agreed to sign away all his parental rights, Caitlin said.
“Technically, we don’t know the donor other than their name,” said Caitlin, who said they found the donor online.
However, “known donor” was the option that made the most sense, so that’s what she selected at the kiosk.
Later on, the couple received a letter in the mail from Vital Statistics, saying that Stacey’s name will be removed from Gwendolyn’s birth registration.
“Because your child was not conceived through assisted conception, the other parent will be removed from your child’s birth registration,” said the letter, dated Aug. 29.
“Since the person who helped conceive your child is known, the only way the other parent can be added to your child’s birth registration is through adoption.”
This was news to the Lamrocks, who were unaware of such a policy. Attempts to get further information were unsuccessful, said Caitlin.
“We’ve talked to about three or four different people from Vital Stats, and no one is able to give us a reference, any sort of document or legislation, that lists what they’re saying,” she said.
The situation has been frustrating for the couple, who said the decision to have a baby came after a lot of thought, research and preparation.
“It was a long process, a thought-out process,” Stacey said. “We did everything we could to do it right, and then at the end of the day, the right was still taken from us.”
‘I love her more than life itself’
Had Caitlin been married to a man, they say — biological father or not — he would have been added to the birth certificate more easily.
Caitlin said she has a friend, a transgender man who went through the same process to acquire a donor. The friend was listed on his child’s birth certificate without issue, said Caitlin, even though he was not the child’s biological father.
“It’s just not fair, is what we’re getting at,” she said.
“Obviously, there’s no way we could have created this little bundle without having a man’s contribution, we understand that, but there’s absolutely no parenting contribution on the part of (the donor).”
Now, the couple’s only option is for Stacey to formally adopt Gwendolyn, which will cost thousands of dollars.
That’s what they plan to do, but they weren’t prepared for this additional financial burden — all for a child whom Stacey has loved and cared for since before she was born.
“I love her more than life itself,” Stacey said. “Just because she’s not biologically my own, it doesn’t make any change for me.”
The Lamrocks, who called the situation unfair and discriminatory, also plan to submit a complaint to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.
Act needs to be modernized: Service Nova Scotia
Service Nova Scotia, which is in charge of Vital Statistics, did not make anyone available for an interview. But in a statement, a spokesperson acknowledged “some of the difficult situations families can experience when registering a birth.”
“They are working to address the concerns and are currently in the midst of extensive consultations as they consider modernizing the Vital Statistics Act and regulations to help recognize and respect the diversity of Nova Scotia families,” it said.
The statement noted that more information about assisted conception is available under the province’s birth registration regulations. The regulations define assisted conception as “conception that occurs as a result of artificial reproductive technology, using an anonymous sperm donor,” and said if a married couple uses this method, the spouse of the mother will be registered as the child’s parent.
However, the regulations make no mention of known donors and do not state that parents will not be added to the birth certificate if the donor is known to them.
The statement from Service Nova Scotia also said the rules for known donors are different because if the donor knows the identity of the child, and if “at some point the donor decides that they wish to be recognized as a parent to the child, they could pursue a paternity finding.”
But the Lamrocks had the donor sign a known sperm donor agreement in October 2021. The agreement, viewed by Global News, shows that the donor “fully understands that he would have no parental rights whatsoever” in regard to the child, and says he will not “demand, request, or compel any guardianship, custody or visitation rights.”
In response to a question about the couple having to shell out thousands of dollars so one of them can have parental rights to a child they already care for, Service Nova Scotia said: “We appreciate that change in the regulations is necessary.”
“We are holding extensive consultations to help inform the work we are doing to modernize the Vital Stats Act and regulations,” the statement said.
‘She doesn’t deserve this’
Despite everything, the Lamrocks are enjoying their first few months with Gwendolyn, who was all smiles in a pink onesie when Global News went to see her earlier this week.
“She’s an amazing little girl and daughter. We just love her, and she’s happy all the time,” Stacey said.
“Gwen is perfect. I might be a little biased, but Gwen is pretty perfect,” Caitlin added.
“And she doesn’t deserve this. She deserves to have her mother — the only other parent she’s known — listed on her birth certificate, and not made to feel like her mother is less than because she’s in a lesbian relationship.”
The pair say they’re going public with their story to raise awareness of the issue and to hopefully spur on some policy changes that will make it easier for same-sex couples to have children.
“We obviously don’t want anyone to go through what we’re through,” Stacey said. “We want to make it known that it’s not as easy as everybody thinks.”