Documenting a Loss, Affirming a Memory
Faribault Daily News
By Pauline Schreiber
August 13, 2005

LeaAnn Cory and Diana Sundwall's trip to the Rice County Recorder's Office Friday proved disappointing, but not due to the staff in the local register of deeds office.

The two Faribault women had hoped to receive a "certificate of birth resulting in stillbirth" for their sons. A new law, signed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty in May and that went into effect Aug. 1, offers a state certificate, similar to a birth certificate, for stillborn babies.

All Cory has to acknowledge her son Nathan's existence was a computer-printed "Fetal Death Report." Her son had been close to full-term when he was delivered stillborn on May 1, 2001.

"I think it is important to have a certificate of stillbirth just like it is to have a birth certificate to acknowledge Nathan's existence," Cory said. "He was part of our family."

Sundwall, whose son, Derek, was stillborn on Oct. 12, 1985, at least had a "Fetal Death Report" that had been notarized. Cory had only the death report that she was given after her son's stillbirth four years ago. She was very much looking forward to getting a certificate of birth for Nathan on Friday, as the new law provides for.

"What we discovered after being at the recorder's office for about an hour, is that there is more paperwork than we were led to believe for babies that have been dead over a year," Sundwall said. "It got to be very frustrating for LeaAnn, who had been so hopeful of finally getting a certificate of stillbirth for her son."

Sundwall is the director of the non-profit group Infants Remembered In Silence (IRIS), a local organization she founded after the death of her son by stillbirth. She established the organization to help parents, family and friends cope with the loss of a baby in early pregnancy, by stillbirth, or in early infancy.

The women's request Friday for a certificate of stillbirth was the first since the law went into effect for the Rice County Recorder's office. The staff was as helpful as possible, Sundwall said.

"We have a better understanding now of the procedure," she said. "It requires many steps. For many bereaved parents, it may be to difficult to handle all the paper work needed. So, the IRIS office is going to help parents who want a certificate of stillbirth with the procedure. I plan to become a notary to help parents complete the needed paperwork and make it easier for them."

Jackie and Jason Schoenbauer, who live in Jordan, come to Faribault for IRIS programs and assistance. Their baby girl, Paige, was stillborn on April 15, 2004.

"I have nothing right now that proves she existed. The hospital gave us some keepsakes, but there is no official record of either her birth or death," Jackie Schoenbauer said. "To us, it's very important that we have a certificate that said she existed. She was a person who we lost. We need that."

Sundwall said that the new law requires hospitals to notify parents of stillborn infants of their option to receive a "certificate of birth resulting in stillbirth." But the law is also retroactive for any Minnesota parent who ever had a stillborn baby, and that is the process IRIS will help parents with who wish to get a certificate of birth resulting in stillbirth for their lost infants.

"Minnesota is the 12th state to enact a law like this," Sundwall said. "To me, it's very important. Parents have so many dreams and hopes for an infant. When they are stillborn, it's really hard because those dreams die, too. What helps is the acknowledgment that the infant existed, and that's what a certificate of birth resulting in stillbirth is all about."