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Sunday 09 April 2017

"I want to make my mum proud"

Posted in: True Stories
By Jacqui Stanford - 11th August 2013

A young woman who wants both her mums' names on her birth certificate says she simply wants to honour her parents' 24 year relationship, and have a document which reflects who she truly is.

Rowen Sullivan's unusual situation came to light during the final reading of the Marriage Equality Bill in Parliament, when Wall read out a heartbreaking letter outlining how the 20-year-old had been left a legal orphan when one of her mums, Diane Sullivan, died.

When Diane became terminally ill with lung cancer, Rowen's second mother Doreen Shields was not able to jointly adopt her, because she was an IVF baby born before a 2005 law change.

Doreen became her guardian instead, leaving Rowen a legal orphan when Diane died. While Doreen was able then able adopt her daughter, it means she no longer has Diane on her birth certificate as a result.

Wall has this week progressed a rare Private Bill to have both women's names on the document through the first reading, with all but an obstinate New Zealand First backing the move.

From a US holiday, Rowen has taken time to tell being left a legal orphan was very difficult. "After my mum died I was always very scared of losing Doreen. so when all this became real and we realised we had no legal relationship I was extremely worried," she says.

"If she or I ever had to be admitted to hospital, we wouldn't be able to visit each other, because we are not 'family'. This seemed absolutely ridiculous to me as she has been there since before I was born and been a constant and loving parent all my life. So when we decided for her to adopt me, I had no doubt in my mind it had to be done.

"But of course.. It wasn't that easy. We had to have meetings with lawyers and really work hard to figure it out before I turned 20. When I found out my mum's name was going to be removed, I felt extremely hurt and disappointed. I thought to myself, if she could see what was happening right now she would be so upset.

"And that's the mindset I've kept the whole way through this process. I'm doing this to honour my mum and all the sacrifices she made to have me. I'm doing it to honour my parents 24-year long relationship. And I'm doing it to honour my family."

Rowen says Wall has been amazing. "Doreen and I really had no idea a Private Bill was even possible, and she has put in a lot of time and work to see this through. I'm forever grateful to her for putting in so much effort when this bill really only effects me," she says.

"It still doesn't feel real to me. But if this all works out and I do get a birth certificate with both my parents' names on it, it will mean the world to me. My birth certificate will finally be accurate and the truth of where I came from will be legalised.

"As for my mum, I know she would have been so proud of me and Doreen for fighting for her. My mum Diane, was an incredibly loving and caring person. Who always put me first.

"When people say my mum 'battled cancer' they really don't understand how true that is. She really did fight it. Every time they told her she had a year ... or six months ... she proved them wrong. I'm extremely blessed and thankful to have had two parents who loved me. And I want to make my mum proud."


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Jacqui Stanford - 11th August 2013