On July 13, 2015, New York mom Amber Scorah dropped off her 15-week-old son, Karl, at Soho Child Care for the first time, despite not feeling ready to return to work. But she took solace in knowing the facility was just two blocks away from her office. “I planned to go back and breast-feed Karl at lunch,” the editorial producer tells Us Weekly. “I could hardly wait. I ran the two blocks there. I expected to feel the joy of our reunion — it was the first time we had been apart. I imagined his face lighting up, him being so happy to see me.”
But when Scorah arrived at 69 Greene Street, she found her sweet infant lying unconscious on a changing table. “His lips and the area around his mouth were blue, and the daycare owner was frantic, trying to revive him,” Scorah tells Us.
Karl died just two hours after the first time Scorah had left him. The facility was shut down the following day for not being licensed and for its employees not being trained in CPR. A medical examiner's report said the cause of death remains unknown.
“Everything felt so positive and magical about Karl,” she says. “He was my dream baby, so healthy and strong. I couldn’t have imagined I would lose him, not in my wildest nightmare.” (Hear Scorah's own words about tragic story, which she told to WNYC's Death, Sex & Money podcast, in the video above.)
Scorah and her partner, visual effects artist Lee Towndrow, couldn’t bear to return to their Brooklyn home. For weeks, they stayed at a friend’s apartment. “It felt like the worst kind of time capsule,” Scorah reveals. “On the one hand, I wanted to preserve everything exactly how it had been, with Karl’s things here and there, the sheets unwashed, clothing and blankets that had his smell. But on the other hand, to walk into our home and see all of Karl’s things and not have Karl in my arms was totally unbearable.”
Shortly after his death, the grieving mom and dad decided to try for another child. “We loved and enjoyed Karl so much, it was impossible to imagine living our lives and not being parents,” Scorah tells Us. “We couldn’t have Karl back, but we could have a little brother or sister for Karl, and another life to nurture that would be just as precious to us as Karl was."
In June — 11 months after losing Karl — Scorah and Towndrow welcomed a baby girl named Sevi. “Like Karl, Sevi is really strong,” raves Scorah. “She could lift her head right up on day one. She’s also just started to become really curious like her brother was. They look quite a bit alike! One nice thing is that she likes to sleep a little bit more than Karl did.”
Meanwhile, Scorah and Ali Dodd — an Oklahoma mom who lost her son on his first day of daycare — are campaigning for parental leave in the United States. “Neither of us had wanted to leave our babies yet, but we had no choice as our families needed income, and we both feel that if we had longer with our babies, things might have turned out differently,” says Scorah.
According to Scorah, one in four American mothers has to return to work within two weeks of giving birth, while 87 percent of Americans have no access to paid leave through their employers. “Yet paid leave has been proven to reduce infant death and have long-lasting positive effects on children,” she says.
Scorah encourages everyone who agrees that American babies need time with their parents at the beginning of their lives to add their names to this petition.
Scorah also launched ForKarl, to help people voice their support for paid family leave.