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Amber Scorah was like many mothers dreading her return back to work.
After crunching the numbers and begging her employer for more unpaid maternity leave and exhausting every option for her to stay home with her baby, Scorah finally gave in. She would go back to work, enrolling her 3-month-old son, Karl, in a daycare recommended by friends.
She felt "uncomfortable" with the idea of leaving him. But she never thought that she would lose him.
Scorah shared her heartbreaking story in the New York Times' Motherlode last year. Although I didn't want to read it, my whole soul feeling like it can't take hearing about one more tragedy, I clicked on it anyway. Part of me feels like it's my duty as a mother to recognize the lives of every baby lost, to absorb the sorrow of every grieving mother, because we are all one.
Scorah described how she left her son that day, reassured by the daycare worker, justifying that her pain in leaving her son was what "everyone felt, what everyone did." And when she returned to the daycare only a mere 2.5 hours after she had left her son, the way she had set it up so she could continue to breastfeed him, she explains how she "walked around the corner, expecting to pick up my son, feel his chubby rolls, see his face light up at the sight of his mommy"—and instead found her son blue and unconscious, a daycare worker incorrectly performing CPR on him.
In July of 215, a worker at SoHo Child Care fed Karl and put him down for a nap. When she checked on him before 12:15 p.m., she found his lips blue. The daycare had been ordered to shut down after it was discovered that it had never been licensed.
I was up against an entire culture that places very little value on caring for infants and small children.
Her pain is hard to fathom, the hideous irony of her son dying the very first time she had ever left him, a choice she made that felt wrong on every level but a choice she felt she had to make, is unbearable. But Scorah is sharing her story and speaking out against a culture that seems to devalue caring for the youngest members of our society, so much so that it forces women to make a choice between losing all financial security or being with their babies.
"I wasn't just up against the end of my parental leave," Scorah wrote. "I was up against an entire culture that places very little value on caring for infants and small children. If we truly valued the 47 percent of the work force who are women, and the value of our families, things would look different. Mothers could go back to work after taking time off to recover physically from birth and bond with their young children."
And she's right. She's absolutely right.
It seems absurd that we are even having this conversation about maternity leave anymore, because it shouldn't even be a question. Just last week, CNN reported on the real importance of longer paid parental leave, which benefits everyone from the babies to parents to employers to society as a whole. Some of the tangible benefits included:
A 10 percent lower infant mortality rate
More well-child and vaccination visits
Higher breastfeeding rates
Lower rates of postpartum depression
Lower rates of depression over a lifetime for mothers
And as Scorah's story shows, it's not even always about the money or the tangible benefits. It's about valuing that time in our lives as parents when we want nothing more than to be home with our babies. When, as she pleadingly described in her post, "every minute with Karl felt like an investment in his current and future well-being."
And that's exactly it—time spent at home with our babies is always a worthwhile investment.
If only the cost didn't seem to come at a price too high for every parent to pay.
There is good news for the Scorah family. In June of 2016, they welcomed their second baby, a little girl named Sevi. This time around, Amber will stay home and care for their baby until she's a year old. Meanwhile, the couple continues to fight for paid parental leave. You can find more information, and tips for how you can urge your governmental representative to give parents the choice to stay home with their infants, at the website they've dedicated to their little boy: ForKarl.com