If you’ve ever done it, you know how hard it can be to leave your baby to return to work. I myself did it twice, when both of my first two children were eight weeks old. Luckily for me, though I did have to return to work much sooner than I would have liked, my mother was their caregiver while I worked, and I didn’t have to worry about the cost or safety of day care.
This was not the case for three working moms who also left their newborn babies to go back to work. Amber Scorah, Adrienne Kromer, and Ali Dodd all went back to work after having a child, and in tragedies that boggle the mind and wrench the heart, all three of these moms babies died at day care on their first day there. Every working mom’s nightmare came true for all three of these ladies.
Dodd’s son, Shepard, was swaddled by a child care worker and placed in a car seat to sleep—a huge safety no-no. Then, she left him for a long period without checking on him Shepard slipped down in the seat and suffocated because he was too little to lift his own head.
When Amber Scorah had to return to work last year after the birth of her son Karl (she took 12 weeks off, and tried to take additional unpaid leave, but was denied), she chose a day care that was close enough to walk to so she could nurse her baby at lunch. On his first day there, she dropped him off at 9:30. When she arrived to nurse him shortly after noon, she wrote in a piece for the New York Times, “I 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. Instead, I saw my son unconscious, splayed out on a soft changing table. His lips and the area around his mouth were blue, and the day-care owner was performing CPR on him, incorrectly.”
It was too late. Her baby boy was gone.
Adrienne Kromer’s story is eerily similar. She told PEOPLE Magazine that she left her baby girl McKenna at day care at 7:45 a.m. on April 1 and called to check on her several times that day. She left work early at 3:30 p.m. to get McKenna and received a frantic call from the day care while she was on her way that McKenna was not breathing. The day care has since been ordered to close.
Desperate to avoid tragedies like this for other moms, these moms are now speaking out and lobbying for increased parental leave for parents of newborns. As Scorah says in a piece she wrote for the New York Times :
“In comparison with the other new mothers I knew, I felt lucky to have three months’ paid maternity leave after Karl was born,” she wrote. “Most of the parents in my community had only weeks before they had to leave their babies to go back to work. But nonetheless, even with three months under our belts and Karl’s neck strong enough to hold himself up, I was uncomfortable with the idea of leaving him. I wanted to be his caregiver longer, until he was a bit bigger. I could see how our time together in this early infancy was of so much value, how being with me every day made him more and more comfortable navigating his new environment.”
Teaming up, Dodd and Scorah together wrote a piece for USA Today (in which they mention Kromer’s loss of McKenna, which occurred earlier this month). They say:
We believe that infants need to be with their parents at the beginning of their lives. And we are jointly calling on our parties, Republican and Democrat, to put aside their differences and pass job-protected, paid parental leave, for the sake of all American babies.
Our instinct that Karl and Shepard would be safer if they stayed with us longer was not wrong.
A study by McGill University and UCLA Fielding School of Public Health found that for each additional month a woman has maternity leave, infant mortality goes down 13%.
America has the highest infant mortality rate of any industrialized nation, according to the CDC. And research has shown that 60% of SIDS deaths occur in child care settings, non-profit First Candle says.
I agree with these moms that paid parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child is a serious health issue for both mom and baby—and it should not matter which political party you align yourself with—this policy is good for ALL Americans.
The truth is that the United States, “the richest country in the world,” is one of the few first-world nations that doesn’t offer extended paid parental leave. This is a policy that is clearly costing lives.
“…we should not have sobbing mothers leaving premature babies in the neonatal intensive care unit because they have to return to their jobs. We do not need to tear babies from their mothers’ arms before they can even hold up their own necks,” say Dodd and Scorah.
I have to agree.
Shepard, Karl, McKenna—we will remember you! I know you are proud of your mommies for lobbying to change our country in your precious names.