A baby dies at daycare

On July 13, Amber Scorah returned to work three months after giving birth to her son, Karl. She rode the subway from her Brooklyn home to her Manhattan office, carrying her happy, 15-week-old baby boy. On the way to her office, she dropped him off at daycare for the first time. Just hours later, he was dead.

In a heartbreaking op-ed published yesterday in The New York Times, Scorah wrote that she and her partner, artist Lee Towndrow, had exhausted every option to find a way for her to extend her three-month maternity leave. She didn’t want to leave her son quite yet. They each weighed quitting jobs to stay home with the baby. But her publishing position provided their health insurance and necessary income, which she felt in danger of losing if she didn’t go back to work. She writes:

So we did the best, most responsible-seeming thing we could think of. After a long search, many waiting lists, interviews and a great deal of angst, we settled on a day care near my workplace. With this day care, I could still go over at lunch and breastfeed Karl, and have a visit with him, so we would never be apart more than a few hours. And the day care was recommended by many moms I knew who had similar circumstances to mine. It felt like a loving, safe space for Karl.

Scorah adds that she “justified” the decision to take him, despite feeling uneasy. As an only child, Karl would benefit from socializing with other children. He was a hearty 15-week-old who had never been sick, and other children start daycare at only six-weeks-old. But, she admits, she still wished she could have stayed home longer. Eventually, though, the day came.

That morning, she carried her smiling baby onto the subway. Scorah recalls breastfeeding him to make sure he went to daycare with a full belly. She dropped him off at 9:30 a.m., handing him to the assistant caregiver, who told a joke about how nervous most parents felt on the first day. “I felt reassured,” Scorah writes. “This was what everyone did, how everyone felt.” Karl smiled as he went to the caregiver’s arms.

I returned to the day care at 12:15 to nurse Karl. I was so excited to see him, I ran the two blocks there from the office. As I took the stairs by twos to the second floor, I noticed that the door to the day care was propped open. It seemed odd to me — that they would leave the door open, with so many toddlers inside. 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.
Our sweet son died two and a half hours after the first time I had left him.

They rushed the baby to Lenox Hill Hospital in critical condition, where he was later pronounced dead, The New York Times reported.

Scorah didn’t know that, despite the great reputation among her friends, the family-owned daycare hadn’t been licensed, despite operating since 2001. She later learned that at 11:50 a.m., the daycare assistant saw Karl kicking his legs, but when she brought it to the daycare owner’s attention, the owner told her not to bother checking on him because babies kick in their sleep all the time.

If the day-care assistant had gone over and picked him up, checked on him, would Karl be alive? I don’t know. The day-care owner had also put Karl down to sleep on his side, which is a known unsafe sleep position. Had he been put down on his back to sleep, would he be alive? I don’t know.
I will have to live with questioning this for the rest of my life.
What I do know is that had I been with my 3-month-old son, I would have gone over and checked on him at that moment. What I also know is that my son would have been safely on his back to sleep, if not sleeping on me, as he loved to do on all our days home together.

The daycare, Soho Child Care, has been closed down and is under investigation. And today, Amber Scorah still works as an editorial producer and also advocates for better family leave policies. She and Lee Towndrow recently launched a website in Karl’s honor that helps families contact their government representatives about parental leave.

Read her entire, gut-wrenching post — “A Baby Dies in Day Care and a Mother Asks Why She Had to Leave Him So Soon” — here.

Asher Fogle Writer When she’s not hunting for compelling personal stories or justifying her love for dessert, Asher can likely be found watching early-2000s TV on Netflix with her husband.

Hillsboro Police are investigating what led to the death of a 3-month-old girl Monday at her day care.

The baby was found unresponsive at the in-home day care and pronounced dead by paramedics, said Sgt. Eric Bunday, a spokesman for Hillsboro Police. Investigators are awaiting autopsy results, he said.

“Our hearts go out to this family,” he said. “What a tragic, awful situation.”

Bunday declined to disclose the infant’s name until after the autopsy was done.

The state Office of Child Care identified the day care where the baby died as Mrs. Williams Childcare. On Tuesday, the facility’s license to care for as many as 16 children remained active.

“Our hearts ache for the family,” said Jeannette Williams, who operates the day care out of her home in northwest Hillsboro. She declined further comment.

Eight children have died at licensed Oregon child care facilities since 2013. Nearly all were younger than 1.

After a child dies at a day care, state regulators can request the facility to temporarily shut down or issue an emergency order to suspend its license. In 2017, officials quickly suspended a Portland day care’s license after two infant deaths in 18 months.

Melanie Mesaros, a spokeswoman for the Office of Child Care, said her agency’s investigation into Mrs. Williams Childcare continues.

“There were no children in care today at the facility, and the provider has told us there will be no children in care this week,” she said.

On its website, Mrs. Williams Childcare advertises 24-7 child care for children up to age 12. The site says Williams has 35 years of “professional and practical childcare experience.”

Her facility was licensed in June 2014 and inspected twice most years since then, according to the records that the Office of Child Care publishes online. The records do not say what inspectors found during any of those visits because those details “are only available on paper,” the website says.

According to the website, inspectors visited the facility in February 2018 to investigate a complaint that a child was injured. An inspector closed the allegation as “unable to substantiate,” but the website does not say why the allegation could not be confirmed.

The Office of Child Care has faced intense scrutiny for failing to disclose information to the public after children die in day cares. The August 2018 death of a baby boy at a Eugene day care did not come to public light for more than six months, until The Oregonian/OregonLive reported on the case in March 2019.

Nine days after the story was published, Gov. Kate Brown called for a public review of what information the state discloses to parents online about child care facilities.

“Parents deserve transparency and clear and easy access to information so that they can do their homework when making such an important decision,” she wrote at the time.

A committee that included Office of Child Care staffers, district attorneys, law enforcement officers, child welfare workers and lawmakers, among others, met several times to review the process but has not yet finalized its recommendations.

Meeting minutes say the committee agreed that notice of the death should be made public within 48 hours. The notification about Monday’s death went up in less than 24.

— Molly Young

A baby died at a child care center Thursday — what we know and don’t know

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A 19-year-old woman has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of a child at a Bear day care center. 9/6/19 Delaware News Journal

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Delaware State Police are investigating the death of an infant at Little People Child Development Center in Bear on Thursday.

Police said the 4-month-old girl’s death occurred sometime between 10 and 10:30 a.m at the facility at 3843 Wrangle Hill Road.

According to court documents obtained by The News Journal, 19-year-old Dejoynay Mariah Ferguson was charged with first-degree murder for the baby’s death. Documents say Ferguson killed the girl because she was being “fussy” and would not stop crying.

Read the story: Bear child care worker charged with killing infant who wouldn’t stop crying

Here’s what we know about the death, and what we don’t.

What we know:

  • The infant, a 4-month-old girl, died between 10 and 10:35 a.m. Thursday at Little People Child Development Center in Bear.
  • Delaware State Police and EMS were called to the facility, where the baby was then transported to Christiana Hospital. She was pronounced dead at the hospital.
  • New Castle County Fire Department’s radio traffic initially said paramedics were responding to a case of cardiac arrest.
  • 19-year-old Dejoynay Mariah Ferguson was charged with first-degree murder in connection with the infant’s death.
  • Court documents obtained by The News Journal said Ferguson picked up the baby by the front of her shirt, then later put her hands on the infant’s face for more than three minutes. Ferguson was wearing latex gloves at the time, according to records.
  • The child was “unresponsive and motionless” when Ferguson removed her hands from the baby’s face, court documents say.
  • Investigators say that after killing the baby, Ferguson put the girl back in the crib. About 20 minutes later, police said, Ferguson told the facility owner the baby was unresponsive. Someone — it’s not immediately clear who — then called 911.
  • Ferguson was arraigned in the Justice of the Peace Court Thursday afternoon, and was later transported to the Dolores J. Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution on $1 million bond.
  • Ferguson’s Facebook profile shows she graduated in 2013 from P.S. DuPont Middle School. She later attended Howard High School of Technology.
  • At Howard, Ferguson was involved in the school’s Legal Support Services career program, The News Journal previously reported.
  • Ferguson was the baby’s assigned caregiver, police said.
  • The Office of Childcare Licensing has suspended the child care center’s license “indefinitely.”
  • Little People Child Development Center has three locations in Delaware: the Bear facility, a location in Christiana and a building in New Castle, and is owned by Janice Palmer.
  • The center has an infant program, with just four slots available, for children 6 weeks to 1 year old, according to its website. Police said Ferguson worked in the infant room at the facility.
  • Staff attending to infant children have no less than three years of experience, according to the website.
  • Little People offers programs for children up to 13 years old. Those include summer camps, holiday programs, before and after school offerings, in addition to daily child care.
  • Joseph Smack, a spokesman for the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families, said the Little People Child Development Center had no “noncompliance issues” noted in its May inspection. All of its employees, including Ferguson, had passed the required background checks, Smack said.
  • According to the state’s website, the child care center has reported one “facility injury” in 2019, 2018 and 2016. Those injuries include: a child wheezing and coughing, and per pediatrician advice, the child was transported to Christiana Hospital; a child running in the classroom and tripping, hitting their mouth; and a child running outside and falling, hurting his arm.
  • Little People also had three complaints filed against it: one regarding “improper staff-to-child ratio” and “not meeting the needs of an infant”; another regarding incorrect staff-to-child ratio; and an allegation that a staff member pinched a child. The state found there was “no evidence to substantiate the complaint” in each case.
  • Both other centers were open Friday.

What we don’t know:

  • The infant’s name.
  • Ferguson’s level of experience and whether she had any training prior to working with infants.
  • How long Ferguson worked at the facility.
  • How many children and infants were under the care at Little People at the time of the death.
  • Who called 911 after the baby was found unresponsive.

Read all our breaking news stories — and the stories that follow as we learn more — with a subscription to Delaware Online.

Recent child abuse cases:

Man charged with beating girlfriend’s 3-year-old child to death

Mother pleads guilty in abuse death of her 1-year-old son; homicide charge dropped

Day care worker gets prison time for breaking infant’s leg

Reporters Esteban Parra and Meredith Newman contributed to this story.

Send story tips or ideas to Isabel Hughes at [email protected] or 302-324-2785. For all things breaking news, follow her on Twitter at @izzihughes_

AMBER SCORAH: You think, everyone does this. This is just sort of one of those first rites of passage of parenthood that you have go through. So it never of course crossed my mind that anything could go terribly wrong.

This is Death, Sex & Money.

The show from WNYC about the things we think about a lot…

…and need to talk about more.

I’m Anna Sale.

LEE TOWNDROW: I remember, when we were pregnant with Karl, we had a total sense of innocence about everything. And then I remember when Karl was born, I um, I was taking a whole bunch of pictures at that time. Because I thought, “How is it that everything looks so beautiful?” (Laughs) I was totally high! And it’s been really hard to get as excited this time.

This is Lee Towndrow. He and his partner, Amber Scorah, live in Brooklyn.

LT: I think we feel a little bit like, um, I don’t want to say cynical, but um…

AS: I feel like there’s a loss of meaning.

LT: Yeah.

AS: Like Karl’s – everything about the pregnancy and your first child, it just infuses your life with so much meaning and that, I think, is the hardest part. It just – life feels sort of meaningless, like if that – if your greatest treasure can be taken away for no reason that you can understand. ‘Cause ultimately the only thing – when I boil it down, what I can come down to why Karl died, it was just – Lee always says it’s just like we were the unlucky ones. There’s no – it’s just like really – sometimes some random thing goes wrong and you don’t know why and you can’t explain it.

I met Amber and Lee at their apartment last February. At the time, Amber and I were both about six months pregnant. Amber gave birth to her first child, Karl, in 2015.

Anna Sale: What’s Karl’s full name?

AS: Karl Ives Scorah Towndrow. It’s a big long name for a little baby.

DSM: What do you think of when you think about when he arrived and those first days of learning how to be a mom?

AS: When Karl was born, when they put him on my chest, the very first thing he did was he craned his neck up—and I didn’t even know newborns could lift their heads like that yet—and he looked right into my eyes twice. And I just – I remember feeling stunned.

LT: I remember having this feeling where I wanted to almost consume his body. Like I wanted to lean down and hug him and just be able to absorb him into my body.

AS: It was the most connected I’d ever felt to another human being. And as Karl got a little bit older, there was these moments where sometimes he would catch my eye and stare at me and he would lock eyes and then – it was almost to the point that he would look at me so long and with so much love in his eyes, that I’d almost start to blush or – it felt like better than the best lover’s gaze that went on way too long in a movie. But this was like your child and he’s just looking at you because you knew that, sort of, you were his everything and I could tell that he felt really safe with me and that also made me feel really happy.

After Karl was born, Amber took three months of paid maternity leave from her job. But as the time drew nearer to return to work, she didn’t feel ready to go back. Lee was working freelance and they couldn’t afford for him to stop working. And Amber couldn’t quit her job, because their family depended on her health insurance. She asked the head of her HR at work about her options. There weren’t many.

AS: The only suggestion he said he could give me was to take all my vacation days that I had accrued, and that that would be allowed before I had to go back. So I did that.

Karl was just shy of four months old when Amber and Lee dropped him off for the first time at a daycare center close to Amber’s work in lower Manhattan.

AS: And of course it felt really surreal and strange to leave him, but once I took him out of the baby carrier, one of the day care assistants—one of the Spanish-speaking ladies—came over and went up to his face and smiled and said, “Hola!” And Karl just gave this big radiant smile, so I thought – I felt really reassured. I thought, “Oh, he’s gonna have a little adventure here and I’ll be back before he knows it.”

Um, I went to work. I got there around just after 9:30, I think. And the whole morning consisted of just nothing. I mean, obviously it kills me now ’cause it just seems so fruitless and ridiculous. But, you know, it’s your first day back at work after months off and the computer doesn’t work, and you’re calling the IT support, and then by the time it got close to noon, I had told the daycare operator I would come back between 12 and 12:30. And so I waited until like 12:10 and then I just couldn’t – I couldn’t wait anymore. I was too excited to go see him.

When I got to the daycare I thought it was strange but the door was – the downstairs door was open, cause it was on the second floor. I thought, “Why would the door be open when there’s children inside?” And so then I went around the corner still having no idea that anything was wrong and I just saw Karl laying on the change table and the daycare owner was performing CPR on him.

I just – like I remember – it’s such a PTSD kind of thing. Like I replay that moment over and over in my mind. But even to this day I try to like reconnect what I thought I would be seeing with what I saw and I can’t ever really wrap my mind around how I could have seen that. I mean, there’s just no words to kind of explain the turmoil – the mental turmoil of that.

Amber ran over and tried to help the daycare owner perform CPR. Karl’s lips were blue. The EMTs arrived soon after. They took Karl and Amber to the hospital. Lee met them there.

LT: I think they – they tried to resuscitate him for about two hours.

AS: Even though they were trying to revive him, they let me hold onto his foot. Like…um, but they tried for so long and, like, I just knew that there’s – they’re just doing it for us basically at this point, so that we knew that they tried.

DSM: What time was it?

AS: I don’t even know…I have no idea of concept of time.

LT: The whole…We were at the hospital a total of about eight or nine hours. Um, most of that time was spent…uh, we sat with Karl after he was pronounced dead. And so that was most of the time that…um. I can’t even really remember.

DSM: When you were sitting with him after he’d been pronounced dead, what did you do?

AS: Um, I just…I held him, like, for all that time. Basically we took turns holding him. And it’s like a weird thing because it felt like…I felt like, as long as I can hold him I can handle this or something. So we just kept holding him. But I have to say, I appreciate the hospital staff so much because they didn’t rush us. They were really supportive. Whatever we needed, they gave. And um, the nurses, like at the end, when we – before we left, one of the nurses was going off shift so she came to say goodbye. And I just…I showed her a picture that I had taken of Karl that morning. Just in his diaper before we had left for the daycare. And I mean, he just looks like the happiest, jolliest picture of a healthy baby. And um, I just said, “Oh, I just wanted to show you a picture of Karl so that you know, like, how he really looks.” And then she got tears and started to cry, too. Um, it was really, a really kind moment.

DSM: What do you understand now about what happened to Karl?

AS: I don’t understand much. I have like the last, you know, months and months and months, my mind – I don’t think there’s probably a minute in the day where I’m not thinking about some aspect or some – trying to understand, or trying to figure out, or blaming myself, or feeling guilty, or mourning over what Karl lost. But, yeah, for all of the obsessing and using all of the powers of my mind, my brain, to think about this all day long, I can’t understand to this day how he – why he died. It makes no sense to me.

You feel like there’s this direct correlation between you leaving them and them dying. Like, how could you not feel that way when it was the first time that you had left them? Um, and as a mother I started to go through every scenario thinking…My mind would just race. ‘Cause you’re mind is racing and you need an answer. As a human being, you need an answer for death. At least you need to…Even if you can’t understand death, you need to understand why a death occurred.

After several weeks of waiting, the medical examiner’s report came back. It said that the cause of Karl’s death was undetermined.

Amber says the daycare provider told her that Karl wasn’t distressed before he died. He’d been put down for a nap. A daycare worker who later checked on him found that he wasn’t breathing. Police did find that the daycare center wasn’t licensed, and that the daycare provider was not certified in CPR, although she’d claimed to be. The daycare center was closed down permanently a day after Karl died.

Coming up, Lee and Amber talk about the days and weeks following Karl’s death, and about making the decision to have another baby.

LT: I find myself continuing to think, like, “Oh okay, we’ll just get through this period, and then we’ll have Karl again.” And then I realize, like, no, no. We’re not going to have Karl again. And my mind keeps processing that information over and over again.

Hey everyone, this is Katie Bishop, producer of Death, Sex & Money. As you may or may not know, Anna is out on maternity leave at the moment — but she’ll be checking in again in the coming weeks, so tune in for that.

Last summer around this time, we put out our episode about siblings…and the very complicated feelings that we have about them. If you haven’t heard that episode, you can find it in our podcast feed or at deathsexmoney.org.

We’ve been reaching out to some of the people who we featured in that episode to find out what’s happened in their lives—and in their sibling relationships—in the past year. One of those people is Alix Sugarman. Anna talked with Alix and her twin sister Katie in the episode. And then, weeks after the episode came out…Katie died unexpectedly.

ALIX SUGARMAN: If you want to know what it’s like to have the worst day of your life and the best day of your like separated by about 11 months, that’s pretty much what this year has been like for me.

Alix got married in June. She sent in this update a few days ago.

AS: Planning a wedding while grieving is in retrospect probably a pretty bad idea because the planning process was kind of nightmarish and I think that planning a wedding while you’re grieving kind of offers this really confusing outlet for all the pain that comes with grief. But when we got to the actual wedding, there was so much joy and so much beauty and so much love. And it felt really healing to have that much joy kind of heaped on us and heaped on our family.

You can hear more updates on the siblings that we featured in our episode by signing up for our newsletter—we’ll include those in next Wednesday’s edition. Sign up at deathsexmoney.org/newsletter.

On our next episode…

KATIE HEANEY: When I want it badly enough, I can—you know, like, really steel myself and just be like, “Don’t freak out, just stay still, kiss them. Just do it!”

When we first interviewed writer Katie Heaney two years ago, Katie was really freaked out about dating. When we talked with her again more recently…a lot had changed.

KH: I remember being on the subway and looking around at all the guys. And being like, I don’t want to date any of you.

This is Death, Sex & Money from WNYC. I’m Anna Sale.

On the night that Karl died, Amber and Lee didn’t go back to their apartment. Their friends got them a hotel room. They stayed there, and then moved to another friend’s apartment for several weeks.

AS: It was particularly difficult to just imagine re-entering the house. And it just felt like a weird sort of museum frozen in time, like the sheets that Karl slept on or like the, you know – his bib with puke on it. Like everything to me was just – I couldn’t bear the thought of it.

LT: And I made a couple of trips back to the apartment to – to get things, to just try to, I think water plants and, I don’t know, hold things down.

DSM: Did you make the baby things less conspicuous before you came back?

LT: No. Well, yes and no. There was some things that I – yeah. Some baby things I put away. I mean, Amber and I talked about what things we wanted to leave out.

AS: I kind of wanted – I didn’t – I was scared to go back but then I also wanted everything to stay intact. I know – I’ve met other people since this happened that had a baby die and I know a lot of them kept the baby’s room exactly how it was. And I think that before this had happened I probably would have found that maybe surprising or maybe thought that was strange. But now I can understand exactly why people do that. Because it’s all you have of them. Like, you have no…Of course, you have all your memories but it’s the one physical manifestation that you have of them.

DSM: When you think about your relationship in the weeks and then months after Karl died, were you mirroring each other’s emotions or were you feeling different things at different points in your grief?

LT: We were feeling different things at different points.

AS: Yeah, I mean, I think everyone grieves differently, and then I think a mother will grieve differently than a father. I mean, at the very beginning, one of the really difficult things as a woman and being – having been living with – like, Karl was like an appendage and like even just breastfeeding. And like suddenly your baby’s not there and your body’s still producing milk. Like, I felt like my body had been torn apart. Like something had been torn off of me. Even physically. But for Lee, the grief, I think was just as intense but in different ways.

LT: For me it was like um – the first week or two was total shock and adrenaline. Like, I just thought, “I have to try to get things back in order.” So I was just trying to kind of take care of all of the practical issues.

In those first few weeks after their son’s death, Amber and Lee were also dealing with a lot of media attention. As the daycare center was being investigated, the story was everywhere, from Gawker to The Daily Mail.

LT: Like, it felt like the whole city knew that our baby had died in a matter of a day or so. And all of a sudden I felt like my personal life had just been blown wide open. And so I wanted to try – just try to kind of – I felt a lot of pressure to reassure everybody that it’s going to be okay. So that’s the mode that I snapped into. And I went back to work really fast because – ’cause I was terrified that I would have some kind of scarlet letter. And I remember kind of feeling like I had to just postpone grief. And it was really hard. And we had – luckily we had two – we each started seeing a grief counselor right after, and that was so helpful, because it allowed…At least I can say, in my case, it allowed me an outlet to talk about these things that I was going through. And so for me the grieving almost happened like in January. Like I just didn’t really see any friends or do anything and I just felt so depressed and awful.

DSM: You just ran out of energy.

LT: Yeah. Yeah.

DSM: When did you have a conversation about trying to get pregnant again?

LT: I mean, it was days after Karl died.

AS: I was like, “I have to have another baby.” I mean, at the beginning it was just, like, I would do anything to have Karl back at that point, and then you’re like, “I can’t control anything about this situation, but the only thing I can control is that maybe I can have another child.”

DSM: I hadn’t really thought about how when you lose a child so young, how it makes perfect rational sense that your impulse is to get pregnant again, to have another newborn.

AS: Yeah.

DSM: Is that something that you…Like, is that something that grief counselors know about? Like, have talked with you about? Is that a phenomenon that happens?

AS: From as far as the other women I know that have lost children, right now, two of the women that I knew that lost children at the same time as me are also pregnant now. And all of us have gone through the exact same emotions. Like wanting a baby really badly, getting pregnant, and then being like – putting on the brakes and being like, “Oh my goodness,” like, “I don’t even know if I should be doing this.” And like crying all the time, because the pregnancy hormones intensify the feelings of grief. Which I guess I should have known but I didn’t really think about. And then initially I think because you don’t know this child yet, you can’t help but feel…I keep just thinking I want Karl back. And then knowing it’s not Karl. And then feeling guilty that I seem to only want this one child. Of course I know logically…when the baby – when the baby comes out and you meet them, it’s not gonna – you’re going to love them just as much. Everyone knows that. But, um. I don’t know how you describe the emotions of grief. I mean, they’re just like this blanket that just smothers you. But what I have heard from women who have been through this and then went on to have other children, they all said that it never ever fills the hole that you have from losing the one that you did lose. But a little bit of the sadness is taken away. Because at least you have a baby to hold at the beginning. Like, even if it’s just that, that’s something.

DSM: Do you know the sex of the baby?

AS: Yeah. It’s a girl.

DSM: How did it feel to find that out?

AS: Um, that was hard because both Lee and I I think wanted a boy. There’s just this longing to somehow have something of what was lost.

LT: Like Amber I think we thought, “Oh we’ll have another baby and it’ll be like we have Karl back! Or sort of like some aspect of his essence.” And so then I thought, “Maybe it’s good that she’s a girl and then it’s very clear that it’s a completely distinct thing.”

DSM: Do you think you’ll handle parental leave differently with this birth?

LT: Um, yeah, I mean – well, one thing is that the work situation has changed a little bit for me. I’m the one with healthcare now, so I have it for the whole family. And, yeah, I definitely want to try to make sure that, at least for a year, Amber can be taking care of Karl.

AS: Karl…

LT: Sorry. With the baby. It’s hard. Yeah, I mean it’s one of the main things that we talk about all the time, is how are we going to handle this differently.

DSM: Have you thought about how you’ll tell your daughter about your son?

AS: Yeah, I’ve thought about that, but I think that – I kind of feel like nothing will change from how we are now, because Lee and I just talk about Karl all the time. And even with my friends, I talk about Karl and memories. Or like, just whatever I’m thinking about about Karl. So I can’t imagine it being any different with her. And she’ll know what happened. Um, but I don’t think that it’ll be something we hide from her or shield her from. ‘Cause I kind of think that that’s unfair. I mean, it’s a really sad thing but it’s part of her family history and part of just what becomes a life – her own life story. Of course I want her to think of Karl as her big brother.

That’s Amber Scorah and her partner Lee Towndrow. Karl’s little sister was born in June. Her name is Sevi. She has a full head of dark hair, just like Karl.

Death Sex and Money is a listener-supported production of WNYC Studios. The team includes Katie Bishop, Chester Jesus Soria, Emily Botein, and Andrew Dunn.

Our interns are Carson Frame and Brandy Gonzalez.

The Reverend John Delore and Steve Lewis wrote our theme music.

I’m on twitter @annasale, the show is @deathsexmoney.

If you’ve experienced the loss of an infant or pregnancy and are looking for help, visit nationalshare.org. It’s an organization that supports and connects those who are grieving the loss of pregnancies and young children.

Since Karl’s death, Amber and Lee have become advocates for paid parental leave. According to the US Department of Labor…only 12 percent of people working in the private sector currently have access to it. Amber says that although she WAS part of that small percentage…she still feels very connected to the issue.

AS: Obviously ours is a worst case scenario. It’s a nightmare for any parent. And it’s not going to happen to most parents. But if a parent doesn’t feel ready, the parent should not be forced to drop their kid off at a daycare and go to work at such a young age. At least I wouldn’t be wondering what happened, or not knowing what Karl went through in the last minutes of his life.

I’m Anna Sale and this is Death, Sex & Money from WNYC.

A Year After Son’s Day Care Death, Parents Are Starting Over

Last summer, Amber Scorah and Lee Towndrow experienced every parent’s worst nightmare. After three months of bliss with their first baby, Karl, they nervously enrolled him in day care after parental leave and vacation days ran out. And on Karl’s very first day at the facility—within the first three hours—he inexplicably passed away. Scorah visited the New York City day care center for a drop-in visit during her lunch break to find employees performing CPR on her son.

Scorah shared Karl’s story in an emotional essay for The New York Times, highlighting the need for a cultural shift among new parents and the companies they work for.

“This article isn’t about day-care safety. This isn’t an indictment of the company I work for; I had one of the better parental leave policies of anyone I know,” Scorah wrote. “What this article is about is that my infant died in the care of a stranger, when he should have been with me. Our culture demanded it.”

Scorah and Towndrow opened up about what the last year has been like on Anna Sale’s WNYC podcast Death, Sex & Money. The biggest change in their lives? They welcomed a baby girl, Sevi, in June.

Although they discussed having another child just days after Karl passed away, the couple understandably approached this pregnancy with a great deal of trepidation.

“I was like, ‘I have to have another baby,’ Scorah said, who was six months pregnant at the time of the podcast interview. “Two of the women that I know that lost children at the same time as me are also pregnant now. And all of us have gone through the exact same emotions: wanting a baby really badly, getting pregnant, and then—putting on the brakes and being like, ‘Oh my goodness, I don’t even know if I should be doing this.’”

“I remember, when we were pregnant with Karl, we had a total sense of innocence about everything,” Towndrow recalled. “And then I remember when was born, I was taking a whole bunch of pictures at that time. Because I thought, ‘How is it that everything looks so beautiful?’ I was totally high! And it’s been really hard to get as excited this time.”

Although the couple got pregnant again rather quickly, they said it was initially hard to process the news that they were expecting a daughter.

“I think we thought, ‘Oh, we’ll have another baby and it’ll be like we have Karl back! Or sort of like some aspect of his essence,” Towndrow said. “Maybe it’s good that she’s a girl and then it’s very clear that it’s a completely distinct thing.”

This time, things will be different. Because Towndrow now has health insurance coverage for the whole family, Scorah plans to stay home with Sevi for at least a year.

“A mother should never have no choice but to leave her infant with a stranger at 3 months old if that decision doesn’t feel right to her. Or at 6 weeks old. Or 3 weeks old,” Scorah wrote in her The New York Times essay. Both she and Towndrow are now ardent parental leave advocates. “I would have stayed home with Karl longer, but there just didn’t seem to be a way. And I knew well enough that a million other mothers in America before me had faced the same choice and had done the same, even earlier than I had, though it tortured them emotionally, or physically, to do so.”

Even now, a year later, the couple still doesn’t understand why Karl died. The medical examiner’s report came back inconclusive.

“I don’t understand much. I don’t think there’s a minute in the day where I’m not thinking about some aspect…or blaming myself, or feeling guilty, or mourning over what Karl lost,” Scorah said in the podcast. “But for all of the obsessing…I can’t understand to this day how or why he died. It makes no sense to me. You feel like there’s this direct correlation between you leaving them and them dying.”

As if to share that lack of understanding, Scorah said she made it a point to show a nurse who tried to help resuscitate Karl a picture of him from the morning of his death.

“I showed her a picture that I had taken of Karl that morning. Just in his diaper before we had left for the day care,” she said. “And I mean, he just looks like the happiest, jolliest picture of a healthy baby. I just said, ‘Oh, I just wanted to show you a picture of Karl so that you know, like, how he really looks.’ And then she got tears and started to cry, too. It was a really kind moment.”

Scorah and Towndrow said they plan to tell Sevi about Karl and how he died.

“She’ll know what happened,” Scorah said. “I don’t think that it’ll be something we hide from her or shield her from because I kind of think that’s unfair. It’s a really sad thing but it’s part of her family history. Of course I want her to think of Karl as her big brother.”

PHOTO: Go Fund Me

‘Leaving The Witness’: The End Of The World As She Knew It, Upon Losing Her Religion

Leaving the Witness

Exiting a Religion and Finding a Life

by Amber Scorah

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As a third-generation Jehovah’s Witness, Amber Scorah believed she had the answer to life’s biggest questions. The answer was Armageddon, and it predetermined everything.

“If the world is ending, why would you go to college?” Scorah says in an interview. “Why would you get a career?”

So, she didn’t. Instead, like every other member of the church, she dedicated her life to spreading the word.

Scorah was married at age 22, and she and her husband moved to China to work as missionaries. Everything had to be secret — such preaching was illegal in China. And for most of her time in Shanghai, the work to save souls was exhilarating.

“It’s almost like you’ve won an existential argument,” she says. “There’s nothing like taking someone, especially someone that has a totally different frame of reference, totally different belief system, and seeing them change their mind. It’s almost so affirming. Like … ‘I definitely have the truth.'”

But then a series of events left Amber Scorah less sure of the truth. They led to her loss of faith and her own personal apocalypse. Having started over, she has written about it in a new memoir called Leaving the Witness: Exiting a Religion and Finding a Life.

While in Shanghai, Scorah began working at a startup called ChinesePod, which offers an online Mandarin language course. (She is fluent in Mandarin.) There, she eventually developed and hosted the podcast Dear Amber: The Insider’s Guide to Everything China. But among her initial tasks was to moderate the site’s active online forum, where she started corresponding with someone with the username Taipan — real name Jonathan.

“So, Jonathan was one of the listeners, and it was nothing,” Scorah says. “I didn’t intend to develop any kind of deeper relationship with him, but we just started talking every day. The topics started very innocently, but later evolved into more deep subjects.”

Amber Scorah writes about exiting the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Leaving the Witness. Lee Towndrow/Viking hide caption

toggle caption Lee Towndrow/Viking

Amber Scorah writes about exiting the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Leaving the Witness.

Lee Towndrow/Viking

The subjects included the very foundations of her religion.

“I did reveal to him at some point what my religion was … later he told me that already he had Jehovah’s Witnesses on his radar as his fifth favorite cult,” Scorah says, laughing. “So he just did what I wouldn’t have thought of doing, which was to educate myself about my religion outside the framework of what I was allowed to read — which was our own organization’s publications.”

To be fair, she says, she was already having doubts about her worldview before talking to Jonathan.

“For example, being in this foreign culture and sitting down, speaking Chinese, another language — a language that basically causes you to have to revamp your entire way of thinking in order to speak it — had started to make me hear the things that I was teaching for the first time with new ears,” Scorah says. “And I realized that some of the things sounded kind of crazy. And also, I started to feel a little arrogant, because these people had thousands of years of cultural history and wisdom. And here I was with my 100-or-so-year-old religion telling them to just throw that all away for this.”

But it was Jonathan who made her directly confront her beliefs. The deep conversations continued. And on a trip back to North America, she finally met Jonathan, and they became physically intimate. She says there was something that “propelled” her to this “point of no return.”

“It’s funny — I didn’t go see Jonathan with the intent of ending my marriage,” Scorah says. “However, it’s a very strange thing: When you’re in a religion and your whole worldview is this apocalyptic worldview, the only ending you know is apocalypse. … And my religion is not one that you can just slink out of, especially given the position I was in. I was a pioneer missionary; I was married to an elder; I was in this foreign land, there for preaching. If I just tried to walk away, it doesn’t work like that. People aren’t going to be, like, ‘Oh, what happened to Amber?’ “

Declared an apostate, Scorah was shunned by her husband, friends, family and the majority of her community. It didn’t work out with Jonathan either.

“There was no other way for it to end than to have a new beginning,” she says. “And also, I was just reading something where someone was talking about: You can never have change without loss. You know, people always say they want their life to change, but they don’t change their life because they’re afraid of loss. You can’t have one without the other.”

At the end of her memoir, the narrative takes a sharp turn. Scorah moves to New York, falls in love, has a son. Then she suffers a different kind of trauma. On the very first day of sending her son to day care, he dies suddenly, hours after she had left him there. He was 3 months old.

“I don’t know how to describe the anguish,” Scorah says. “The devastation was complete on every level. But as far as just finding meaning — it’s interesting, because when I was a Jehovah’s Witness, we had the answers to all life’s disturbing questions, including: What happens when someone dies? Why would an innocent child die? Why would God allow that to happen? But the reality is … if you have answers to all of life’s questions, yes, it feels very meaningful, but if those answers aren’t true, then that’s also meaningless.

“There’s a way through these kinds of things without religion. And I think mostly, I think it has to do with other people, and with love. That’s what’s brought meaning to life again for me.”

Life goes on for Scorah. She and her partner have a 3-year-old daughter now. And she says she has “gratitude” for the experience she went through.

“I have so much gratitude to China because I know, for a fact, if I had not been in China, I would have still been a Jehovah’s Witness who was thinking the world was going to end every day, and basically using my life for something that was effectually a myth,” Scorah says.

She says she hopes to visit China again to visit Jean, a former student in her Bible study who never became a Jehovah’s Witness but did become a friend. Jean, she says, also has a daughter now; everyone hopes for a reunion.

Karina Pauletti and Reena Advani produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Patrick Jarenwattananon adapted it for the Web.

The parent, Jacqui Cousin, wrote on the blog, “It is amazing to see how far” her son had come since starting day care. Ms. Strautmanis, originally from Canada, has weathered other times of turbulence. She and her husband, Vincent Strautmanis, had filed for bankruptcy in 2005. That same year, Mr. Strautmanis pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit bank fraud for taking $950,000 from JP Morgan Chase Bank, according to court records. He was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison, as well as three years of supervised release.

It was after Mr. Strautmanis’s company closed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that his wife began caring for the children of others in their loft, she said on her website. On Monday, Ms. Scorah, a writer who works on developing children’s educational products at Scholastic, had dropped her son off in the morning, planning to come back around noon to feed him. A worker at the day care fed him and put him down for a nap. Just before 12:15 p.m., she checked on him and found his lips blue. It was then that the police were called.

Karl was taken to Lenox Hill HealthPlex in Greenwich Village, where he was pronounced dead soon after. Reached by phone on Tuesday, Ms. Strautmanis declined to comment.

On Ms. Scorah’s Instagram account, Karl smiled in almost every photograph: Karl on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, Karl outside the White House, Karl next to a sign advertising a book talk for the author Karl Ove Knausgaard. Ms. Scorah is an occasional contributor to Gothamist and other publications, and has been working on a book. Mr. Towndrow is a cinematographer, photographer and visual effects artist who shot parts of “Going Clear,” the HBO documentary about Scientology.

“Karl was beloved by his parents, who doted on him every moment,” read a statement released by the family on an online fund-raising page created by friends. “He was their joy and brought happiness to everyone who met him. His family and friends are grieving but are taking comfort in knowing they knew this sweet, innocent soul, even if it was all too brief.”

Investigation Into Boy’s Death at Illegal Day Care Ends With No Answers

A police officer seen outside 69 Greene St., where a 3-month-old Karl Towndrow died in July. View Full Caption DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

SOHO — The city’s medical examiner closed the investigation into the death of 3-month-old baby Karl Towndrow after nearly three months without being able to determine how or why he died, DNAinfo New York has learned.

Karl Towndrow died on July 13 at an unlicensed day care center run by Maryellen Strautmanis out of her apartment at 69 Greene St.

Strautmanis told police that she put Karl down for a nap and turned her attention to the 14 other children in her loft, and didn’t check on him until 25 minutes later. By the time she did, his lips were blue and he wasn’t breathing, she told police.

City regulations require day care workers to check on sleeping infants every 15 minutes.

The M.E.’s official conclusion is that the cause and manner of death are “undetermined,” according to a spokeswoman for the M.E.’s office.

That classification is used in cases where the office has exhausted all relevant and available testing and reviewed all available information and is still unable to say with certainty how and why a person died.

A spokesman for the Manhattan District Attorney’s office said only that their investigation is continuing.

Sources said it is unclear what, if any, impact the M.E.’s conclusion will have on the criminal investigation.

Even if there is no crime, sources said, the infant’s death may result in action by the city to tighten its inspection and oversight of the child care industry.

The oversight is as much a problem for the state as it is for the city, however, as the state licenses all home-based day cares.

But the city DOH is responsible for inspecting all day cares, including those licensed by the state.

The agency had in fact received a tip about Strautmanis’ operation, however the investigator dispatched to follow up on it claimed to have seen no signs of a day care center while standing outside the building and talking to local businesses. The Department of Investigation and the Manhattan DA launched an investigation into those claims after Karl’s death. That investigation is ongoing as well, sources said.

The Department of Health has also also created a special unit tasked with probing day cares.

Day care where baby died operated for 14 years without license, NYPD says

The city’s medical examiner needs further testing to determine what killed a 3-month-old baby inside an unlicensed SoHo day care after the initial autopsy was performed Tuesday, authorities said.

It was baby Karl Towndrow’s first visit to a day care center at 69 Greene Street, which has been operating for about 14 years without a license, said Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce at an unrelated news conference.

His mother, who worked nearby, dropped him off and was supposed to come back to feed him at around noon. But just before 12:15 p.m., police got the harrowing call: Karl’s lips had turned blue.

“At some point the mother was supposed to come back, who worked nearby … to feed the baby at around noon. Before that happened this occurred,” Boyce said. “Originally the child was fed by one of the workers there and afterward she discovered the baby’s lips had turned blue and rushed him to the hospital.

“The mother worked nearby and she had recommendations of the location from people who worked in the community,” Boyce added.

The child, who’s family lives in Brooklyn Heights, was taken to Lenox Hill Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The nursery was closed Tuesday, Boyce said. During the chaos on Monday, there were about 15 children ranging from about 3 months old to 3 years old as well as four employees, including the owner, at the day care.

A fundraising page for Karl was set up on the site gofundme: Remembering Karl Towndrow. The page had raised more than $3,000 by Tuesday afternoon.

“Karl was beloved by his parents, who doted on him every moment,” someone wrote on the fundraising page. “He was their joy and brought happiness to everyone who met him. His family and friends are grieving but are taking comfort in knowing they knew this sweet, innocent soul, even if it was all too brief.”

The money would go toward funeral expenses and support for the family, according to the page.

Photo The author with her son Karl before his death.Credit Lee Towndrow

As he did most mornings of the 117 days of his life, the first thing Karl did that Monday morning in July was to give me a smile like sunlight. He lay in the bed for a while, between his dad and me, looking from one of us to the other, working himself up with gurgles of delight. That morning, which started the same as all his others, would be a little different, however: it was his mommy’s first day back at work.

In comparison with the other new mothers I knew, I felt lucky to have three months’ paid maternity leave after Karl was born. 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. I noticed how he looked to me to learn things and make sense of his world. I could tell how safe and secure he felt. Though it was a hard and tiring time, every minute with Karl felt like an investment in his current and future well-being. Not to mention I was hopelessly tickled with him.

As the end of my leave drew near, I asked my company for more time off, without pay. I was told by the HR department that there was no system in place that allowed for extending maternity leaves. I went higher up the chain. Just two more months? There was nothing that could be done. The only option would be to quit.

I contemplated it. By the time I paid for child care in New York City, I was barely making much take-home pay anyway. But what compounded the financial concern was that if I quit, I would lose our health insurance. Lee, my partner, works freelance and Karl was covered under my work insurance.

We are luckier than many: We sat down and did the math and maybe Lee’s wages could cover rent and food for a few months, but certainly not that as well as the cost of health insurance for a family of three, not to mention the portion we would be on the hook for in the case of a medical emergency. On top of that, I was very concerned about losing my job. I don’t have a degree, and though I’ve managed to carve out a position at a publishing company, the memory of the year I spent unemployed, trying unsuccessfully to get my résumé past the algorithms of online applications, loomed large. If I did it again, it would be with a little child in tow.

Lee’s quitting was out of the question. There was no way we could pay all our bills on my salary, which is lower than his.

So we did the best, most responsible-seeming thing we could think of. After a long search, many waiting lists, interviews and a great deal of angst, we settled on a day care near my workplace. With this day care, I could still go over at lunch and breastfeed Karl, and have a visit with him, so we would never be apart more than a few hours. And the day care was recommended by many moms I knew who had similar circumstances to mine. It felt like a loving, safe space for Karl.

I justified it a million ways, as one justifies when one has run out of alternatives. He is an only child and maybe he would like to play with these other children. There are other babies who have been there since they were 6 weeks old, and Karl is 15 weeks. He is strong and has never been sick a day in his life!. It’s not like he’s going to die!

But no matter how I tried to make myself feel better, it felt bad.

That Monday morning, Lee entertained Karl while I rushed to shower and get his things ready. I put Karl in his baby carrier and his dad and I headed into the city on the subway. I felt propelled down the street, swept into the train, carried along by a system that gave me no choice but to submit to the inevitability of any working mother of an infant in America. For Karl’s part, he was curious and unconcerned, looking around, smiling. In the subway car, someone offered me a seat, and I loosened the straps of the carrier, struggling to get my curious baby to focus on nursing. With this extra bit of subway feeding time, he could arrive with a full stomach. And this extra few minutes of nursing each day would help keep my milk supply up, now that I would be pumping my milk to fill bottles. I pulled up a baby blanket to block the man next to me from seeing my exposed breast on his morning commute.

We arrived at the day care by 9:30. The day-care assistant came to Karl with arms outstretched and said, “Hola!” Karl studied her face and flashed a big smile. The day-care owner told a joke that was probably told to all new parents dropping their babies off on the first day: The worst thing that could happen was he would get hit by a fire truck — since once a toddler had hit a baby with a toy truck on his first day. I felt reassured. This was what everyone did, how everyone felt.

I returned to the day care at 12:15 to nurse Karl. I was so excited to see him, I ran the two blocks there from the office. As I took the stairs by twos to the second floor, I noticed that the door to the day care was propped open. It seemed odd to me — that they would leave the door open, with so many toddlers inside. 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.

Our sweet son died two and a half hours after the first time I had left him.

Would Karl have died if he had been with me that morning? The medical examiner finished her report last week and the conclusion is: undetermined.

What is determined is that at 11:50 a.m. the day-care assistant saw my baby kicking his legs and brought it to the attention of the day-care owner. The day-care owner dismissed the assistant, telling her not to go over to check him. “Babies kick their legs in their sleep all the time,” she said. Twenty minutes later, my baby was dead. If the day-care assistant had gone over and picked him up, checked on him, would Karl be alive? I don’t know. The day-care owner had also put Karl down to sleep on his side, which is a known unsafe sleep position. Had he been put down on his back to sleep, would he be alive? I don’t know.

I will have to live with questioning this for the rest of my life.

What I do know is that had I been with my 3-month-old son, I would have gone over and checked on him at that moment. What I also know is that my son would have been safely on his back to sleep, if not sleeping on me, as he loved to do on all our days home together.

Regardless of the answers I will never have, the question I now ask is: Should parents have to play this roulette with their weeks-old infant? To do all they can possibly do to ensure that their baby is safe, only to be relying on a child-care worker’s competence or attentiveness or mood that day?

This article isn’t about day-care safety. This isn’t an indictment of the company I work for; I had one of the better parental leave policies of anyone I know. What this article is about is that my infant died in the care of a stranger, when he should have been with me. Our culture demanded it.

A mother should never have no choice but to leave her infant with a stranger at 3 months old if that decision doesn’t feel right to her. Or at 6 weeks old. Or 3 weeks old. I would have stayed home with Karl longer, but there just didn’t seem to be a way. And I knew well enough that a million other mothers in America before me had faced the same choice and had done the same, even earlier than I had, though it tortured them emotionally, or physically, to do so.

Of course, had I conceived in my wildest nightmare that leaving Karl might mean losing him, I would have sacrificed anything. I would have quit my job. I would have carried him around on my back collecting recycling cans and bottles. Endured any economic hardship. List all the wildest alternatives, you’re not coming up with anything that isn’t on my list of “if onlies.” But the sad truth is, even though I am possibly one of the world’s most imaginatively anxious mothers, I never thought of the possibility that my baby would die that morning. And no wonder, because unexplained infant death is rare, and parental leave in the vast majority of cases is not an issue of life and death. But I am now asking: Why, why does a parent in this country have to sacrifice her job, her ability to provide her child with proper health care —- or for many worse off than me, enough food to eat — to buy just a few more months to nurture a child past the point of vulnerability?

I wasn’t just up against the end of my parental leave. I was up against an entire culture that places very little value on caring for infants and small children. Parental leave reduces infant death, gives us healthier, more well-adjusted adults and helps women stay in the workforce. 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. Health care could be available to bridge that return to work so that our children could get their wellness checkups and vaccinations.

Yes, it’s possible that even in a different system, Karl still might not have lived a day longer, but had he had been with me, where I wanted him, I wouldn’t be sitting here, living with the nearly incapacitating anguish of a question that has no answer.

There are plenty of good examples of how to create a national parental leave system that works. Our children can’t afford lobbyists. It’s up to us parents to demand more.

Walking Away from Religion Made the Loss of Her Baby Boy Even More Devastating

Amber Scorah was raised a Jehovah’s Witness and remained devout for much of her life until she became an adult and stopped believing in God. She realized she had been “wholly deceived by religion,” but after several years, she was done mourning the loss of faith. It was time to move on for good.

That’s not easy, especially when you’re a Witness, since it means saying goodbye to your family and friends as well. Her new memoir Leaving the Witness: Exiting a Religion and Finding a Life covers a lot of that part of her life.

But in an excerpt from the book, posted at the New York Times, Scorah writes about something more devastating. She had a son who died, unexpectedly and without explanation, at four months old.

Suddenly she had to deal with unspeakable grief without the safety net of religion.

Each word of hope or faith I read seemed absurd, like a fairy tale. The mothers of kidnapped children know in their bones when their child is somewhere, out there, alive. My bones knew that mine was not.

What I had not anticipated about the cost of losing my faith was that it would no longer be possible to deceive myself. I could no longer make a pact with any higher being. No hours of service could convince a God that I deserved to have this child again. Whatever I had done to deserve him once, I was not worthy of him twice.

I am not saying there is no God, but I am saying no God would do this to someone.

Any atheist who’s gone through a loss — certainly of a child — can relate. Trading false hope for reality has its down sides.

Incidentally, the website Grief Beyond Belief has a lot of resources for atheists who just lost a loved one. It began because a woman lost her infant son and went through a mourning process very similar to Scorah’s.

One thing that’s unique to Scorah’s story, though, is the Witness past. She says that some of those Witnesses who heard about her loss reached out to her even though she was an “apostate.” The conversations were short and awkward, partly because she knew what they were thinking.

I was keenly aware that they walked away certain that they would be the ones to hold my son after Judgment Day, because I would not be there. They would look after him and tell him about his tragic lost mother, who gave him up because she could no longer believe. I know this is what they think, because I would have thought the same.

Religion: It can provide you with comfort after losing a loved one… or it can make the process even more devastating. I’m grateful that Scorah is able to share her story since it will undoubtedly help others who find themselves in the worst moment of their lives.

Her memoir will come out on Tuesday.

(Image via )

About a year ago New York mum, Amber Scorah, returned to work after nearly four months of maternity leave. She dropped her three month old son Karl in daycare for the first time and when she returned to breastfeed him a few hours later he was unconscious and a childcare worker was attempting CPR on him.

Karl was pronounced dead that day at the hospital. The medical examiner could not determine the cause of death. The story of the baby who died on his first day at childcare went around the world. It was so utterly tragic. It also tapped into the fears every mother has who leaves her child in care when she returns to work. What is the real cost of me to my family returning to my job? What am I doing to my child by putting them into care? Is this the right age to leave them? Am I doing the right thing?

Amber Scorah and her husband, Lee Towndrow, have become vocal advocates of maternity leave rights for parents in the US. Scorah says she wasn’t ready to return to work but if she didn’t she would have lost her job and the family’s health insurance.

Friday night flowers #KarlIves #Brooklyn

A photo posted by Amber Scorah (@amberscorah) on Jul 10, 2015 at 4:22pm PDT

Amber with her baby Karl.

Scorah and Towndrow had a baby girl last month. A little girl called Sevi. This week Amber Scorah spoke on the podcast Death, Sex and Money about the day she dropped Karl off for his first day at daycare.

She says she geared herself up on the morning thinking, “Everyone does this. This is just sort of one of those first rites of passage of parenthood that you have go through”.

And of course it felt really surreal and strange to leave him, but once I took him out of the baby carrier, one of the day care assistants—one of the Spanish-speaking ladies—came over and went up to his face and smiled and said, “Hola!” And Karl just gave this big radiant smile, so I thought – I felt really reassured. I thought, “Oh, he’s gonna have a little adventure here and I’ll be back before he knows it.”