Karl Ives Scorah Towndrow was born last spring to parents Amber Scorah and Lee Towndrow. Neither of them were prepared for how deeply they would fall in love with their first child. "I remember having this feeling where I wanted to almost...absorb him into my body," Lee remembered. "As Karl got a little bit older," Amber told me, "There were these moments where sometimes he would catch my eye and stare at me...so long and with so much love in his eyes, that I’d almost start to blush."
Amber and Lee's time with Karl was intense, but brief. Karl died when he was almost four months old, while he was at his first day of daycare. He stopped breathing after being put down for a nap. Weeks after Karl's passing, the medical examiner's office said the cause of Karl's death was undetermined. Because it was unlicensed, the daycare was shut down the day after Karl died.
When we talked in February, Amber said she couldn't stop thinking about why her son died, and whether it was somehow her fault. "You feel like there's this direct correlation between you leaving them and them dying," she told me. "As a human being, you need an answer for death. Even if you can't understand death, you need to understand why a death occurred." And as Amber struggled through the first few days and weeks after Karl's death, Lee says he felt like he had to postpone his own grieving process. "I felt a lot of pressure to reassure everybody that it’s going to be okay," he told me. "It was really hard."
Lee says he was eventually able to grieve, almost six months after Karl died. And while Amber says that she and Lee have mourned Karl's loss differently, they did agree that they both wanted to have another child. At the time of our interview, Amber was six months pregnant—this time, with a girl. "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," she told me. "But a little bit of the sadness is taken away."
Since Karl's death, Amber and Lee have become advocates for paid parental leave. You can find out more at their website, forkarl.com.