A mother of an angel is just a different kind of mother. You’ve got to stand up and use your voice, and I use her voice as my own.
[Trump] better get himself on record, because every family in America is waiting to hear.
"I think that no mother wants to leave their baby. I had a connection with Shepard that I had never had with another newborn. He talked to me all day. He would just talk, talk, talk, he would talk back to me…I don’t know — he was just the most perfect baby. I think that probably moms who lose their kids think that. "I was so grateful, and I think that I was so indebted to get back to work. So I felt like I had this extreme obligation, if that makes sense. But it literally tears a new mom in two when you have [this] extreme indebtedness to your work, who has given you this unpaid time off, and then you have this extreme responsibility of this new, small life. "Coming off maternity leave is easy for no mother. Obviously, paid would make it less of a financial burden, but it’s really no different. So, it was my second Monday back to work and Shepard had his first runny nose. He wasn’t sick by any stretch of the imagination. But I took him to day care and he ended up being swaddled in a Velcro swaddle, put in another child’s car seat, completely unbuckled, put in another room on the floor, in a car seat, unsupervised for two hours. When the daycare owner went and checked on him, he was completely blue.
Amber is a Democrat and I am a Republican, but this transcends any party divide. This isn’t about politics.
"I honestly haven’t met a family that doesn’t believe this is an issue. I think we’re scared to try something and do something terrible, but we have to fix it. We are going to have to be really brave and try something. I think there are more than 130,000 people [that] want to be brave with us. But let’s do something. We can’t just keep leaving these infants and these families hanging. "Amber and I had a better situation than most. We could afford to be off. One, because I saved money, and two, because she had paid leave. But most mothers go back well before we did. 25% of them go back in two weeks. "88% of people are like me, we have no access to paid leave. And this time — I am eight months pregnant now — I have no access."
How does it feel to be expecting again?
"I think it is terrifying. I have moments of happiness and joy, but it has been mostly terrifying because of the situation I faced. I can’t go back to work in 30 days. I can’t do this to my infant. I can’t do this to myself. Only a mother who is like me, who has stood in my shoes, who has lost a baby in day care, could even fathom what I have gone through in the last year and four months. And then to become pregnant again without planning to — I definitely did not do this to myself to prove a point. "I swallowed my pride and am letting my parents help us, which is a horribly hard decision for me. Honestly, it’s embarrassing because I know most women don’t have that choice, either. I’m just lucky. "I have to do more. I am 34 weeks pregnant and I’ll be trudging through New York. I don’t think we will get to talk to Trump or any of his staff — I wish we could, but I don’t think we’ll be able to. We just haven’t gotten any response. As a conservative, even if I don’t decide to vote for him, I'm just disappointed about that. But the Clinton campaign has been a lot nicer and agreed to accept our petition and meet with us afterwards. At least they’re willing to talk."
It’s very hard to sometimes get involved in the political realm because a lot of us feel so jaded, we feel like our voice doesn’t matter, we feel like our vote doesn’t count.
"As far as I know, he really hasn’t. He’s made a statement about [how] he felt like paid leave could be a benefit to businesses, because it makes them more competitive. And just a couple weeks ago, he talked about making child care more affordable by making it a tax deduction. "I feel like he’s dipped his toes in the water, but I feel, so far, has been unwilling to really address the problem. Because even if you make child care affordable, we are still separating families at the height of infant death. We know most infants who die in the U.S. die between two and four months, which is when most moms go back to work. That’s why paid family leave is so important, to give us more time before separation, to keep our infants safe, and ultimately to change things so Amber and my stories aren’t repeated." Why is it so important for you to deliver this petition in person to Trump and Clinton’s offices?
"I’m just doing everything I can. I’ve had a little bit of success in my state in terms of passing laws. I know relationships are made in person, so I couldn’t bear to do this by email or by telephone. I’m putting my mouth where my money is, I guess. There is just no substitute for personal interaction, and I think it’s incredibly important that I am here in person on Monday."
"Shepard will always be important to me. I will always love him. And these small things I am trying to do to create big change, we’re doing it not only to honor their lives, but to honor all of the other lives that [we] have lost, before and after. To make sure that it stops happening, or at the very least, that it happens less." You’re expecting a baby girl. What’s your biggest hope for your daughter and for your family going forward?
"I say this a lot, maybe too much. But I do not want to look into my daughter’s eyes and say, I could have done something, but I chose not to. I could have tried to change paid family leave for you, but I chose not to. I decided it was too hard. I don’t want us to look in our kids’ eyes and think, We could have done something and chose not to. When I think of her, I think, I am doing this for her, so she doesn’t have to go through what I have gone through." What’s your call to action for other women, for other moms, to get directly involved and help?
"Everyone can call their national and state representatives and send them an email and say, ‘I want this done and I wanted it done yesterday.’ We are the only industrialized nation that doesn’t offer any kind of paid leave. Let’s figure out how we can catch up — even if they’re small steps, let’s start taking them. Figure out how to start taking them, and email me back with your ideas. We have to start holding people accountable. "It’s very hard, sometimes, get involved in the political realm, because a lot of us feel so jaded, we feel like our voice doesn’t matter, we feel like our vote doesn’t count. We feel like those emails get deleted at the end of the week. But if we sit and do nothing, that’s the worst. We will find a way. I don’t think any of the efforts Amber or I have made over the last year are wasted…this is a family issue. Moms and dads should stand together and say, ‘Our babies deserve more. Our children deserve better. Let’s fix this.'" Refinery29 covered the petition delivery live. Watch the full video, below:
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity. It was originally published at 9:36 a.m. on August 22, 2016.