News10NBC Investigates: “It’s like it never happened” Mothers of stillborn children denied paid family leave

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — A News10NBC investigation shows the help families were promised during pregnancy disappears when their baby’s heartbeat stops.

“The best time in my life became the worst time in my life,” Samantha Palermo said at her home in Brockport.

After years struggling to get pregnant, Samantha and her partner Adam experienced a miracle. She was going to have a baby boy.

They did all the planning and she got approved for paid family leave for her maternity.

But after 35 weeks, the baby’s heart stopped and on July 9, Samantha gave birth to her stillborn son Archer.

“Mentally it’s a battle every day,” she said. “I just, you have so many expectations when you’re going through something like that when you’re preparing for something to change your life in a positive way, and then all of a sudden it’s like it never happened.”

Instead of planning Archer’s first outing, they planned his memorial service Saturday.

As she grieved, Samantha learned something else. Because she could not produce a certificate of live birth, she lost her paid family leave.

Stillbirths do not qualify in New York.

“So it’s like a just gave birth to a whole human and it’s like he never existed and I never went through it,” she said.

Brean: “It’s as if the system we’re sorry, but go back to work the next day.”

Samantha Palermo: “Yeah. Too bad. So sad. Carry on.”

Last week, a USA Today editorial said mothers of stillborns in New York deserve paid family leave.

Samantha lives in the district of State Senator Jeremy Cooney and he told me he is supporting a bill that would include stillbirths in paid family leave.

“So whether it’s talking about a parent who’s had a miscarriage, a parent who delivered a stillborn baby, those would be qualifying events to enable them to take advantage of the Paid Family Leave benefits that are already on the books,” Sen. Cooney said.

Click here to vote on that bill and let the lawmakers know where you stand

The earliest that bill would ever see a vote is next spring.

I asked Samantha what would help her now.

“Recognition to Archer, to me, to a lot of other stillborns and families going through it,” she said. “When I gave birth there was family next door, right next to me going through the same thing. So it’s more common than you really think.”

There are 60 stillbirths a day in the United States. That is enough children to fill a school bus.
Samantha was told to apply for disability but that’s 170 dollars a week. Senator Cooney is sponsoring a bill that would increase that.

Click here to vote “aye” or “nay” on that bill.

And think about this—The law says Archer’s father qualifies for paid family leave because he’s taking care of Samantha.

But the law says Samantha and mothers like her do not.