Maternity Leave Experiences: Part Two

Thank you so much for your patience while I put together part two of maternity leave experiences (you can see part one here). I am so touched by the stories you have shared. If one thing is absolutely clear, the utter lack of support for mothers and families in this country is shameful. The burden on mothers, and the difficult choices and sacrifices so many are forced to make at such a vulnerable time is maddening. Once again I am so grateful to everyone that has shared their stories, and I look forward to continuing this conversation. In the next post on this topic I’ll share some tips on how to navigate maternity leave in the US, followed by how to impact and push for change at the government and corporate level.


Lisa, Rhode Island

I’m an adoptive parent,  We adopted my daughter at birth, and I was there the night she was born.  I worked at Bradley Hospital as a social worker on the adolescent inpatient unit which was, as you can guess, an extremely high stress job (rewarding, but I WORKED.)   

I didn’t think I ever wanted to be a mom, but eventually my husband and I realized that we wanted to have a family.  I couldn’t get pregnant naturally and did 2 rounds of IUI, 7 rounds of IVF, and one round of IVF with donor egg before we decided to pursue adoption.  Fortunately my time off during the fertility treatments was minimal so it didn’t eat into my FMLA.  I wanted to be in town for the birth of the baby, so I traveled early to Florida (birth mom was in Florida) and spent a week there.  That was when the clock started ticking for my FMLA.  My job offered 12weeks of unpaid FMLA, but you also had to use all of your vacation and sick time during that time to get some “payment” (at the time you received 4 weeks of vacation time a year, and 12 days of sick time, and you could bank a lot of it.  I know from former coworkers that has changed significantly in terms of what you can bank and it’s more of a “use it or lose it” policy now).  Knowing how many appointments, baby is sick, you feel like crap,  etc things that happen, a week of time upon your return can get used up fast.  And, my husband wanted to be there for her birth as well, but given the lack of time he received for paternity leave, he needed to stay and work and hopped a plane the day after she was born which sucked because we weren’t able to be together for the birth.

There were some health complications with our daughter (she is fine now, but there was a possibility she could have been really, fatally ill), so the prediction that we would likely be home in RI two weeks after her birth turned into a 4 week stay in Florida.  My husband had to go back to work, so he flew home and my mom came down to help, otherwise I would have been alone, with a newborn, in a state I didn’t know.  He flew back down to help us fly home, and then he took two weeks off to be together.  There was not a formal paternity leave, and because he wanted to take the two weeks off once we were home and settled, he made the decision to fly back to work while we were still in Florida.  IT SUCKED. 

As I went on maternity leave, I had a feeling that I would not be returning to work.  I made that decision and have been a stay at home parent now for 6 years.  I never ever thought I would be a stay at home mom, but I do really like it, and I don’t miss my job at all (and no, SAHMs are not allowed to say that and are judged for that decision, especially when their kids are in formal school, but that’s another story for another day.) Partly because we had spent so much time trying to be parents that I really wanted to be with her full time, partly because my job wasn’t flexible at all to take time off (I can’t be in a therapy session and say “Oh, gotta run, baby’s got a fever!), I decided not to go back.  I’m grateful that was even a decision I was able to make for our family and myself, as I know some would like to make that decision and can’t. 

Jamie, Canada

I am in the middle of my maternity leave. In Canada, we can get up to 18 months paid leave. I decided to take the 12 month leave plus 2 months unpaid. I also have some banked vacation time so my total leave will be 15 months. 

I receive about 49% of my salary from the government. If I had opted for the 18 month leave, I would have received the same total annualized amount of money from the government that I get now, except spread out over 18 months instead of a year. My work topped me up for the first three months after my daughter was born to 80% of my salary. With our mortgage and all our other bills, the 49% from the government just barely covers things off. As I get further into my leave, I will definitely be dipping into my savings! 

My husband took 3 weeks off after the birth of our daughter and it was a godsend. I honestly don’t know what I would’ve done if he had gone back to work right away. If we could do it over, I think the first 6 weeks would have been even better. The week before he went back to work, I sobbed and called/texted people and scheduled someone to visit me every day for the following two weeks. 

With parental leave in Canada, you and your partner can both take time off as part of “one” leave. So for example, a friend of mine was off from work for 10 months and then her husband took the last two months off. We didn’t do that this time, but if we decide to have another child, we will definitely both take parental leave (probably me doing 16 months, him doing 2 months). 

I feel so lucky to have this time with my daughter. You know those baby milestone newsletters you get by email? I got one at three months and was horrified that the newsletter started with “You’re probably back to work by now…” with advice on pumping at work. I couldn’t imagine being back at work that early. Your body is probably just healed at that point and your baby is becoming more aware of his/her surroundings, it would be tough to go back. 

It’s hard to articulate what those early days postpartum are like. They are wonderful and magical, but they are also tough. The hardest part for me was coming to terms with the fact that my baby will constantly change. It sounds obvious but I swear this was the biggest mental hurdle for me! Like the second you “master” something, your child will present you with a new challenge that you’ll have to figure out. I said this to an older lady and she gently patted me on the back and said, “I know. And it never stops. That’s what parenting is.” 

I’m a little less than half way through my leave now. I definitely want to go back. I miss adults and even the work itself. Daycare is difficult to secure here (lots of competition). I wouldn’t be upset if I had to extend my leave for a month or two longer in order to wait for a spot. 

Angela, Pennsylvania

Per FMLA in Washington, DC I was allowed up to 4 months of leave with the guarantee that my job would be waiting for me when I got back. Eight weeks of that was paid but not my full salary. I had every intention of returning to work after the four months were up. We had a nanny share set up and everything. I enjoy working and have always felt  as though it was important to make my own money.

After giving birth to my son, I had a really hard time with nursing. I tried everything to get him to nurse, spent thousands of dollars in my quest to get him to nurse. It was horrible and I felt like such a failure. Along with those feelings of failure came postpartum anxiety and depression. Between juggling self care and the care of my newborn son, I felt like I never truly enjoyed the four months I was given. My husband was only given two weeks of paternity leave so I was left alone most of the time trying to figure things out. We were living in DC away from family and a support system.

By the time my four months were coming to an end it was a no brainer for me, I was going to ask my company for more time. If they weren’t willing to give it to me then I had no problem saying goodbye. I felt so strongly that if they weren’t willing to work with me then good riddance. I went back to work, sat in a conference room and asked my manager as well as the office director for more time off. Both of them understood and were willing to find a way to work with me. However, my department was run through the New York headquarters and they would need to get approval from my director in New York before going forward with my request. My director is a mom of two, so I thought, okay no problem, she’ll understand. I was wrong. They told me no, so I said goodbye.

The fog of postpartum anxiety lifted around six months, my pumping journey ended around 7 months (I ended up exclusively pumping – awful and isolating experience for me) and I remained home with my little guy. Charlie is now 18 months and I am currently still home with him. We moved to Pittsburgh in January so that we could buy a house and be around my husband’s side of the family (I’m from just outside of SF and buying there isn’t really an option).

I am ready to return to work but I’m not sure that I will for a few more months. I’m not ready to go back full time. I truly enjoy being home with Charlie and want to still be around as much as I possibly can. My parents worked full time when I was younger and always being the last kid in daycare and the kid who never had a parent on field trips always stuck with me. There’s nothing wrong with working full time but I want to give Charlie what I didn’t have. Unfortunately, it’s been hard finding the perfect fit for part time work. I feel like in the United States we have an all or nothing mentality.

I am extremely privileged to be able to stay home with my son and truly don’t take it for granted, but I don’t think it should be a privilege to stay home with your child in the first year of their life. There is so much happening to your body postpartum that it takes so long to feel like yourself again. Postpartum was so much harder than pregnancy for me. I feel like every woman should have the opportunity to heal and connect with their child without needing to worry about returning to work so soon after giving birth to support their newborn child. The fact that some women have to go back to work after six weeks is absolutely criminal. You’ve literally stopped bleeding around that time.

I don’t think things get easier when women return to work and are still expected to juggle both their work life and home life. There is so much pressure once you become a mom. Becoming a mom has been an eye opening experience and has made me truly trust my convictions. When I was pregnant I was sure that I would be fine with the four months but now I wouldn’t change staying home with my son for anything. It was the best decision for ME and I’ve never felt so happy to make that decision. I definitely don’t think it’s the same for everyone and I would never tell someone that they should do things the way I did. You won’t know what’s right for you until you have that child. Children change you in so many ways. I didn’t think women could get stronger but we are real life super heroes, as cliche as that sounds, it’s so true.

Melissa

My daughter was born in February. I was in nursing school and working part time so maternity leave wasn’t exactly something that I could afford. I had a 3rd degree episiotomy tear and I was in so much pain, but my daughter was a very calm baby. My boss (I worked in an office for home appraisals) was super supportive. I couldn’t work from home because I lived so far away, so she let me come in at off times. She let me bring my daughter to work so I went back to work after 2 weeks. Winter in Minnesota is no joke and I am a single mom with no involvement from the father (due to court orders for our safety). My boss also let me use the computer to do schoolwork after hours. That was helpful because I lived about an hour from where I worked and went to school.

My daughter went into daycare as soon as she was six weeks old. I was able to take online classes the semester that I was due to give birth so that helped as well. A lot of people focus on maternity leave. But they don’t talk about the other times you need leave. Mothers have to use their sick days or PTO to take their kids to the doctor, stay home when they are sick or when school or daycare is closed. I work in a predominantly female profession (nursing) and it is always the women I work with who scramble to change shifts to avoid getting occurrences for call ins. It’s not just single moms who have to use their PTO or sick days. The women who save up PTO and then use their FMLA for staying home with the baby, they are depleted of any PTO for sick days or vacations. I can’t tell you how many random shifts I have worked at the hospital, coming in at 2am for example, trading shifts and negotiating hour exchanges so that I could avoid having to call in for appointments. Or leaving my sick kid home alone because she has a fever and can’t go to school but I can’t miss work because the unit is short 8 nurses.

Kate, Connecticut

I’m actually nearing the end of my leave by mid October. I took advantage of the full FMLA period (CT is 16 weeks) so I received 6 weeks partial pay at 60% and my retail company subsidized the rest, which doesn’t even fill the bucket. My husband took off two full weeks to be home with us, which I count myself lucky for.  So many of my dear friends complained that they gave birth on a Friday and by Monday their business minded partners were back in office. This time was so special for us not just as a family but for me to stay sane throughout the sleep deprivation & newness that comes tumbling down as soon as you come home from the hospital. 

Luckily, my husband and I planned for all of this years in advance- purchasing a home for less than we were told we could “afford” and budgeting into our savings from every paycheck. In two more weeks, I’ll be informing my employer of my decision to not return to work. Ten years ago, I chose a career in retail management. A very successful one, but it has continued to make my life increasingly difficult to manage my personal relationships. When I think about going back, I think of the cost of childcare and the sheer fact that I’ll be compensating a nanny or a daycare to care for my infant. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I don’t make enough to be working until 10pm three nights a week, miss weekends as a family, and work every major holiday. While I don’t want to stay home forever, this is the option that makes sense for me, my husband, and our sweet baby.

Lindsay, Nashville

I had my son last December. I work in finance for a large company and was given 6 weeks of short term disability (paid 100% of my salary, and was funded by my company) and an additional 4 weeks paid through a newer “caregiver leave” policy that we have (which includes paternity and caring for elderly parents, etc.) I took an additional 7 weeks of unpaid leave. In TN, the state maternity leave policy is 4 months, so longer than the federal FMLA 12 weeks. So I was able to take the additional time off and have it still be considered part of maternity leave. To take more time (or if that hadn’t been the policy in TN) I would have technically had to take a leave of absence. I would have done that anyway, but it was convenient from a paperwork perspective that I didn’t have to.

My husband is an aspiring songwriter and a youth hockey coach, so I am the primary earner in my family for now. His schedule is pretty flexible so he didn’t take an official paternity leave but he was around on and off throughout my leave. I think the 4 months that I took was the right amount of time for me. We saved up enough to cover the 7 weeks of unpaid leave but it would have been hard to cover more than that. I also really enjoyed the “extra” month since my son was more alert and fun to be around and I also felt more confident getting out of the house and doing activities (even if it was just walking down the street for a coffee). I will say my first month or so back at work was pretty rough because my son still wasn’t sleeping through the night so some days were really a struggle to get through. I was emotionally and mentally ready to get back to work at that point and I was more comfortable sending my son to daycare at that age. I also think it would have been harder for me to get back to my job if I had taken more time off. I think the longer you take off the harder it is to get back into your job and the new routine (not coming from my company or anything, just from my perspective personally).

I feel lucky that my job has very reasonable hours so once I leave the office and pick my son up from daycare I can completely switch off work and spend time with my son. It’s hard sometimes because he goes to bed pretty early and so I really only spend a couple of hours a day with him during the week, but it makes me enjoy the weekends even more, and I think I am a better mom having breaks from him, haha.

Sara, New Jersey

I consider myself blessed to work in a state that has generous maternity options and for a large corporate employer that offers paid leave. I had the opportunity to take 18 weeks off following delivery PLUS 4 weeks of FMLA leave pre-due date (22 total weeks) which included: 6 weeks FMLA for natural delivery (paid out at 80% of my salary), 6 weeks work sponsored maternity leave (paid at 100% salary), and 6 weeks NJ State Bonding Time (pays 60% of salary up to a capped amount – this goes through the state unemployment office, has to be applied for, and is delivered to you months later via a debit card… nice enough, but not user friendly and unrealistic if you depend on that paycheck to make ends meet).

In addition to the above, my husband generously got 8 weeks of 100% paid paternity through work (he’s also eligible for the NJ State Bonding time, but did not chose to take it) and he was able to split that time however he wanted. He took 2 weeks off with me following delivery, then split the remainder up, taking every Friday off for the rest of the year. This allowed us to sign up for a consolidated week in daycare vs. immediately jumping into 5 days a week. 

For our next baby (due January!), my husband has shared that he would prefer to take the time in dedicated chunks, i.e. 4 weeks to start, then pulsing weeks throughout depending on work demands in order to get more dedicated time with the baby.

The 4weeks pre due-date are a precious, beautiful godsend that I recommend to everyone. Preparing to be a mother is physically and emotionally demanding and even knowing that I could be home in those final days vs. risk going into labor during my commute was a blessing. I know this is not standard, but it should be.

I consider us very lucky to have received what we did from our employers. The thought of going back to work after only 6 weeks is terrifying and my heart goes out to those Mommas who go back then, if not sooner. 

I ultimately went back 1 week early (took 17) as I was SO ready to be back to work and wanted to feel “like myself” for at least a portion of the day. It was a tough transition, but I’ve loved the balance and feel like I’m a better Mom during the precious time I do spend with my son. I’m grateful we have reliable childcare and I’m able to be both a full time professional and a Mom. 

Rachel, California

I am an in-house attorney in a high-pressure position and, unfortunately, my company offered no paid leave for new mothers. However, I am a California resident, which means I qualified for some payments under the state’s short-term disability benefit programs. It may pay up to 65% of a parent’s salary. I am very fortunate because I had a relatively uncomplicated labor and birth, I had a healthy baby, and I had a very supportive spouse. An irony of my situation was that my husband’s company provided him with a generous and fully paid paternity leave. 

I am also incredibly fortunate to say that my decision to go back at 12 weeks was not a short-term financial decision, but a career and identity decision. At the time, I felt an intense pressure to regain my “pre-baby identity.” My career felt like such a huge part of my identity that I thought getting back to work quickly, and I know some people will disagree that 12 weeks is “quick,” would allow me to be “normal” again. The truth is that a new baby is a giant upheaval and going back to work just tips everything in a completely new direction. I recall nearly collapsing when my daughter was four months old. I was back at work, we had just moved into a new house, I had a knock out sinus infection, I was dealing with a postpartum depression that made me want to hide in a dark room for days on end, and my husband had just left his job to launch his startup. Looking back at that time, I am very unsure how I made it through. But it taught me two lessons: First, that I was strong enough to survive; and second, that if we have another baby I will take as much time off as possible. It took me nearly 18 months after my daughter was born to feel like an independent being again – both physically and mentally. I am not sure that 18 months is a realistic time frame for maternity leave, but I know 12 weeks was not enough for me. 

An endnote: As a first-time mom the largest feeling that compelled my postpartum depression was a sense that the tough parts of new motherhood would never end. My thoughts were a chorus of: I will never get enough sleep again. I will never feel sexy again. I will never be able to run again (because I had serious postpartum incontinence). I will never have an hour alone to read my favorite book again. I will never wear clean clothes again. I will never not be coordinating these endless baskets of laundry. The truth is that nothing is forever. With time your body changes and you get more comfortable with yourself. With time your baby starts to sleep more. With time you begin to feel a little bit more like you and you have more time to explore what that means. With time you will understand. 

Megan, NYC

My son was born June 13th and I returned to work on October 30th (20 weeks off). I received six weeks pay at 70% pay (but tax free so basically full salary) for short term disability, four weeks family leave at full salary through my work benefits, ten weeks paid family leave through New York State (the pay is much lower than my actual salary), two weeks accrued vacation time at full pay through my work, and a remaining 2 weeks fully unpaid. As of July 1st my company extended leave to 12 weeks. I unfortunately can’t take advantage given my baby was born in June, but it’s great to see that they hear us and know we need more paid time off. The program applies to all caregivers and is agnostic to the caregiver’s sex. In summary, I had 20 weeks off, 12 were fully paid, 6 were partially paid, and 2 were unpaid.

My husband took off the first week my son was born. This was definitely not enough, but he works in the finance world and anything more would have been looked down upon. My mom stayed with us for the first month which was so so wonderful. I thought I’d be able to handle it on my own after that, but I was wrong. We got a night nurse that helped us 5 nights per week from 4 weeks through 12 weeks. We’ve been managing on our own ever since and it’s still hard but doable.

I was originally planning to take off through November 20th, but we got into our daycare of choice and had to start paying for our placement early. We can’t afford for me to take additional unpaid time so back to work I go. I think I will be ready at 4.5 months. It will be an adjustment for sure but I know I want to continue my career in the workforce in addition to my new career as a mother.

Sarah

I have an 8 month old so this topic is very fresh and important to me. While I was pregnant I would get a lot of women’s unsolicited advice on how much time I should or “need” to take off. I was quite surprised that the majority of opinion was that I’d be ready after 12 weeks if not sooner. So I thought, that would be me because I’m a strong working woman and that won’t change. In fact I’ll probably be good to go after my 9 weeks of full paid maternity leave.

Well those 9 weeks FLEW by and I couldn’t have been more wrong. I had an uncomplicated vaginal delivery but I was still not physically or mentally ready to go back. I was still bleeding, going to physical therapy for my pelvic floor, dealing with major anxiety from breastfeeding, all while maintaining the juggling act of being a new parent. So needless to say, I took an additional 3 weeks using both vacation and unpaid time off to take advantage of the 12 week FMLA law. I feel so incredibly lucky that I could even take unpaid time off. (Side note: my husband got 12 weeks paid paternity to use within the first year of baby’s life).

I would’ve taken more time off if I could because things were finally starting to click for me and I wasn’t ready to close this chapter of being at home with my baby. She was starting to get a personality, breastfeeding was much smoother, and I was settling in to this new role I wasn’t sure I could even do. I really surprised myself at how much I love being a mom and I wanted to soak it all up just a little longer before I took on another role of the working mom (which brings on a whole other set of challenges.) But I went back, and started another new normal.

With two working parents our little one went to daycare 5 days a week and my husband and I split drop off and pick up duty. I worked with my lactation consultant to develop a pumping schedule to maintain my supply. And I learned about all the ways mom guilt presents itself to working mothers. But it is true each day gets a little easier.

A month in to being back at work and I was laid off from my job. This was terrifying because we were one salary down, but also the best gift I could’ve gotten because I was able to take more time off. I feel beyond grateful to be in a financial situation that I didn’t have to find a job right away. With our little one still in daycare (oh the judgment I got for this, but we’d lose our spot in daycare and we wanted to maintain her routine) I was able to focus on just myself which part of me I felt was lost once I got pregnant. The second I got pregnant I was no longer a “me” but a “we” and every decision from that moment forward impacted and impacts the both of us. But this time away from working full time and being a mom full time really refreshed me. I did a lot of self care and was able to gain back some of my independence. I was confident in my decision to be a working mom because while I love my child very much, I am my best self and parent with that division of labor. And as time went on, I was definitely ready to go back to work (around 6 months postpartum).

Lisa, California

When I was expecting my first child, I was 35 and working full time as a child and family therapist. My career was my passion and I was the “breadwinner” in our home. I loved working with children and families and helping them thrive. My husband, Mike, jobless and just completing his doctorate degree in clinical psychology, was working at a non-paid internship at a child mental health clinic.

I took 3 months of paid maternity leave. While on leave, I had time to think and self reflect about the new role that I was about to embark upon. I looked into the cost of childcare and would only have about $300 left after childcare costs. In between changing diapers, my hubby was scrambling for a job. He even applied to work at a local hardware store, but didn’t qualify. Luckily my husband scored a nice job as a child psychologist for the county as well as a teaching position at a university.

Once my daughter Cara was born, I found clarity. Although my new role as mother and co-parent kicked my ass, I completely love and cherish being a mother. My career was my initial passion in life, but after giving birth to Cara, I knew that my true passion was to take care of her, build and strengthen my family, and help us thrive. I was destined to be a mother. Although it may not be for everyone, being a full time stay at home mom was my true calling. And life has flowed this way for me ever since. I just need a nice break every now and then.
Once Matthew starts grade school, I plan on going back to consulting and working part time in my private practice. I still want to be involved in my children’s lives…so having a balance between working and family time will most likely keep me sane as well.

Lauren, New York

I had an interesting experience with maternity leave. Being a NYS teacher I really didn’t worry about maternity leave until I had to, which on our end was a surprise too. Sitting with my HR admin, I was horrified at what we do to people (a majority women) who literally take care of other children all day. While I say horrified, I also acknowledge that I am a VERY privileged background with A TON of support and a baby daddy whose job had much more flexibility than mine. Because of our lack of planning with the whole baby-making situation, I was due Nov. 2nd. 2 months into the school year in NY. Which is a crazy time as is. I was allowed to take 6-8 weeks of sick days, allowing me to get paid when I was out. Thank god this happened towards the end of my first school year so I was able to accumulate another 14 sick days.

I delivered vaginally, again hella thankful, because I wouldn’t have had acquired the 2 extra weeks of time yet to have paid leave if I had a C-section. Also really lucky that he took to breast feeding easily, because I had NO IDEA what I was doing and in a couple months I’d be pumping just about anywhere in the building that was unoccupied. But I digress…

I inquired what paid time was like for the male teachers in the district because my coworker’s wife was due the same week, and learned that they were only able to use 10 sick days. 10 days to help women who aren’t even fully recovered from any form of child birth at that time. CRAZY.

After “paid time off” we are able to use FMLA for up to 12 weeks. This was unpaid at the time. I was originally planning to go back to work for the second semester start (January), but as you’ll see the first couple weeks are a beautiful shit show of survival strategies that just sort of blend into one really quick blur. I started really enjoying being home with him getting older and able to interact more, so I took an extra month and went back for February, staying home for almost 4 months. I was really fortunate because a coworker was my leave replacement, but if I changed my mind last minute without someone available that would’ve been difficult to do.

I felt and still feel really lucky about how I took my leave, but acknowledge that it was only feasible because of my position and the amount of support and help I received from family. Now, being a single mom I feel so hard for people who go through the first couple years solo. Many of our states and country as a whole set moms up for failure when it is the most important job there is. I felt like I had enough time at home, but I would’ve liked to have more flexibility to decide that for myself. Going back to work I lightened my load a ton, but not being paid, I had to make up much of that up the following school year. A lot of what I learned about momming (it’s a verb) happened after my experience. I wish there was more of a way for us to share this information with moms that have the hardest time finding that support.

Rebecca

I have three children, two biological and one adopted. My first son was born in 2010. I worked a career planning corporate events. I had 8 weeks of maternity leave and my pay was from TDI which was not enough honestly. The childcare center he was going to attend did not have another opening for two more weeks so I went completely unpaid for two weeks bringing him up to 10 weeks. TEN weeks. Thinking back it’s insane I left a ten week old infant at a facility from 8:30am until 5:30pm. My employer at the time made my transition back very smooth but at the time the organization did not even have a clause about maternity leave in the employee handbook. They had to rewrite the handbook and were googling the state maternity laws. How ridiculous was that?

 The rest of our story was pretty hectic. In 2016 we were fostering a little girl about 10 months and I also found out I was pregnant. I had moved on and started my own business so leave was not an issue for me but my husband who has a corporate CEO career did not get ANY time off for our adoption. No one acknowledged it or the major shift in our household nor did he receive any time off. This is still a major transition that should be respected. There absolutely is nothing in his corporate handbook regarding leave for adoption. 

Our youngest was born in 2017 and our adoption became legal two months later. He was able to take off time after my cesarean and we did spend ten days in the NICU. He was still working and actually had business meetings in the lobby of the NICU floor. Processing this now this is absurd. Things need to change. After our last baby we looked at him at the ten week mark and said there was no way he could go to a facility. At that point, our first son was full time in childcare. 

Kelsey, Georgia

The company I work for gives 12 weeks paid leave (inclusive of bonuses/commission) for maternity leave and/or adoption of a child. This is, however, contingent upon time spent with the company. The first year you’re eligible for 6 weeks, second year 9 weeks, third year 12 weeks. I had been with my employer for 8 years before I became pregnant. 

My delivery was, in a nutshell, traumatic. I had my daughter very quickly, without drugs, due to a placenta abruption and was unable to give her the needed dose of antibiotics during labor to prevent her from contracting my GBS+ diagnosis. She spent two weeks in the NICU getting intravenous antibiotics to ensure her situation did not devolve into meningitis. I spent every waking moment in the NICU for two weeks and thankfully was given an overnight room because I was able to breastfeed successfully (this is a whole other story in itself, so messed up). 

The remaining ten weeks of my maternity leave was spent in my home because it was summer and you can’t step outdoors with a newborn in Atlanta when it’s 90+ degrees. I may also have been suffering from a bit of anxiety. 

I had preselected a daycare for my daughter months in advance of my return to work. I am the breadwinner in my family, I enjoy and feel valued from my work, and was looking forward to adult conversations. However, I would have felt much more comfortable with leaving my child with strangers had she had the ability to protect herself(i.e. roll over). This did not come until 4 months. My husband’s sister died of SIDS in the 90’s at their daycare and it was something that weighed heavily on my and mother in law’s mind. More time will definitely be something that I demand going forward. 

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3 Comments

  1. Normaly, in 8 days I will be on my maternity 🙂 can’t wait to get my own experience!!! 😀 Please, wish me luck.

    11.25.19 | Reply
  2. Linda wrote:

    My children were born before FMLA so I received a letter asking me if I would be returning after six weeks or resigning.

    I would have been given more time off if I experienced health issues but no time if my baby was ill. When my children were ill I used vacation days. One year I used them all on sick children. (Where was my husband in all this? That was also part of the problem which I hope is improving. A whole other issue for another day.) So no support from inside or outside of the family.

    FMLA was a huge improvement but there is still so much work to be done. Childcare and preschool needs to be affordable for all families. Taking children to a doctor shouldn’t cost a worker wages or vacation time. Fathers need to speak up if this is going to be treated as a family issue rather than a “mother’s” issue. How can we change society if men aren’t raising their voices as well.

    11.25.19 | Reply
  3. Haylee wrote:

    This is SUCH an important conversation to be having, I’m so glad you’re doing this series.

    I’m only about 10 weeks pregnant, but so much has changed already. I worked at a Children’s Hospital as a Care Partner (more commonly called CNA) while I was wrapping up my post-baccalaureate BSN program. I graduated, got my RN license, and was told by my supervisor they wanted me for the next new grad RN cohort. I was working about 70 hours a week when I found out I was pregnant. Then came the nausea, vomiting, and overwhelming fatigue and I knew I needed to talk to my manager about modifying my schedule for the remainder of the period.

    She was very accommodating, and suggested I speak with my supervisor about my pregnancy and how that would work for the new grad program. Fast forward a week later, and I found myself sitting in her office, reading aloud (per her suggestion) the contract I’d signed as part of my application for the new grad program. She told me this would clarify my situation, so I read, “any vacation or other activity exceeding 3-5 days of absence…would result in termination from the program.” There was no accommodation offered.

    I scrambled and a couple of weeks ago landed a job as an RN at a local hospital working night shifts on a general adult unit. However, in order to qualify for FMLA here in CA I will have to work 2-3 extra 12-hour shifts a week (given the 1,250 hours or 1 year of employment requirement). We’ll see how supportive this hospital chooses to be. At this point, I’m just worried about how the morning sickness will impact my functioning during orientation.

    Anyway, just another story to add to the conversation! Hoping things will change for all of us soon. Or at least for our daughters.

    11.25.19 | Reply