Maternity Leave in America: The Story of a Depressed Mother

I found out I was pregnant, one month after I received my Masters Degree…

Just before I was about to transition from student to working woman, I was hit with the reality that I was going to be a working woman who was also a mother.

My boyfriend and I were broke; living with my mother, and about to move into a 1-bedroom apartment, because that was all we could afford.

Thinking about bringing my daughter into a world that I did not prepare for her to be in broke my heart and gave me a minor depression.

What to Expect When Your Working and Pregnant

He and I were both working full-time jobs so that we could save up for when the baby came. What we didn’t realize was the fact that we still had to pay all of our bills, so the money saved was limited to none.

Working, while pregnant and depressed was so unhealthy for me and my baby, and thinking about my financial woes, made me even sadder.

I had heard of paid-maternity leave, and I hoped that my employer would provide me with that assistance because, how else would I be able to pay my bills, right?

Toward the end of my second trimester, I went to the human resources department at my job to inquire about maternity leave.

I was told that I could not be provided with a paid maternity leave because I had been working there for under a year.

According to The United States Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), eligible employees who work for a covered employer, can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a 12-month period for the following reasons:

  • The birth of a child or placement of a child for adoption or foster care;
  • To bond with a child (leave must be taken within 1 year of the child’s birth or placement);
  • To care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a qualifying serious health condition;
  • For the employee’s own qualifying serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the employee’s job;
  • For qualifying exigencies related to the foreign deployment of a military member who is the employee’s spouse, child, or parent.

Eligibility Requirements:

An employee who works for a covered employer must meet three criteria in order to be eligible for FMLA leave. The employee must:

  • Have worked for the employer for at least 12 months;
  • Have at least 1,250 hours of service in the 12 months before taking leave;* and
  • Work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles of the employee’s work site.

https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/fmlaen.pdf

So, my choices were:

A. To continue working in a heighten stressful situation, and receive income to support my family, or

B. To go on a 3 month maternity leave, without income and no way to help the father of my daugther support us…

Human resources also told me that if I did not come back to work within 90 days, I would be fired.

yes…fired! (if you didn’t hear me correctly)

Every mother deserves to be at home with her child when they are born, for at least 3-5 months, and I felt that my child deserved that as well…

So, with no idea of how we could afford our rent, bills, and save for our child, I decided to do what was best for me and my baby, which was take my Unpaid Maternity-Leave .

WomenAndTech_MaternityLeaveInfographic.png

http://womenandtech.com/infographic-paid-maternity-leave/

Unpaid Maternity Woes

I thought being at home would reduce my depression, but it only became greater.

I was constantly reminded of the fact that even with a Master’s Degree, I would be bringing a baby into a unmarried co-habitation relationship in a one-bedroom apartment; we were financially strained, and I was completely overwhelmed with the fact that I was about to be a new mother.

I could not afford Lamaze classes, which can range between $70-$120 per class; prenatal exercise classes, Lactation classes, or anything that was not provided at a free clinic.

http://www.lamazeinternational.org/

I was told through word-of-mouth about Women’s Choice Network, a non-profit organization for low-income women who are pregnant and need services in the state of Pennsylvania.

Women’s Choice Network centers offer medical services, education and material assistance to women who are vulnerable to abortion. A trained staff and medical personnel provided 1,933 women with needed services. 840 of those were new clients, the remainder were clients returning for ongoing services. 351 of the women considered vulnerable to abortion decided to carry their baby to term after counseling and viewing an ultrasound.

Clients are primarily single and between the ages of 14-35. Services include pregnancy testing, sonogram, education about pregnancy and various pregnancy options. Clients may enroll in ongoing services that provide for material needs such as baby furnishings, clothing, diapers and formula. Education, small groups, ongoing support and other programs are also offered.

http://imissedmyperiod.com/about/

If you live in or near Pittsburgh, PA, please contact Women’s Choice Network:

Call Us – 412-687-7767
Text Us – 412-201-0112
Email Us – answers@womenschoicenetwork.com

My boyfriend and I attended the free classes that Women’s Choice Network offered, where we watched videos on child rearing, breastfeeding, delivery, epidurals, and postpartum.

We were provided with shopping ticket vouchers for every session we attended, where we could buy items for the baby.

This was helpful because it was all we had. UPMC for You, a Medicaid and Medical Assistance Plan, was my health insurance at the time. UPMC for You did not offer coverage for Lamaze or birthing classes, so this free service was a major benefit and it also provided me with my first ultrasound, so that I could see my child.

Even with this service, I still wish that I was able to afford classes where he and I could have met with other pregnant couples in a group. I wanted to exchange experiences  and discuss concerns and be provided with advice on what to expect and to work hands-on with an instructor on giving birth. I longed for that interaction, but being low-income, we could not afford that luxury.

Towards the end of my 3rd trimester I began to feel so guilty. At 26, I thought I would have my life together. I thought I would be married and then 2-3 years later, have a child, and do things “the right way.” I never would have imagined that I would be fresh out of college, pregnant by my boyfriend, unmarried, and low-income…

I felt worthless…

I thought that I would be a horrible mother…

and, I became even more depressed…

I wish my country would give pregnant parents more support!

How could one of the richest countries in the world have unpaid maternity leave at any employment site? Twelve work weeks is only 3 months of time off from work. So, if you decide to take your unpaid work leave, 1-3 months before you deliver like I did, you would have to go to work immediately after having your child. The alternative, would be to work up until the day you go into labor, which was impossible for me.

Paternity Leave

What the hell is paternity leave in America? Not only was an unpaid paternity leave not provided at my boyfriends employment, but if he would have been provided one, who would have been paying our bills? We both could not take a Family & Medical leave from our employments…

My boyfriend was only given 5 days off after our daughter was born, it was all he could afford to take, and even that was a major loss in our only source of income because of course, this time was unpaid.

Nev Schulman, from Catfish on MTV and his wife Laura Perlongo posted an ATTN video on Facebook on September 22, 2016 about mothers and fathers being able to get time off work.

ATTN is an issues-driven media company. Our mission is to deliver engaging content to a mobile-first audience. Every day we produce videos, articles and commentary telling stories worth your attention.”

In a sarcastic and comedic way, Nev & Laura provide insight into the lack of resources and funding that has been given to mothers and fathers who should be provided with paid-time-from-work, when they are expecting.

This video reminded me of everything I went through when I was pregnant with my daughter and it was really unfortunate because having a baby is something that should be joyous, exciting and triumphant, but for me due to financial stress, was overwhelming, confusing, and depressing in the overall.

In the future, with the maternity laws being the way they are, I don’t want to have any mire children because it is not affordable. I do not regret having my daughter, ever, but I do wish that I would have better protected myself and been prepared for being a pregnant, working woman, in America.

Here is the link to the video:  https://www.facebook.com/attn/videos/1141941135841344/

Please fight for paid maternity and paternity leave in your state, with no stipulations! Hopefully, in the future, parents will not have to deal with the concerns that I had when I was pregnant. America needs to catch up, and place value on children!

38 thoughts on “Maternity Leave in America: The Story of a Depressed Mother

  1. I’m sad that this is such a common thing. I was underemployed, unmarried and going through all kinds of troubles in every direction while I was pregnant. My daughter is three and I still haven’t figured everything out yet, but we have made progress. I didn’t qualify for any type of paid anything when I took my leave. I felt so guilty while I was pregnant. I still feel guilty, so I probably overcompensate in some ways to make sure my daughter knows how much I love her. It is a crying shame how you can work full-time and still not be able to afford even some of the basic things in life, let alone a family. Thank you so much for sharing this!

    1. Our story sounds so similar and it’s such a sad reality. It was definitely painful but my daughter is now 2 and we have definitely made some progress but are still struggling. It’s tough indeed. Thank you for reading and for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Yes America is so backwards…..Unfortunately we are just another number instead of flesh and blood w/lives. With my 1st son I got 6 months off, but part was unpaid. I ended up quitting. To go to school. Understanding your job’s FMLA is important not just for pregnancies,but for sick children or family members. I lager became a FMLA analyst and found out some states have a state medical leave act as well to soften the blow. In Oregon we have OFLA . We all need to go over out benefits closely & ask questions accordingly.

  3. wow.your story is almost an insight into how my life is right now
    For i’m 23 years,unmarried,unemployed and pregnant with my first child (a lil girl)…But i find strength in your words that in the end all will be alright..thanks for sharing this with us all
    it shows everyone just how much of a strong woman u are

    1. I definitely understand what you are dealing with. It is a struggle and you will have rough days. Try to do w.e you can to lower the stress in your mind. Its difficult not to worry, but relax your mind, deep breathing exercises, w.e. it takwa

      1. Same. I started my blog when I was pregnant. You got this. Do what makes you happy and be around those who love you.

    2. You will find the strength in yourself. You are strong!!!!! And when you see your child, you will become stronger!!!!

      Thank you so much for reading and taking the time. I am glad this helps, even if its minor. I know how it feels. Talk to someone about your concerns, even me. You can reach me on my contact page. I am always here! 😊

  4. While I agree it’s important for a mother to have time with her child after birth I don’t think employers should be mandated to pay for leave. In the countries that give really long, paid maternity leave the taxes are crippling. And employers who would have to pay employees for time off would be doubly financially burdened. They’d have to pay for someone who wasn’t working and also pay for someone to take that person’s place during the leave.
    It’s nice to think that someone else should pay for leaves of absence but the financial consequences for everyone else can be massive.

    1. That might be true. I would have to do some research to determine the effects on businesses that pay for maternity leave…. I guess if you are in a upper middle class family, with two parents that have adequate income, it would be possible to live comfortably while being unpaid on a leave of absence from work, but obviously it hurts those who are not in financially stable situations! I became depressed, could not eat…that was horrible for my health and my daughter’s. Thank God she is a healthy happy baby, but it was the lowest I have ever been.
      Thanks for reading!

      1. It’s always rough when you’re not wealthy. The decisions that people have to make are so often detrimental to them. My own example is not getting prescriptions filled in order to buy food. I’m so happy she was born healthy (and just beautiful!).
        Businesses would be adversely affected because, as I stated, they’d have to pay for leave, pay for someone to take that person’s place, and they’d have to raise prices. That affects all of us. And obviously if it were “paid for by the government” it would mean much higher taxes for everyone who pays taxes. There’s no real “free” in society. Someone ends up paying for things.
        It’s such a shame that families are now dependent on two incomes. Before all the “free” government assistance came into play it wasn’t that way. Moms could stay home and raise their kids. Fathers could support their families. And kids benefited from having the undivided attention of their moms.

      2. And I want you to know that I wish it were possible to give all parents at least 6 months off with their newborn babies. It’s just hard to figure out a way without someone getting the short end. Life sucks sometimes.

      3. Yeah….in a perfect world. I definitely plan to do some research on countries that allow paid maternity leave and see how it effects their economy and businesses.

  5. Thanks for sharing this with me! I really learned a lot from your post. I really can’t imagine myself in that place, but you gave great insight. The government really doesn’t help with anything at all. It’s absolutely crazy to me, especially with everything going on today. People want to defund organizations that are for women’s health and knowledge, yet how else would they learn and be able to pay for things like you guys did with the Women’s Choice Network? It’s crazy to me.

    1. It really was a tough time, but i got through it….it really is a sad reality and i am glad you were able to learn something because prevention is so important to me. If i can help someone so they wont end up in the same situation. There is no assistance out there, so get married, save money, and then have a child because it can really put u in a bad space emotionally! Thank you for reading. Reblog to those who need it!

  6. I’m saddened that you had to go through this and appalled that USA employment laws cause so much stress to pregnant women.

    It is brilliant of you to provide so much here helpful information to others on here.

    You’ve overcome all that – you’re a ‘BOSS’ in my opinion – kudos Muchly Due To You x

    1. Thank you soooooo very much for your kind words. It was the most difficult time in my life…but true joy came out on the other side, because my daughter is sooo damn awesome. She was worth it, but it is heartbreaking that American society has not embraced the value of having a quality pregnancy, birth, and the importance of healthy happy children.

  7. It’s not only maternity leave, but other benefits that require you to be at your job for 12 months before you can get them. I had the same experience trying to ‘cash’ in on my family leave when my Mother had a heart attack. The only reason I moved to Florida was to take care of her if she got sick. They weren’t going to pay me for leave…I just quit though because it was an awful place to work anyway. I was glad I did because she had a mini stroke 2 weeks later. This country is pretty awful when it comes to benefits for people. There is no loyalty for people….

    1. That is absolutely awful….its ridiculous how we have to struggle when we are dealing with a family concern….we have to take care of our families, but our country is not taking care of us!!!!! I am sorry about your mother, I hope she is well!

  8. Thanks for your insight and all of the information! My husband and I have been thinking about having a baby and it’s been hard for me to deal with what that may mean for my employment/my baby’s health. Thanks for sharing your maternity journey!

    1. I understand the fear and worry about the future…I had no time to prepare…so at least you have that. It is not an easy journey. Ask all the questions you can to human resources and your employer if you are working because it does effect all areas of life when maternity leave is unpaid…. I am always here for any questions! Thank you for checking it out!

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