That’s me working, 35 weeks pregnant, wearing compression socks to tame the swelling in my legs. I’ve received a lot of comments in recent weeks, asking me why I’m still working?
“Shouldn’t you be home resting?” “Is that healthy for the baby?” “You look like you’re going to pop!”
I’ve heard it all. But here’s the problem—we don’t have much of a choice. Maternity leave in America sucks. Plain and simple. There is no guarantee of “paid leave” like many other countries, it’s up to your employer or possibly the state you live in.
Something needs to change.
As women, we put our bodies through the ringer. It takes 40 weeks to grow and nurture a baby in the womb. In that time, we’re busy working, raising other children and maintaining life as normal as possible, all while growing a tiny human. We often face terrible side effect like morning sickness, aches and pains, even contractions for several weeks.
Sure, I could take some time off, and let my body rest in bed. But, it’s a tough decision for many of us. Either use some of our maternity leave before the baby is born or save it up for that bonding time at home once baby arrives. Some women don’t even have that luxury. They are back at work within a few weeks of delivering a baby because they need that paycheck. The bills don’t stop just because we birthed a child.
I’m one of the lucky ones. My employer is quite generous and I will be taking up to three months off of work with compensation. But that’s often not the case. Imagine trying to recover from surgery, all while juggling the midnight feedings and lack of sleep. And just weeks later, having to leave your newborn and return to work, even when you’re not feeling back to normal.
And even worse–imagine if you face pregnancy complications or have a medically fragile baby. Even six years after my triplets arrived prematurely, my husband and I face tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. With two children who died and a sick child in the NICU, I took a leave from my previous job. That meant we would suffer financially because I wasn’t back to work.
So here I am in my third trimester, still working when my baby could arrive in a matter of weeks or even days. I get why so many women work up until the day their water breaks. We want to spend as much time with our precious baby, memorizing every feature of their face, all while trying to get back to feeling like our “pre-baby” selves.
Some countries receive up to a full year with paid leave after they have a baby. But, until something changes in our country, women like me will try to balance career and motherhood the best we can. We’ll cherish every minute we have with our baby and make the most of our maternity leave, whatever length it may be.