I found out I was pregnant, one month before 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.
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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!