I am a mama of two beautiful babies. I was 5 months pregnant with my first child when I was offered a job with the company I ended up working for through both pregnancies. I worked very hard for this company. I was responsible for sales and marketing and met and exceeded their goals prior to taking my maternity leave.
I was 26 years old when I had my son, and I had NO idea what a “normal” amount of maternity leave was. I was told by my employer that I was not covered by FMLA because I had not been with them for 6 months prior to taking maternity leave. I was then told that if I took more than 4 weeks off, they would have to fire me because that was their company policy. They claimed they would hire me back due to my exceptional performance. But they said all of my benefits would start over and I would be considered a new hire in the system so vacation and personal time would start over.
I worked up until Friday afternoon at 5:00 pm before I went in to have my scheduled delivery that Super Bowl Sunday. I had never been a mother before. I had no idea the physical and mental transformation that occurs after giving birth and being responsible for another life. And I agreed to 4 weeks of maternity leave not realizing that it would be extremely detrimental to my health and well-being.
After 27 hours of labor and 3 hours of pushing, it was decided that I had to have a c-section. My body was in a world of hurt. I literally could barely move for 2 weeks after having our son. My husband had to do nearly everything for me and our baby and family members had to come stay at the house and help. But I had agreed to 4 weeks of maternity leave. So I scheduled an appointment with my OB two weeks early (my OB typically does 6 week checkups after delivery) and my doctor (extremely reluctantly) gave me full rights to go back to work. He fought pretty hard to keep me on a weight restriction, but my company refused to let me return with a weight restriction. Luckily, I was in sales, so there was very little, if any heavy lifting.
I left my son at home with a nanny at 4 weeks old. We couldn’t have taken him to a babysitter if we had wanted to because most babysitters in our area will not watch babies until they are at least 6 weeks old. It breaks my heart to think about how little he was and how very much he relied on me for survival. And how very much I needed to be with him to continue my transition into motherhood.
I am not putting down any women who decide to take 4 weeks maternity leave or who are planning to take 4 or less weeks of maternity leave. My hairdresser didn’t even take a full week! I am saying that I believe it should be up to the mother and father of the baby to decide what is best for their situation. I am also not saying that anything the company I worked for at the time did was illegal. It could have been very much legal, I wouldn’t know because I never reached out to a lawyer or asked questions because I didn’t want to lose my job.
In previous posts I have discussed my battle with anxiety and depression during pregnancy. My postpartum anxiety and depression was much worse, and I believe that a very large contributor to my mental health was the fact that I was bullied into taking such a short amount of maternity leave. I encourage everyone, whether you are a soon-to-be mother or father, to know your rights. Talk to your Human Resources Department and if something doesn’t seem right please ask more questions. Require them to present you with documentation and keep documentation and consult a lawyer if you feel like you have to.
Don’t let anyone bully you out of your maternity leave and the precious time that you are not only bonding with your child, but physically and mentally healing from the effects of labor and delivery.