Thursday, July 29, 2010

Maternity leave

At my doctor’s appointment today, I had to ask him to fill out the first of several forms for maternity leave. As this is the first time I’m giving birth while working for an American employer, it’s my first time being exposed to this paperwork. If I recall correctly, all I had to do for my European employer was write a short note and I believed I offered a note from my doctor stating when I should return to the U.S., but they didn’t require that.

While he was filling out the paperwork, he checked the box that I could return to work six weeks after delivery.

“How many of your patients actually return to work after six weeks?” I asked him. That seems so very early to me. His office is in a upper-middle-income area, so I’d expect his patients are, on average, middle or upper middle class.

“About 50%,” he said.

I was shocked. “Is that for financial reasons or because their employers require them to return?”

“It’s mostly for financial reasons,” he said. “Most of them would prefer to stay home longer with the baby.”

He works in an area where people receive some paid leave, not a whole lot, but it’s still one of the best maternity leaves available in the country. But it’s still not enough for 50% of his patients to be able to afford more time with their newborns.

It is my hope that within my lifetime and hopefully sooner, our country will follow the lead of every other developed nation (yep, Australia, the only other former holdout, now offers paid leave) and allow parents the realistic option of spending the time they need with their newborn infants.

On a positive note, my employer approved my leave request – about 2 weeks off before the birth, 6 months after, and transitioning back at 50% time the first month, 60% the next three months, and then back to 80%, where I am now. It will be a financial squeeze for us to lose that income, but it’s less than a year of our lives. We’ll prepare for it as best we can and try to make up for it afterwards. I'm really grateful to have choice in the matter and hopeful that the gradual transition won't force me to chose between work and breastfeeding.

Also, I got my sequential screen results back. Though the risk at my age is 1 in 200 on average, my results for the likelihood of Down’s Syndrome came back at 1 in 10,000. We are very happy about that.

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