By Michelle Noehren, Age 33
A new report shows that 1 in 4 new moms go back to work after just 2 weeks. I can barely wrap my head around this.
The current lack of paid family leave is outrageous. The U.S. is one of the few countries that does not provide any paid time off after giving birth or adopting a child. That means that you essentially need to win the employer lottery in order to get paid maternity leave. And if you don’t have an employer that offers this benefit you’re SOL.
There’s been a lot of commentary on how awful this new statistic is and I couldn’t agree more. I also can’t get this particular thought out of my head: why do we treat women like giving birth to a baby is a walk in the park? Why do we constantly ignore the needs of new mothers and treat them like they should be back to “normal” right after they’ve done something extraordinary with their bodies?
Even if your birth experience was perfect, you delivered vaginally and you have a great support system, you are not fully healed from the experience within two weeks. Sorry to get graphic but this needs to be said. After you give birth and go home blood continues to come out of your vagina. You have to wear these large sanitary napkins (tip to expecting moms: take extra of these home from the hospital). You’re scared to have bowel movements because HELLO. You’re tired because having a newborn is incredibly life changing and guess what? New babies don’t sleep through the night, so neither do you. TWO WEEKS is not enough time off to properly heal and employers that are forcing their employees back to work after this short amount of time should be ashamed.
If you had a traumatic birth experience or a c-section, like I did, forget about it! You aren’t even supposed to drive a car for 4-6 weeks after a c-section let alone go back to work. And most of the workers that are going back after 2 weeks are low-wage employees. Can you imagine having to drive your car or take the bus while in pain, praying that you don’t hit any bumps in the road, and then stand at the checkout counter all day long after having your abdomen sliced open and put back together?
Here’s what we are essentially saying to new moms by not giving them enough paid time off after birth – Experience postpartum depression or anxiety? Too bad for you. Need time to establish a breastfeeding routine if you decide to breastfeed? Too bad for you. Have a c-section and can’t even drive yourself to your shift? Too bad for you. Can’t bear to part with your tiny new baby? Too bad for you.
We cannot let our country or employers get away with a “too bad for you” attitude any longer. The tide is shifting and the time for paid family leave is now. Connecticut made progress during its 2015 legislative session but we need to go farther and actually create a system of paid family leave for all employees in our state. We must remember that women are PEOPLE and that birth is taxing on women’s bodies. If giving birth really is the miracle of life then our workplace policies should protect and benefit those of us performing these miracles. Anything less that that is unacceptable.
Young Women Rising encourages Connecticut women ages 18-35 to raise their voices about issues they care about. Each writer speaks for herself as an individual and Young Women Rising as a whole does not intend to endorse the views of any particular writer. If you’re interested in submitting a guest piece please contact us at Michelle.Noehren@cga.ct.gov.