Category Archives: Pregnancy

Why I’m So Stressed Out About Maternity Leave

Three months ago, I met with the director of benefits at my company who, after congratulating me on my pregnancy (then just starting my second trimester), told me point blank that I was not eligible to take more than 6 weeks off immediately following the birth of my child (paid or unpaid.)

Due to the way the California policy works, I would be eligible to take 12 more weeks off (6 of them semi paid, 6 unpaid) once I hit my “year” mark at work, but given I’d only be at 9 months when I would give birth, I was basically SOL.

I did ask if I could use any vacation time to make the leave longer (since we have “unlimited vacation time”) and was told no. I asked if I could take an unpaid leave and was told that I would be let go if I did not return to work at the start of week 7. It basically seemed like I had no choice, so I just accepted it, three months into my new job, grateful to have any protection and moved on.

But now that baby is just around the corner and I’ve been talking to more moms, I’m terrified of going back to work at 7 weeks post birth. Like, I will be nursing every two hours through the night and I just don’t know how I will be able to do this. Even if I do make it to the office I’ll be a zombie and useless. I’ll certainly perform poorly leading to getting let go anyway. I mean, I’m not sure I’ll suddenly be on my A game again after 10 or 12 weeks post birth, but it sounds like at that point baby might be sleeping a little bit more through the night, and hopefully so will I.

So now I’ve contacted the head of HR and I am worried I’m just making things worse for myself right now. But I talked to my (newish) boss who basically told me she wants me to take all the time up front and I tried to explain to her I can’t. Maybe if she talks to HR I can, but really they’d have to work something out as it seems like I can’t do this on my own. I’m already so terrified about pissing my boss off–I am not the type of person bosses like to begin with, so I’m just really trying to keep my head down and get my work done… but now I feel like I’m just a walking target the next time they’re looking to downsize or just get rid of that one person who doesn’t fit on the team.

And it sucks because I don’t even want to take that much time off… I feel like I’m doing ok now… not great, but ok… ok enough to maybe every day not feel like I’m about to get fired. Except when I’m gone for 8 weeks or 10 weeks or more, well, then people will forget about all the effort I put in this year and I’ll be back to square one. And regardless of when I go back I’ll certainly be more exhausted even if I try not to be since I am baby’s food source.

There are days I think I should just quit but I know I can’t. There’s the salary plus the health insurance plus the fact that my stock is worth a substantial amount and I don’t see any of that until early next year. I’m fortunate to be in this situation but at the same time I’m crying every single day because I don’t know what to do — how hard to I push HR? I’m so new to this job. I don’t deserve any protection. I know that my skillset is somewhat unique and hard to hire for — so there’s a chance they wouldn’t find a replacement for me in the extra six weeks I’d take. There’s also a chance they would.

Part of me feels like I should just shut up, come back to work at 7 weeks postpartum and hold my breathe for the rest of the year until I vest my first chunk of stock and get some of my bonus (whatever they decide to give me) and then if I’m completely frazzled and ready to jump off a bridge I can consider leaving if necessary. I don’t WANT to leave but at that point I may need to. Or maybe I won’t. But at least then I’ll have made it through phase #1 and should be at about $650k networth. It would still be very upsetting to leave as I’d be throwing away my career at that point, along with substantial upside, but I’m scared and feel like I’m constantly on edge and really just not doing so well from a mental health perspective right now.

I wish my husband cared to make more money but he doesn’t. He provides in so many other ways and will be home to take care of the kid while I work, and for that I’m grateful. But the costs of living here are just really too high and he could be making more if he wanted to but he consults for one small business on a part-time basis and never really gets raises so every year his income is worth less and less. Now with baby the flexibility is worth a lot but it just feels like we could be in so much of a better place if he had any interest in financial stability for our family. I know that’s not his thing and I knew that from when I first started dating him, so I can’t put this on him at all. It would just make it easier if we both earned about the same, but we don’t. It would make it easier if I was better at my job or wasn’t having a baby, but all these things are not the case.

I feel really really really shitty about asking HR for more than the 6 weeks, and for every single conversation I have with my boss about my leave. I feel guilty for having a kid and I feel guilty for knowing I won’t be able to dedicate the time I want to raising it because I’ll be so paranoid that I will look bad at work that I’ll probably increase my time and output at work compensate. All the while I’ll likely be extremely exhausted. Maybe I’m thinking too much worse case scenario but how awake can one be waking up every  2 hours to nurse all night?

So many parts of me want to just quit but those parts want to quit because I hate the guilt and embarrassment of being a pregnant woman less than a year into a new job and dealing with crappy US maternity leave policies and also not wanting to seem like I’m entitled to anything just because I made the choice to be a mom. I guess if it gets to the point at 7 weeks where I just cannot return to work for my mental wellbeing, I don’t, and I deal with the financial consequences (which would be brutal to the tune of $100k-$150k+ in lost earnings, depending on when I return to the workforce.)

And I have no one to talk to about this which makes it even harder. I can’t talk to my boss–she wants me to take all the time up front and doesn’t care (nor should she) about the pay or no pay situation. I can’t talk to HR because their job is protecting the company. I can’t talk to my husband because he knows I lose my jobs often and just sees this at yet another one of those situations. I can’t talk to my family, they don’t understand. I can’t talk to my friends–my female friends who have kids have husbands who make $300k+ per year and either are stay at home moms or run part-time businesses. I can’t talk to my therapist about it because this isn’t a mental health issue this is a I need advice on how to handle maternity leave issue. So I just feel really alone right now and that’s what hurts the most and leads me to this very dark, hopeless place. I’m trying to be excited about having a baby but I’m just scared. I know I’m lucky to have even 6 weeks of covered leave at semi pay, but what happens on week 7?

 

 

Maternity Leave and Not Losing Money

Maternity leave in the US is a joke, especially compared to the rest of the world. But, that joke is my reality for the next year, so I have to figure out the best way to deal with it–especially since I’m the primary breadwinner in my household (well, sort of – we split everything 50/50 but should shit hit the fan it’s my savings that will ensure we’re not living on the street.) Anyway…

My income is just worth a lot. If my husband made a substantial salary and I was, say, a teacher or social worker (no offense to teachers or social workers) it would be less impactful to our household income for me to take a few months off. However, when I look at the cost of my time off, it’s really expensive. Continue reading

Just Spent $500 on Prenatal Exercise Classes…

Well, since my childbirth is practically free, I’m splurging on exercise classes. Why? I’m gaining weight way too fast and it’s not going to be pretty in a few weeks.

While I got my weight down to 140 before my wedding (and was about 150 at my wedding two years ago), I since have been yo-yoing between 165 and 180. Right before I got pregnant I was around 168, then my first trimester I shot up… too much… too fast. Continue reading

Money and Fetuses: The (Optional) Costs of Pregnancy

Prenatal yoga and exercise classes. Specialized massages. A pillow that, as my husband notes, looks like a “squid.” Fetal doppler. Maternity clothes. Classes to learn how to breathe and how to not have a panic attack when a human being is taking his or her own jolly time squeezing out of your hoo-ha. Maternity photography. Birth photography. Fresh 48 photography. Doulas. Elective ultrasounds (in 3D, no less.) The opportunities to spend money before you have a baby are endless.

But babies are expensive, and the rational self would avoid spending money on anything right now. The “I’m pregnant” self says “I want to spend a little more money to prepare myself for this insanity that is about to happen to my body, and possibly document it in a meaningful way.”

So far, the most I’ve spent on this pregnancy is on maternity clothes. I don’t think I have even bought that much (and I never have anything to wear), but it adds up. I’ve also taken two (free trial) prenatal exercise classes, and one prenatal yoga class for $20. I have yet to invest in any sort of photography or specialized ultrasounds.

Fortunately, my insurance is amazing and maternity care as well as childbirth (as long as I keep my job, knock on wood) is practically free. That is amazing. Any other insurance I’ve had in life and that same process would be $10k or more. So, there’s that. Can’t I spend a little bit on this process? Or, given that we’ll need $300k-$400k for a downpayment on a monthly mortgage of $7k per month, I better just save every penny I have until the day I’m old and wrinkly and can maybe buy a house for my family?

I’m really struggling with how to spend money at this stage in my life. It’s a complete first world problem, and one I am well aware I’m lucky to have. That doesn’t change having it. I’m at a smidge under $600k in net worth right now, and I feel proud of this accomplishment (which is well over my goal of having $500k in the bank before I have my first child.) Still, the more I have, the less I feel comfortable spending. I also acknowledge the older I get, the less valuable my money becomes (less time to compound) and in my 30s I’m still in an era where every dollar saved is likely $4-$17 in 30 years. So, even though inflation makes this slightly less attractive, I look at everything I buy now — an $80 exercise package for the month, for instance, and figure I’m spending $360 of retirement money, if not more. And, despite the goal of buying a $1.5M home (small home here) and having $2M in my retirement accounts seeming like a pipe dream, I still have this drive to get there, which means – no yoga, no doula, no extras.

And, for women across the world, this is totally normal. People give birth and don’t spend an arm and a leg on all this other stuff. They may spend money to furnish a nursery (another area I’m saving money in, since we have a one bedroom apartment and no nursery – just room for a crib!) I mean, it’s also easy to spend a small fortune on preparing for baby — when they aren’t going to remember anything you provided them as long as they are safe and comfortable in the basics. However, I will remember my maternity. Shouldn’t I invest a little in some comfort and the excitement?

The big expenditure I’m deciding on is the photography. I think it would be amazing to document the birth process (even though I’m sure at the moment I will feel absolutely horrified a photographer is there) — and, especially capturing that first moment when I hold my child. My husband can surely snap a photo on the iPhone, but then he won’t be in the picture, and we won’t have anyone else with us for the delivery.

There are some photographers that double as doulas, which I’m interested in only because I know I’m going to have massive panic attacks while giving birth and it would be nice to have someone there who understands what’s normal and isn’t. I haven’t yet decided if I’m going to get an epidural — theoretically, I will because I hate pain… but, if there’s anything I hate as much as pain, it’s anything getting near my spine. The fear of being paralyzed via epidural (even though i realize that’s a rare side effect) is enough to possibly have me feel a big ol ring of fire. Maybe.

I guess I’m also really — interested — in the natural pain of childbirth. I won’t be, you know, in five months when my vagina looks like the scene of a mass knifing…. but, at 34, this may be my only child and only opportunity to experience this thing that we as humans have been doing since, well, the beginning of humanity. As painful as it is, I’m curious how the human body performs in this moment of pushing a 10 pound create out of an orifice that also, at other moments of life, is supposedly described by the adjective “tight.”

If I do go to the natural route, it seems having a doula is a good idea. My hospital has a bunch of midwifes, so maybe that’s enough. And, as reality and the pain set in, I’m not going to avoid getting an epidural just because I thought I wanted to experience this pain. I’m going to decide in the moment and be open to  all options. I’d like to prepare for a natural childbirth, just in case I feel up for it. And, maybe I should hire someone to help me prepare?

It doesn’t matter how much I spend or don’t spend on this child and my pregnancy – I’ll be happy to have a healthy child. I’m still in that surreal moment of pregnancy where I don’t feel anything yet other than getting fat. I’ve seen baby inside of me via ultrasound a few times, and I know the miracle of life is rapidly forming right in my belly. It’s a bizarre thing to know. I do feel like it’s a person, not just a fetus right now at 20 weeks, in the sense that I’ve seen its hands and nose and eye sockets and it has stared us down in the ultrasound. It’s my baby in there, and I hope to the world that s/he is ok and will be happy with the life we can provide for her/him. I know I won’t be able to provide the same kind of life I had growing up–but then again my parents are born-again assholes so maybe that’s a good thing. I hope it is.

Now Everyone Knows I’m Pregnant

The cat baby is out of the proverbial bag. My Facebook “friends” list of 1000+ and 60k+ followers is aware, if they’ve been paying any attention, that I’m pregnant. I sent out an email to my coworkers recently informing them that I’m not just getting fat, I’m also pregnant. My boss replied all and added the head of the company, so now he knows too. They all know.

I guess it’s a bit of a relief. I felt weird announcing it in a meeting, or one-off to my peers so the word spread unevenly. It’s not like I participate in small talk as the norm, so bringing this up out of nowhere would be odd — “hey, so and so coworker, I know we don’t talk much, but I’m pregnant.” Continue reading

Can you teach empathy? Pregnant daughter of narcisstic parents would like to know…

My sister and I surprised my parents this weekend with the news – I’m pregnant. While I envisioned the surprise – in a normal, loving family -to go something like this…

My parents would meet my sister, who was visiting for the weekend, and she would enter their condo and go to her room to pull out a gift from me to give to them, without them knowing. I would call “from the west coast” as a coincidence, to say hi, and they’d mention my sister just arrived. Then my sister would give them the “gift” and they’d open it to see inside something that clearly stated they were going to be grandparents. At the moment they were having a loving, emotional, “we’re so happy for you” reaction, I’d knock on the door and they’d be further surprised that I was there, not across the country, to celebrate with them this wonderful news. We’d embrace and cry, especially since they know and understand how much we’ve wanted children and how hard it has been to get pregnant, and we’d all go out to celebrate, excited for them to be grandparents, excited for my sister to be an aunt, and excited for myself and my husband to soon be bringing new life into the world. Continue reading

So I told my boss that I’m pregnant.

It was as awkward and uncomfortable as I expected it to be. At 15 weeks, I figured it was time to spill the beans. Even though my boss may have ignored my rampant weight gain, eventually he’d figure out that my growing stomach wasn’t just due to age and binging on carbs.

So I told him. In our regular meeting, I knew I had to find the time to bring it up. There’s never a good time. I thought of starting the meeting with “I’m pregnant,” but he started talking about a different topic immediately so I had to wait until he asked his standard question “how are you?” — Continue reading

14 Weeks Pregnant, 2 Weeks Until I Tell My Parents!

Today I have officially entered the second trimester. I’m fortunate that my first trimester was actually not that bad–no major morning sickness outside of mild nausea if I didn’t eat anything in the morning. The side effect of NOT having morning sickness is that I did gain weight — too much weight — during the first 13 weeks of this pregnancy. I had plateaued for a while at 11 lbs gain and then shot up to a total of 16! Yikes.

Outside of my rapid weight gain, though, what I’m really concerned about is this 6 weeks maternity leave situation. The more I think about it, the more upset I feel that my work does not allow me to use any vacation time (since we have “unlimited vacation” they do not have to approve any and it’s not possible to accrue PTO) so I have no choice other than to head back to work at 6 weeks post birth or quit. Since I have no plans of quitting (and it would be rather devastating financially for many reasons) I’ll be headed back to work fairly soon after I meet my first child.

Continue reading

My Messed Up Maternity Leave Plan That Makes No Sense

The good news, is I get some paid maternity leave. That’s more than most women in this country can bank on. I’m extremely fortunate that my company has to follow the laws of the land (in this case, California) to provide 4 weeks of “before due date” and 6 weeks of “after delivery” protected leave with some pay (via state disability, and the case of my company, a few weeks fully paid.)

Now, the good news is that I get ANOTHER 6 weeks of semi-paid leave after the first 6 weeks of disability. The bad news is, I’m not allowed to take it until I hit my one year mark on the job — which means I’ll have anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months (1, if I give birth on my due date) in between leave #1 and leave #2. I thought maybe they’d allow me to take a week or two unpaid, so I could be home 8 weeks with newborn, but no dice. Basically, they are strict about these policies. Since we have an “unlimited time off” policy I’m, ironically, not allowed to take any time off (vacation OR unpaid) after I get back from my 6 weeks. That seems kind of f’d, esp the whole not being allowed to take UNPAID time, but that’s the law – and my company is not going to go out of their way to provide anything beyond the law, esp to someone who is so new. I can’t blame them, but it still sucks. Continue reading

A Happy Post, For a Change: Hello Second Trimester

I sat on the floor early this morning and did something I haven’t done — felt something I haven’t felt — for a long time. I sat and cried. The crying part isn’t the usual part. It’s that those tears streaming down my face were happy tears.

I triple checked out of disbelief — was I also thinking of the best way to remove myself rom this universe? Did I have negative, self-defeating thoughts causing the tears that I somehow wasn’t detecting? No, I was crying because – baby. Because tomorrow, depending on who you ask, I’m either entering the last week of my first trimester or the first week of my second trimester (I’ll be 13 weeks pregnant.) And, my prenatal defect ultrasound was yesterday and everything went great — baby is healthy, so far as they can tell in the things they tested for, and spending its time upside down sleeping until you wake it up and then, in true related-to-me fashion, bouncing all over the place the second you wake it up. Continue reading