My Baby Or My Boss: Advocating For My Safety While Pregnant
Updated: May 4, 2022
The following blogpost is dedicated to the thousands of women who suffer in silence each day from pregnancy loss. It is also dedicated to my three beautiful babies whose souls are no longer on this earth.
This December I suffered a miscarriage. My third loss in 18 months. Devastation doesn’t describe the pain I have experienced. The only way I can verbalize it is: imagine having a deep hole in your heart filled with emptiness, agony, and pain. Sometimes I feel the hole in my heart is the space for my children if they were here with me on this earth.
Through everything, I have somehow managed to find a silver lining from my loss. I was so grateful that with this last miscarriage, I was not working full time for another company. Back in April, I was laid off due to COVID and I opted to dive into my business as a Career Specialist. Having the freedom from self-employment allowed me the time to heal on my terms. I still felt pressure to move on and get back to work, but I soon realized that that pressure was influenced by me being conditioned to working in an environment that systematically puts the needs of women as low priority.
I am from the United States, but I currently reside in Canada. Last year, my first loss occurred while I was working full time for a travel agency. My miscarriage occurred around 27 weeks, making it a stillbirth. Canada, thankfully, is one of the countries that offer paid maternity leave for up to a year. Because my baby was past 20 weeks, I was able to receive leave for 18 weeks which was a tremendous blessing.
The whole time I was on leave I thought about the thousands of women in the US who did not have the option of taking 4 and a half months off after a stillbirth. Many women get just 12 weeks after giving birth and maybe a week or two off after a loss. Very often they have to use vacation time to take time off after miscarriage. There are some acceptations to this norm, but much of it is centered around the company the woman works for and their benefits package. The thought of it all is so sad and infuriating and brings to light how many workspaces do not truly support expectant women.
When I was in my first pregnancy, I often felt misunderstood by my peers and leaders and that I was being overly emotional, and difficult to work with. The reality though was that I was constantly under stress, because so many new things were happening to my body that I couldn’t control. I feared I was not performing my best largely because I was so exhausted and struggled to focus. I remember crying in my OBGYN’s office and asking her if she could give me a doctor’s note for a few days of rest. She informed me that she was not allowed to provide a doctor’s notes for rest due to pregnancy.
By the time I lost my baby, I was so overwhelmed and worn out that I was having heart palpitations and would cry pretty much every night. I made a lot of mistakes in my pregnancy, specifically not taking care of my emotional needs and putting way too much pressure on myself, but I can’t stop thinking how things would have been if I felt more supported in my work environment. I think the people I worked with tried to support me, but I don’t think they were trained nor had the right resources to do so. It made me feel as though pregnant women and women with newborns are considered less valuable and a even burden. This is purely my opinion, and my experience heavily influences it.
My husband and I will eventually try again, but I have an honest fear that if I worked for a company, big or small, I would not be safe through my pregnancy. I am willing to make financial and/or physical sacrifices to ensure my safety and the safety of my unborn children. I want to tell all women who want to have children that they should put their physical health before anything else, but I feel that is such a statement of privilege because so many women cannot afford to work part-time or not work at all while pregnant.
We as a society have to do better. It’s not just about maternity leave, it’s about making pregnancy safe for women who work. This includes better advocacy for expectant workers and sensitivity training for leadership so that they better understand and support the behavioral changes of pregnant women. Specifically, in the US we need all the aforementioned, plus PAID FEDERAL MATERNITY LEAVE. At least 6 months, minimum.
I have many aspirations in life, but one I have been thinking heavily about is how can I advocate for working expectant women and help create a path for federal paid maternity leave in the US. As I work towards this goal, I will continue to advocate and fight for myself, my future children, and for my children waiting for me in paradise.
Zeinab Kahera M.Ed. is a native of Atlanta, GA and currently resides in Montreal, Quebec.© Zeinab Kahera Career Specialist. The information contained in our website, blog, guest blogs, e-mails, videos, programs, services and/or products is for educational and informational purposes only, and is made available to you as self-help tools for your own use.