Surviving bed rest
Lately I have been bombarded with messages and e-mails from Mamas on Bedrest seeking for financial help. I hear you and I so wish that I could help. Unfortunately, Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond was never designed to provide financial assistance to families in need.
This is not a new issue. Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond has been a staunch advocate of paid family and maternity leave since its inception. We have traveled to the halls of congress with other family leave proponents to petition legislators to pass a paid family leave bill without success. To date, The National Partnership of Women and Families, MomsRising and others continue to press for paid leave, and while we have gotten close, there still remains no uniform, national paid family leave for new parents. Thus the United States has the dubious distinction of being the only industrialized nation on the planet not to offer paid family/maternity leave to its citizens. In terms of countries with medical leave benefits, we rank approximately 168th out of 172 nations that offer medical leave benefits. The only other countries without paid leave policies are Lesotho, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea. Thus the United States, one of the richest nations on the planet, the nation that spends more for health care than any other nation on the planet continues to have birth outcomes and overall health outcomes that rival those of developing nations without technological resources. It is a sad state indeed.
The Family Medical Leave Act is the best that we have and that has its restrictions. Passed in 1993, FMLA allows an employee to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a family member or for the employee to undergo treatment for illness and continue to have healthcare coverage during this time as an employee benefit. But there are some caveats. First, FMLA does not apply if you work for a small company with less that 50 employees. For companies larger than 50 employees or electing to enact FMLA, if an employee is out beyond the 12 weeks, the employers is not obligated to keep them as employees and many people have lost their jobs due to prolonged illness and absence. Additionally, while employers may be required to keep you on as an employee, they are not required to keep you in your same position or at your same salary. So after your leave, you may return to your place of employment but not to your same position.
Some individual companies have elected to offer their employees paid medical leave. This is a very individual decision and one that is not at all regulated. If your employer offers a paid leave benefit, you need to contact the human resources office to see what the rules and stipulations are regarding the paid leave. You will want to ask if there is a minimum amount of time you have had to be with the company in order to be eligible for the benefit as well as ask if you have to be a full time, salaried/exempt employee.
What else can Mamas on Bedrest do? How is a mama supposed to go on bedrest, rest, relax and calmly gestate her baby when she is filled with anxiety about her family’s finances? There are a few things that mamas can do that may help their financial situations. We offer these suggestions:
- Learn the laws and regulations governing paid leave for your state. Three states, California, New Jersey and Rhode Island, offer paid family and medical leave. All three states fund their programs through employee-paid payroll taxes and are administered through their respective disability programs. Other states and counties have various medical leave laws, so visit your state, county and local webpages to see what your area offers in the way of medical leave.
- Check with your state’s labor office. Some states have a disability program and take a portion out of your paycheck for this program. If this is the case, you may be eligible to apply for benefits. Often the benefit is a percentage of your pay, say 60%, but isn’t 60% of your salary better than nothing? These programs also have various rules and regulations so check with your state labor office for complete details and to learn how to apply if there is a program for which you are eligible.
- Speak with your employer. Some employers are willing to make allowances for your absence. In some cases, if you are able to work from home, they will set you up with equipment to continue working while on bedrest. In other situations you may be able to job-share; a co-worker covers for you now and you cover for them when you are able. Many employers are more amenable to being flexible than losing an employee and having to find and hire a replacement which actually represents a substantial cost to the employer.
- Consider Work from Home options. If you aren’t eligible for any sort of paid leave, your state/county doesn’t have a disability program and your employer/job won’t allow for you to work from home, you may want to consider work from home options. Some mamas have started businesses while on bedrest, working as virtual assistants, bookkeepers, medical transcriptionist and other jobs that have nominal equipment requirements and flexible hours. If you aren’t sure what types of work from home opportunities are available, I strongly suggest that you visit Theworkfromhomewoman.com. This website is run by my friend and colleague Holly Hannah and offers tips and advice for moms who want to find legitimate work from home opportunities.
I realize that adding to the stress of being placed on bedrest and worrying about how you are going to make ends meet you may not feel like looking for a job, but I have to say that many a mama has created a wonderful business out of her bedrest experience. (i.e. Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond, the Bedrest Concierge, The Sleep Whisperer just to name a few! Also, check out our podcasts! There are several mamas there who have taken their pregnancy/bedrest experiences and turned them into satisfying and profitable businesses!). While being placed on bedrest may not seem like an opportunity, it may in fact be the start of something wonderful for you! Check out your options. Look at the resources available to you. Ask those around you if there is something that you can do to pass the time that would help them. You may be surprised at what opportunities come your way!
If you have found a way to stay financially solvent while on bedrest, or if you have started a business while on bedrest, please share your story in our comments section below. You truly are an inspiration and other mamas will greatly benefit from your wisdom and savvy!!!
Calling your attention to an amazing organization that is doing exceptional work globally for mamas, The Maternal Health TaskForce (MHTF). A project of the Women and Health Initiative at the Harvard T.H.Chan School of Public Health, MHTF is working towards:
- Making the most up to date evidence-based information is available to practitioners, provider, researchers and anyone with a vested interest in helping and supporting women during childbearing
- Provide opportunities for the global maternal health community to come together to discuss and create unified policies on women’s health issues globally
- Provide resources and support for research in Maternal/Infant/Child Health
- Train the next generation of Global Women’s Health Practitioners and researchers.
I receive the MHTF e-newsletter and the last newsletter was all about Maternal Mental Health. Maternal Mental Health is an often overlooked (ignored!!) part of women’s health. Current research estimates are that 10-15% of women in upper income countries (like the US, Canada, Australia and the UK for example) experience perinatal mental health disorders. In lower and middle income countries (Africa and parts of Asia), the current estimate is closer to 33% and many researchers feel that this number is low because until now mental health in childbearing women in these countries hasn’t been addressed. However, the impact of adverse maternal mental health has had significant impact on maternal health, infant and child health and the maternal child bond, so researchers and clinicians both are very keen to study the various mental health disorders common in childbearing women-mainly depression and anxiety.
Over the last month, MHTF had a blog carnival addressing mental health issues in childbearing women in their Mental Health: The Missing piece in Maternal Health series. It’s a really interesting series of blog posts and reflect how pervasive mental health disorders are in childbearing women, and how overlooked the signs and symptoms have been until very recently. The blogs also address how the stigma of mental health is so strong in all countries regardless of economic status, and this stigma is keeping many women from receiving much needed care. The articles do a wonderful job of highlighting the issues surrounding the stigma of mental illness, how women are not being heard in terms of the emotional toll of adverse birth outcomes and barriers to care. I highly recommend taking a look.
For those of you not really interested in global women’s health and need assistance closer to home, (i.e. for yourself!!) I am happy to announce that our Third Thursday Teleseminars are going video! It has long been a dream of mine to be able to bring Mamas on Bedrest together to be able to talk and share ! I have been researching platforms on which to do this for years and until recently, the platforms were just too grainy (i.e the images were really not that good), Platforms were only able to accommodate up to 10 participants or platforms that could accommodate more than 10 participants had hefty user fees or required expensive software. Now there is Zoom web conferencing and it’s amazing! I attended a web conference using it last week and I could clearly hear and see all of the other participants! So we are giving Zoom a test drive for our Third Thursday Teleseminar, July 16, 2015. Login details will be shared in our upcoming newsletter and will be available on our website. So if you have concerns about anxiety, depression or other feelings you may be having during your bedrest journey, this is the perfect time and place to bring your concerns.
In the meantime, share pressing questions or concerns in the comments section below or send an e-mail to Info@mamasonbedrest.com for a 24hr response.
Good Afternoon Mamas!
This post is coming to you a later than usual because I went boxing this morning! Yup, mama took it to the gym and did some boxing fitness drills. I’m not ready to spar and don’t know if I ever will, but I needed to let off some steam and conventional exercise programs just weren’t getting it.
It’s been a stressful time with the school year winding down, my kids needing one thing or another and just generally not feeling like I have a good grip on my life at the moment. Can you relate? Some days all is well and I am in the flow. Other days, which seem to be the last several, it feels as if I am in free fall and I am scrambling to “gather my bits”. So after a really good telephone conversation with a dear friend of mine, I did a quick search online and found this wonderful little boxing gym not far from my house. I was really heartened to see two ladies in the ring when I arrived doing sparring drills and I was welcomed by the owner and his son without judgement. I ended up having a really good work out, a combination of overall body conditioning and training, using the various punching bags. I walked out of there, sweaty and tired, but feeling so much lighter and able to focus on what I needed to get done for the day.
As I was driving home, I thought of all of you Mamas on Bedrest. I’ll bet a few of you would like to take it to the heavy bag!! Bedrest is such a physical and emotional drain and while none of us who have been there would ever consider defying doctor’s orders, I think its safe to say that at one time or another, we’d all like to give someone or something a giant “smack down” in frustration due to our situation. Mamas, I know that you cannot get to the gym. I also know that many of you don’t have a confidant, someone with whom you can really share the difficulties of bedrest; the fear and anxiety you may be experiencing and the utter frustration of being relegated to bed at a time when you thought you’d be happily bustling about and preparing for the joyous arrival of your child. Friends and family members all mean well, but are they really able to understand how you feel? How about your partner? Most husbands are just as overwhelmed as mamas! So what is a mama to do to blow off steam when she can’t go to the gym, can’t necessarily do her normal activities to relieve stress, cannot or does not feel comfortable sharing her feelings of frustration with family or friends and her partner is just as overwhelmed as she is?
Call me!! That’s right, call me! Mamas, have you forgotten the 30 Minute Complimentary Bedrest Breakthrough sessions?? Those 30 minutes are there for your pleasure and can be used as yo see fit! You can ask questions about what to expect, ask for tips or simply let fly with your rage! Come on mamas, let it rip! I can take it! I can even handle a bevy of “F” bombs!!! I know that you have been told to stay calm, to “look on the bright side” and to be thankful that you are still pregnant. And while all of that is true, I say , “Hog wash”! Bedrest sucks! It’s really hard. The aches and pains you develop from being in bed day in and day out are maddening. And don’t even get me started on the boredom and isolation…..It’s enough to make even the strongest mama crack. And that’s okay.
Mamas, you have me at your fingertips. Feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com and set up a free complimentary bedrest breakthrough session. Likewise, we do have the Third Thursday Teleseminars (The next one being May 21, 2015) and those are a great way to ask questions and gather information, chat with other mamas and also let off some steam. Mamas, you don’t have to fret all on your own. You have help, you have support. Use me. Use the mamas on our community. And best of all, the services that I have mentioned are all free!!!
Call or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org today to schedule your 30 Minute Complimentary Bedrest Breakthrough session. And don’t forget to join us on the Third Thursday of every month for the Free Third Thursday Teleseminar where I answer questions, you can share experiences with other mamas and let off some steam!!!