Financial matters

6 Weeks Paid Family Leave in 2018 Federal Budget Proposal!

May 25th, 2017

President Donald Trump has proposed that employees be granted 6 weeks paid family leave for the birth of a child (each for mothers and fathers!) or the adoption of a child. Under the proposed plan, states would be required to provide leave payments through existing unemployment insurance programs or would have to identify cuts or tax hikes, as needed, to cover the costs.

Now as most of you know, paid family leave is something that I have advocated for since the beginning of Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond in 2009. Currently the United States is one of 4 nations that doesn’t offer paid leave; Lesotho, Swaziland and Papau New Guinea are the other nations. Instead, we have the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which entitles workers to 12 weeks of unpaid leave with guarantee of their job in order to care for a new baby, ill family member or themselves if they’ve worked for their employer for a year. However, this particular law has a slew of loopholes, not the least of which is that if a company is small, i.e. less than 50 members, the employer doesn’t have to abide by FMLA and if an employee is absent too much, the employer can fire them.

Paid medical leave is long overdue, but given our current administration, I am guardedly optimistic. The Republican party has long been against any sort of government intervention as it pertains to family and social services and this current administration is doing all that it can to dismantle many of our social safety net programs. So while I am excited to see families may finally be able to spend time with their new children or to take time to address pressing health issues, I’m skeptical that it’s really going to happen.

What concerns me about this proposal is that it hasn’t been clearly thought out by the administration. It’s a great eye catcher and liberals like me get all pumped-until we actually take a hard look at the proposal. There is not clear cut way to fund this proposal or a way to enforce it. Making states fund paid family leave, how will that work? What will be the repercussions if states don’t fund paid leave?  Historically, when states have been given the latitude to “govern” as they see fit, what often happens is that laws don’t take effect. A perfect example of this has been the Affordable Care Act. States were given the ability to “govern” as they saw fit and many states filed lawsuits against the bill, failed to accept allotted funds (Texas!!), didn’t expand Medicaid, and many insurers simply pulled out of the marketplace all together leaving those (of us) in the system with very few (affordable) health insurance options. Leaving paid family leave up to the states will again result in states with a high degree of social consciousness to implement a programs, and the rest will just simply let the legislation sit on someone’s desk and gather dust while it is “discussed” in legislative committees. Sadly, in many cases, those needing the provision of the proposal won’t get what they need.

Now we know that paid leave can be done. Currently California, Rhode Island, Washington, New Jersey, New York and the District of Columbia have paid family leave programs. These states and municipalities have made the commitment to their constituents and have found the way to fund paid leave-even when the federal government said “No”. One would think that the federal government would have looked at these programs and crafted a national program, or even recommended that representatives from these states help other states get their programs up and running. No. Nope. Nothing. Zip. Nada.

So once again, there has been a grand declaration that supporters are hailing as progress, and presidential supporters are saying that the president has kept his campaign promise. Supporters are also giving credit for the legislation to First Daughter Ivanks Trump for encouraging her father to craft such a proposal. But those of us who have been advocating for this legislation for years know the devil is in the details. Without a clear mandate, without a clear means of implementation and without funding, this proposal simply isn’t going to happen. I most certainly hope that I am wrong because paid family leave is very much needed in this country. But until I see a concrete plan of how paid leave is going to work, how each state will develop and implement their individual programs, how states will be held accountable for developing and implementing the programs, how the programs will be funded and how accessible the programs will be to ALL citizens, I will be holding off on the victory champagne and streamers .

How do you feel about paid medical leave? Have you used FMLA? How did it work for you? Please share your experiences in the comments section below.

References:

US Department of Labor

MomsRising.org

Healthcare.gov

 

“Sarah Jessica Parker looked fantastic 2 weeks post partum and I look like a blob!”

April 20th, 2017

About a week ago I (re) posted an article on the Facebook Page about a study out of England which states that ‘women need a full year to recover from pregnancy and childbirth’. There was also a response by a reader,

“That’s literally impossible for most moms in the U.S.”

Sadly, she’s right. America is probably the worst industrialized nation for new mamas, not providing any sort of paid maternity leave, routine in home support for new moms or adequate resources for self care. While I have always been a fierce proponent of the “Year to grow ’em, a year to recover” philosophy, I completely understand that in America, many women MUST get back to work as soon as possible to help support their families.

Unfortunately, Far too many times I’ve had mamas “up and at ’em” just days after giving birth, trying to tackle the responsibilities of running their homes, caring for their older children, back to work full time and starting right in on an exercise regimen in order to “get back to their pre-pregnancy” physique as soon as possible. Not long after, they call me; exhausted, achey, homes and families in chaos, they’re crying at work and with faltering milk supplies. They can’t understand what’s wrong? Some women have actually sustained injuries from trying to do exercise programs that are just too rigorous for the early post partum, and I can think of two clients that actually developed organ prolapses (internal organs coming out of bodily openings) from putting too much stress on their already weakened pelvic floors.

“But Sarah Jessica Parker looked fantastic 2 weeks post partum and I look like a blob!”

What mamas fail to realize is that Sarah Jessica Parker-and other celebrity moms-usually have nannies, housekeepers, personal trainers, chefs and a hoard of other helpers that help them not only manage their homes and their babies, but also are instrumental in helping them regain that “Hollywood glow”. Most of us are lucky if our mothers can come for even a week after we deliver! Sarah Jessica Parker said as much on “The View” after the birth of her son. She shared that she was required to be back on set and able to fit into her wardrobe, so she had private pilates sessions daily, a personal chef preparing special meals and a personal assistant just to handle her affairs! She had a nanny to care for the baby which allowed her to sleep, a housekeeper and a whole host of other staff at her disposal to handle everything else. So yes, she looked fabulous just weeks post partum.

But that isn’t reality.

Mamas, pregnancy and childbirth fundamentally change a woman’s body. Even women who look utterly fabulous after their childbearing years will still have “badges of honor” indicating that they have successfully been pregnant, labored and delivered children. For some women, there will be the very slightest of slack to her abdominal muscles (until she has a tummy tuck!). Others will have faint-or not so faint-stretch marks on the belly, breasts, hips and thighs. Some women will have c-section incision scars. And still others will have invisible badges; that little trickle of urine that escapes when she laughs, coughs or sneezes, hemorrhoids, and other “inconveniences.”But all of them had to allow their bodies to recover. I can’t think of one woman who has given birth of any sort and not said,

“I never had ______ until after I was pregnant and gave birth.”

It just goes with the territory. Most of the so called “badges” are minor, simply little reminders of our journey. However, if women engage in activity that is too vigorous too soon after delivery, even returning to work before their bodies have had a chance to recuperate from the marathon that was pregnancy, labor and delivery, what may have started out as a minor inconvenience can develop into a major problem requiring more time, therapy and sometimes surgical intervention to resolve. Truly it would have been far less traumatic to simply ease back into daily routines.

American culture does not make it easy for women to recuperate from childbearing. However, women themselves can take these 7 steps to ease back into their pre-pregnancy routines.

  1. No vigorous activity until at least 8 weeks post partum, but if post c-section, consider waiting until 12 weeks post partum to fully heal.
  2. Learn and do pelvic floor strengthening exercises.
  3. Rest as much as possible, and whenever you can, take a nap.
  4. Let major housekeeping go and even get help with the small stuff if possible.
  5. Say no to outside activities. You don’t need to chaperone, bake cookies or make calls for any event. Focus on you!
  6. Spend time at home with family. This is precious bonding time for you all.
  7. Reduce work hours as much as possible.

I realize that some of these suggestions will be easier to implement than others. This list is also not exhaustive, but just a starting point. It’s just imperative mamas that you take care of yourselves so that you can get back to your daily routines with full strength and joy. It’s also important to fully heal from this pregnancy, especially if are planning to have other pregnancies in the future. If you start back too soon, you may set yourself back several weeks or injure yourself making subsequent pregnancies more difficult.

I know that it’s been a long haul, especially if you’ve spent weeks to months on bed rest. But please, please, please take a little more time to heal. Don’t compare yourselves to other women, especially not celebrities. Your journey is your journey and its best to honor your inner time table as much as possible, allowing your body to heal and prepare for subsequent pregnancies or to simply chart new territory as a mom! Whatever you decide to do, do it with a healthy, strong body!

Do you have a tip for recovering after pregnancy you’d like to share? Do you have a question? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. Your words could be just the thing a mama needs to read today!

Mamas on Bedrest: Vermont is the Best State in Which to Have Your Baby!

February 28th, 2017

According to WalletHub.com “2016 Best and Worst Places to Have a Baby”. Wallethub.com is a virtual financial planning company that helps individuals track their spending and saving, help repair credit and help individuals protect their credit history including protecting identity. Wallethub.com tracks people and money and in their opinion, if you cannot afford to have a baby, you shouldn’t. When the parameters of delivery budget (cost to have a baby, cost of living and cost/availability of health insurance), overall health care ranking (maternal and infant mortality, rates of prematurity, availability of professionals such as midwives and pediatricians, etc.. ) and baby friendliness (i.e. parental leave, available childcare, support for new moms, etc..) were analyzed for the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Vermont ranked number 1 as best place to have a baby by wallethub.com.

It is important to plan for children as unintended pregnancies can cause huge financial strains on families and can have serious health implications for mothers and infants if pregnancies occur too close together. But there are other, equally important issues to consider before becoming pregnant; availability of and access to quality prenatal care, adequate food resources, housing, how will the mama/family fare without mama’s income, childcare and availability and accessibility of resources such as transportation that may pose potential roadblocks to a healthy pregnancy and birth.

The article in question alluded to the fact that if a couple cannot afford a child, they should not have a child. Well, I live in Texas where availability of and access to family planning information and resources is extremely and increasingly limited. So what is a couple to do? Perhaps they cannot afford a child but in Texas, there is not readily available contraception and virtually no access to abortion. Should people simply stop having sex? That won’t happen!

I agree, finances should factor into the decision of whether or not to have a child. The reality is that conception is happening regardless of financial status (or even couple status!!). In my opinion, the best states or more pointedly, the best places to have a baby (because there are little oases within what I will call “maternity deserts”, areas that are fairly void of any sort of maternity support or reproductive health care) are places with the following:

  • obstetricians and midwives, and facilities that allow both to perform deliveries
  • birthing facilities that use the least amount of intervention that is safely possible
  • birthing facilities that allow fathers and doulas to be present to support mama during labor and delivery
  • birthing facilities that allow mama to freely move during labor
  • birthing facilities that believe in immediate skin to skin bonding between mother and baby (even before wiping off the vernix, provided there are no health complications in either mother or baby!)
  • birthing facilities that promote breastfeeding and provide immediate and readily available lactation support to new mothers

These characteristics should define whether or not a provider, a hospital or birthing center, a city or town or a state is “best for mama and baby.” The worst state in which to have a baby according to Wallethub.com is Mississippi and yet I would bet that within that state there are a few hospitals or birthing centers that are supportive of childbearing women and offer quality care and support. In addition to financial considerations, prior to pregnancy (or at least prior to birth) mamas and their partners should research health care providers and the health care facilities available to them in their states, cities and communities. For sure some cities will have more resources than others, and some states will have more resources than others. But that doesn’t mean that having an uncomplicated, normal healthy birth is absolutely impossible. It just means that mamas will have to be savvy, do research about what is available and collect as many resources for themselves as possible.

Mamas, be careful what you read. The headline “Vermont is the best place to have a baby” is misleading alone, may have had many mamas ready to relocate and truly doesn’t give mamas and their families tools and tips to evaluate birthing resources and facilities in their area that may in fact be “Mama and Baby Friendly”. I believe that every woman can have a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy and birth a healthy full term normal weight infant. This is much easier to do in some areas where resources are more readily available than in others, but it is possible none the less. Use the aforementioned list as a guide to evaluating resources and with a bit of research, you too can make your pregnancy, labor and delivery mama and baby friendly-no matter where you live in the United States!

Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond is committed to helping mamas have safe, healthy pregnancies, labors & deliveries and healthy full term babies. If you need help finding resources in your area, e-mail info@mamasonbedrest.com.

References:

Wallethub.com

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Guttmacher Institute