What is wrong with maternity leave in America?

Everything.  After going to my six-week check-up, my doctor didn’t offer me any more time.  And even before I had the baby, she informed me that by medical standards, they can’t guarantee any more than six weeks for regular delivery and eight weeks for a c-section.  Seriously??  That is enough time to recuperate physically AND mentally?  You just had a baby extracted from your uterus either by a knife cutting you wide open and taking out all of your intestines OR you pushed them through your vagina and most likely tore something.  Don’t even get me started on the emotional roller-coaster you are on from day one of your pregnancy through the three months to a year after the baby is born.  Are you fricken kidding me?

I have been asked by several people – did you ASK for more time?  I did not.  I shouldn’t have to.  After my last child, when I was deep in the throes of postpartum depression, she offered me more time.  It wasn’t even a second thought for her.  It was for me.  I wasn’t sure if more time is what I needed because I was afraid I would fall into such an avoidance situation that I would never be able to go back to work.  So I didn’t take it.  For me, personally, it was better to get back into a routine and start seeing a therapist as well as learn about what meds would be helpful.  But I regret it daily.  Which is why I am worried about going back after child number three.

I’m physically fine.  I feel mentally stable, too, mostly due to staying on Lexapro throughout my pregnancy and I am continuing to take it now.  The other chemical concoctions had to stop because it wasn’t known what they might do to the baby, but I have felt pretty good by just increasing Lexapro a little bit.  I am handling things pretty well, and I am not avoiding things.  I worry though that I will regret going back so early, especially if I could have asked for more time (and possibly gotten it).  What will I miss when I go back?  Already my seven week old is trying to roll over and smile, and I just tried them in the Bumbo seat because they like to sit up straight a lot when I am holding them.  I am sitting here now while typing with the baby in the sling around me, feeling their breath, the cuddle, the warmth.  What will they do without me around?  What firsts will I not see or hear?  I know I complain about lack of sleep, painful feedings, having to hold them a lot, but honestly, I am sad.  Knowing this is my last child doesn’t help much.  I don’t want to look back on this forever and wonder “what if?” which is ultimately what can kill you.

You see all over the blogs and news how women in other countries get six months, a year, or more, with benefits to their families shown in data like crazy.  And they get to keep their positions at their jobs.  We are supposed to be living in the greatest country ever.  Why can’t our maternity leaves match this?  I will ponder this is the last three weeks of my glorious leave, get angry and sad, and then eventually get over it.  I can only hope that in my kids’ lifetime that it will change for the better.

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