“Emotional punch in the face”, mothers seek paid family leave to include stillbirths.

Cassidy Crough had excitement and some apprehension when she discovered she was pregnant. She had just started a new job, so she wasn’t sure if she would be eligible for maternity leave. But her employer informed her that New York provides paid family leave, providing her with a portion of her salary while she was away from work to care for her infant, Olivia.

The 34-year-old attorney told, it was amazing as didn’t know how we would have been able to swing it. Starting a new career and being pregnant were quite stressful.

When Crough went in for a regular checkup at 36 weeks into her pregnancy, her doctor delivered the heartbreaking news that Olivia had no heartbeat. She remembered, it was simply the most horrifying time of life.

Crough started digesting the knowledge that Olivia had passed away after realizing that Olivia still needed to be delivered. A baby was born to Crough on March 16. Following Olivia’s burial, she contacted the state to make arrangements for her paid leave.

Her appeal was turned down. She said that the insurance provider informed her that she was ineligible for family leave since it was intended for parents to spend time with their new babies.

Because her baby didn’t live, she is not entitled to the benefits. A mother buries their kid that they carry for nine months, when they go through all the physical aspects of birth and undergo all the horrific postpartum symptoms that every other female goes through, said Crough. It felt like an emotional kick in the gut. Crough, however, is hopeful that by sharing her story, the state would reconsider and offer paid leave to parents of stillborn children.

She continued that postpartum leave should be used instead, as it will include all women who give birth to children. One should be entitled to paid family leave if you give birth to a kid, whether by C-section or vaginal delivery, since your body is experiencing trauma. In all honesty, having women return to work before at least six weeks raises medical concerns.

Only a small number of states, including the following, provide paid family leave, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank: California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Washington, Connecticut, The District of Columbia

The group points out that paid family leave policies in Oregon, Colorado, Maryland, and Delaware have not yet taken effect.

Adrienne Schweer, fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center and chair of its Paid Family Leave Task Force, remarked that they are one of the only developed nations in the world that does not offer paid parental leave to all citizens and one of the few countries that does not offer paid family caregivers and paid medical leave. It’s absurd that one in four new mothers plans to start working within 10 to 14 days of giving birth.

According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, the United States is one of just six nations in the world that does not provide nationwide paid parental leave. The limited amount of paid parental leave that the US does offer varies by state and employment. The folks who require it most frequently do not have accessibility to it.

“People are less likely to have access to paid family leave in some sections of the nation, where employees might be struggling the hardest, where you have a lot of low-wage workers or rural workers,” Schweer said. Which is a contributing factor in my efforts to pass federal legislation.

Although California and New York have had paid family leave legislation for the longest, she noted that each state has its own requirements and criteria for who is eligible for paid leave. For this reason, although some jurisdictions expressly stipulate that paid leave is strictly for blood relatives or direct family members, other states may give paid family leave for “selected families” alone.

The emotional and psychological fallout from giving birth to a child who had passed away is still affecting Crough.

She stated that knowing she would never weep was just dreadful. She arrived quickly and furiously; after a few pushes, she was out. Crough was so thrilled to hold her and witness her perfection for the first time that it was the finest moment. However, it’s also the worst day she’s ever had.

Crough was shocked to find that she was no longer eligible for family leave. She was still healing physically.

She remarked, “Your body had this terrible tragedy, yet you don’t have a baby to take care of.” “I’d say (the bleeding) lasted four complete weeks, and lactation probably took about three weeks to get it to stop.”

Bereavement leave and vacation time were used by Crough, who said that her company had been kind. She still desired the paid family leave, though.

Crough stated that she honestly felt that New York State didn’t accept that her kid was real and it greatly contributed to her loss and sadness.”

When Crough made the decision to talk about her tragedy, she ran upon other mothers of stillborn children who had similar tales to tell. Elizabeth O’Donnell discovered her daughter Aaliyah didn’t have a heartbeat in November 2020. A few days later, she gave birth to a stillborn. Later, the public school teacher discovered she was unable to use the federal Family and Medical Leave Act or request time off.

O’Donnell, 31, co-director of communications at PUSH for Empowered Pregnancy, stated that she felt maybe they were mistaking her and they believed she had a miscarriage. She was thinking that maybe they are confused because she actually can’t walk after giving birth.

The resident of Washington, D.C., utilized all of her sick time before going back to school in February 2021. But she also posted about her experience online, where it quickly gained popularity.

She added that she was and still quite angry. Her kid was a real full-grown infant, and felt like these folks weren’t acknowledging it.  That fueled her desire to continue making waves.

Her campaign resulted in legislation providing 10 days of bereavement leave being approved in Washington, D.C.

She responded, she kept telling the D.C. council that it was really nice of you to do, but she is not talking about bereavement. She is talking about: Does a woman in this nation not have a right to allow her body to recover after giving birth? She suppose “no” is the response for some.

O’Donnell launched Aaliyah in Action, a foundation that offers care packages and assistance for families dealing with pregnancy and infant loss. O’Donnell posts as Elizabeth Mayce on Instagram.

Following the passing of her son Richard not long after his birth in 2016, Jackie Mancinelli was likewise inspired to take action. Her nonprofit, Start Healing Together, offers assistance and information on infertility, pregnancy loss, and baby loss. When she discovered she wasn’t eligible for paid leave, she took unpaid time off and spent part of her funds to stay at home and heal.

As a result of having two still alive kids, Mancinelli, a 34-year-old teacher from New Jersey, has been able to take advantage of paid leave. Since it is clearly stated that you must be taking care of someone else, they refer to it as newborn bonding time. She  was no longer eligible as she was just taking care of herself after her baby had passed away.

According to O’Donnell, she hopes that people will start to think differently about stillbirth and help the families who are going through the grieving process.

She said, “How are we as a nation and employers going to react with compassion to a mother?” She remains a mother. Additionally, she believes that many people believe that losing a kid nullifies your motherhood. There isn’t. But how can we ensure that mothers feel supported by their job after such a loss?

The women expressed their hope that adjustments to the paid leave policies in their states may assist families who had experienced stillbirth. Mancinelli doubts that’s sufficient though.

She stated that “this has to be handled at the national level.” This expectation exists. Since you need to earn that money, you must put your mental well-being and your pain on hold.

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