Dear President Obama,
My husband and I were eagerly awaiting the birth of our fourth son. We both had full time jobs, but were prepared for me to take advantage of the maternity leave available through TDI in New York state and handle the reduced income that would provide for a limited time period. I was working as a Mental Health Counselor for one of our local hospital systems and carried the health insurance for our family. But we had no way of preparing for what happened.
In May of 2014, I suffered a ruptured splenic artery aneurism. My son and I both nearly lost our lives. But thanks to amazing medical intervention, I survived and my fourth son was born at 26 weeks gestation by emergency C-section. I spent two weeks hospitalized, including seven days in the Intensive Care Unit, and my son spent his first six and a half months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the same hospital. Life was quickly turned upside down for my husband, our three other children, and myself.
The economic and logistical difficulties began immediately. In order to see our new son on a daily basis, we needed to find childcare for our three older children. This was nearly impossible, due in large part to the fact that we were forced to become a single income family with no warning. We were forced to make childcare decisions that we were not comfortable with so that I could get to the hospital every day and my husband could go to work every day.
Due to the amount of care my son required in the NICU, my husband and I had a lot to learn to eventually bring him home. This required countless hours of observing and practicing what we watched the medical team do with our medically fragile son. His birth was considered traumatic and he suffered brain damage due to the lack of oxygen when the doctors were trying to figure out what had happened to me. He requires around-the-clock care.
I found myself unable to return to work for a much longer period of time that we had anticipated. Regardless of the emotional trauma my husband experienced, he was forced to return to work in order to support our family. Life did not stop because we had a critically ill child. Bills kept coming in and we fell farther and farther behind.
I was ultimately terminated by my employer, and consequently lost our health insurance coverage. My husband’s employer was allowed my husband to pick up benefits.
Paid leave following our son’s complicated birth would have helped us tremendously. My husband could have taken the time he needed to recover from the trauma and to help with both our well children and our new son’s condition in the early weeks. He could have taken periodic leaves to give me support and spend time with our son, We would not have fallen so behind financially and had to endure that added stress. And we would have been able during a critical time to focus more on our family and the life-changing decisions we were required to make on a daily basis. You cannot put a price on family unity; it is invaluable.
Please consider in your State of the Union speech talking about the gift of family unity when families are economically possible to be together when a child comes into the world, or any during any other critical medical situation. Thank you!