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 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 aneurysm. 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 of six- 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 in order to eventually bring him home. Learning how to take care of our medically fragile infant required countless hours of observing and practicing what we watched the medical team do to keep him stable. His birth was considered traumatic and he suffered brain damage due to the lack of oxygen to his brain when the doctors were trying to figure out what had happened to me. He requires around-the-clock care.
Due to my son’s medical condition, as well as my own recovery from the aneurism, I found myself unable to return to work for a much longer period of time that we had anticipated. We were faced with the harsh reality of being a family of six, supported by one income. My husband witnessed his wife and son nearly lose their lives. That trauma left him emotionally scarred. Regardless of the trauma he 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 gracious enough to allow my husband to pick up benefits, without a lapse in coverage.
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 that would have given me support and allowed him time with our son during the short time he was at home, or in the hospital. 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 giving families the gift of family unity by making it economically possible to be together when a child comes into the world, or any during any other critical medical situation.