Thursday, September 15, 2011

Get Out of Work for FREE card

I was clicking around on the internet one day last week as I ate my lunch when I stumbled upon a blog/column discussing the benefits of being pregnant. The author's perceived benefits, I might add. After having been pregnant twice, I think I know what the benefits are so I did not intend to read the column until the blurb "taking time off from work" caught my eye.


According to this first time pregnant mom, who is not working, I might add, a benefit to being pregnant is all the time you get to take off from work for doctor's appointments.

I chuckled to myself.

NEWS FLASH: Being pregnant and/or having children does not entitle you to a Get Out of Work for FREE card.

This had been a constant source of frustration and stress for me and Rich.

For the past six years.

I had been working a new job when I became pregnant with Abbey. I was employed there for less than four months when we decided to start trying and quite honestly, I never expected it to happen the first month. But it did. And I was pregnant. This company followed a PTO system, which means that both your vacation and sick time are lumped together in a PTO bank. HR, Payroll and Boss don't care if you are going to Peru or if you are at home puking. Time out of work is deducted from your PTO bank.

This was not a generous PTO bank, I might add. I went from a job with four weeks paid vacation and (somewhat) unlimited sick time (within reason, of course) to three weeks of vacation and sick time combined. I obviously accepted the job for other reasons.

The six week mark of my pregnancy occurred over a weekend. With each passing hour, I felt increasingly worse. I couldn't eat and wanted to throw up. That feeling was constant. Rich was determined to get me out of the house. I shuffled around, taking quick, shallow breaths as we picked out mums and pumpkins. Monday morning was horrible. I suffered through the one hour commute (mostly by train, I might add) without vomiting everywhere. I had plastic bags in my commuting bag, just in case.

I called my OB's office as soon as they opened and spoke to a nurse. She told me that this was an unfortunate side effect of pregnancy but was a great sign that the pregnancy was progressing as it should. And then she gave me a whole bunch of useless advice. I tried to explain to her that I wasn't going to be able to work that day or any other day feeling so sick. She didn't really seem to care.

I started throwing up shortly after. I drank ginger ale. I nibbled on saltines. Puke. Puke. I hide in the park across the street and called Rich from my cell phone, crying.

I told my boss that I had a stomach virus and went home. That was the longest train ride ever. I called in sick on Tuesday. And Wednesday. And Thursday. Each and every day, I begged and pleaded with my OB's office to prescribe something for me so that I could eat. I was bed ridden. I could barely keep anything down. I was absolutely miserable.

On Thursday, my father brought me to the ER, per the advice of the OB's office, due to dehydration. I received fluids via IV and Zofran.

I lost four days in my PTO bank.

I managed to not have to use any PTO for my OB appointments but there was stress. I was always rushing to arrive at the office as soon as possible after my appointments. I was THE tax person for this company. There was no one else to complete the work if I wasn't there. This was not a 9 to 5 gig and I made up those lost hours.

My pregnancy with the girls was slightly different in that I had a work from home arrangement. I still had to make up lost hours though. I also was not aware that I was pregnant with triplets until 17 weeks and began a medical leave at 24 weeks. My weekly appointments turned into a nightmare for Rich.

My MFM (Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist) scheduled his patients for Tuesday, which was called 'high risk' day. A three hour appointment, mostly time spent waiting, was not unusual. So there was poor Rich rushing back to the office after a two to four hour absence. He was not required to use sick time but those lost hours were made up with late work nights.

This past Monday, Grammy underwent some medical testing and procedures, which required anesthesia. We thought that she would be able to watch the girls on Tuesday but she had difficulty ridding the anesthesia from her system, in addition to being wiped out from the procedures. So there I was on Tuesday morning, Grammyless with a sickly Emmy curled up on the couch.

Bye-bye vacation day! (As you may or may not remember, all of my sick days are gone due to the stomach viruses (and pneumonia/cold from hell) that plagued our household over the winter.)

Grammy was feeling better later Tuesday morning and was able to watch Emmy at home while I brought Allie and Anna to their first tap/ballet class. (More on that later!) Out of this bad, came some good and I was happy that I had the opportunity to do that. Grammy then watched Allie and Anna while I brought Emily to the doctor. (She was such a little rock star, by the way.)

This is not intended to be a stay-at-home versus working mom debate because I have been on both sides of the fence and I know that the grass is always greener over there. I know that we are very lucky to have family who live nearby and who are always willing to help out with our kids. There are some families with two working parents and if a kid is sick, a parent HAS to stay home because you can't send a sick kid to daycare or school. There are some stay-at-home moms who have no one to help out if they themselves are sick. For the most part, Rich and I don't have to deal with these situations very often.

So instead of sitting with a sick Em in the van, I was able to peek in on Allie and Anna during dance class. Instead of schlepping three kids and a puke bucket to the doctor's office and then to the hospital to drop off cultures, I only had to schlep one kid and a puke bucket (and several changes of clothes and blankets) to the doctor's office. Thank God for Grammy. And for Molly, who watched the girls on Monday.

If there is a Get Out of Work for FREE card, it certainly hasn't ever been in my possession.


Hope's Mama said...

That is so rough. I find it really appalling that you guys get such a small amount of time off work. Simon has just taken SIX weeks off work after the birth of our Juliet. One week paid paternity leave, four weeks of his annual leave (he gets six weeks a year) and then a week of sick/carer's leave. All at a full rate of pay. I really wish it was easier for so many of the people I read about who live in the States. It is one of the biggest differences I read about between our two countries.

Heather said...

I'm with you on that. I have five weeks of PTO but I also work 60 hour weeks during tax season (Jan 1 - April 15) with no extra compensation.

When I had Zack, since my company is so small, we only have STD and the first week is unpaid so I had to take a full week of PTO for that.

And every Dr. Appointment and every time he's sick... more PTO. Certianly no get out of work free card for me.

Mommy, Esq. said...

Hmmm.... Did we have the same OB? Was yours at MGH in the Yawkee building. I waited for hours every Tuesday, was in tears every time. Staying at Big Law through my pregnancies was worth the sacrafices for peace of mind about time off, etc.

Jayme said...

I can't imagine being a working mom! I have a hard enough time keeping up with everything and I stay home, I just don't know how you career women do it all! It amazes me.

Sarah said...

Totally with you. While my boss totally understood my need to leave early due the to puke on my pants, the time was quickly deducted from my PTO bank.