[Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Darline Turner-Lee, Owner and Founder of Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond. Darline is an outspoken advocate for women with high-risk pregnancies. She has teamed up with Better Bedrest for a fundraiser I think Science & Sensibility readers can get behind. -AMR]
Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond is holding a fundraiser to benefit Better Bedrest. Better Bedrest is a non-profit organization that provides one on one phone support to pregnant women on prescribed bed rest as well as micro grants up to $500 to women on bed rest in financial need. Currently, they are the only organization that provides emergency funding specifically and exclusively to pregnant women on prescribed bed rest. Better Bedrest is dangerously close to being out of funds. Without funds they cannot provide their micro-grants. To support Better Bedrest, I am selling a fitness DVD that I produced called Bedrest Fitness for $19.95, and donating $10/DVD sold to Better Bedrest. My goal is to raise $1000 and DVD’s can be purchased at www.mamasonbedrest.com/shop/dvd-fundraiser. (To make a donation directly to Better Bedrest, go to www.betterbedrest.org.)
I first became involved with Better Bedrest when I received a call from a local hospital here in Austin last spring. Jennifer, a single mother on bed rest, was about to lose her job, her income and her benefits. They asked me if I knew of any ways to help her out. I called Better Bedrest. They sent information to pass onto Jennifer and as a result, she got plugged into the organization and received some much needed emergency funds.
Recently, I spoke to Jennifer. She is still struggling to make ends meet some 6 months later. Her employer fired her at the end of her 12 weeks of allotted unpaid Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave. She has post partum anxiety and depression for which she is taking medication and has been put on disability by her obstetrician. However, this is not enough for her long term disability insurance carrier. They have denied her claim stating that her situation is not “severe enough”. She has filed for unemployment and has Medicaid to help with her hospital bills but none of her other expenses are covered. This once proud, self sufficient single mother has been reduced to relying on the generosity of churches, charities and donations to make ends meet and to care for herself and her two boys.
I started Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond to offer the supports and services I needed when I was going through my own high risk pregnancies; help around my house, someone to run errands for me, to take me to the doctor if my husband was not able, someone to be there if I fell or began cramping….
I was so naive. These are needs of women on bed rest, but their true needs often go much deeper. I have learned that women on bed rest often lose their jobs because they are out of work longer than 12 weeks. A few have lost their homes. Women and their families have filed bankruptcy after being on bed rest and then delivering a premature infant who stayed in the NICU for several weeks resulting in phenomenal hospital bills. I have talked with moms who struggle to give their older children the care and support that they need while mom is on bed rest and seen how that has broken these mamas’ hearts. But mostly I have learned that the need for support-physical, emotional and financial- for women and their families while a woman is on bed rest is not simply to keep the household running while mama is down, but to help hold the very fibers of the family together so that the family is not fractured-sometimes beyond repair.
Much of the strife of bed rest comes from the fact that in the United States there is no mandatory paid maternity leave. There is the Family Medical Leave Act which mandates that employers of companies with 50 or more employees must offer employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually for pregnancy and/or to care for a newborn or adopted child, to care for a sick relative or to be treated for a major illness, without threat of job loss. If the employee’s absence exceeds 12 weeks, the employee is no longer guaranteed job protection. If a woman works for a smaller company, she has no job protection unless there are state mandates or internal mandates within the company. Five states and Puerto Rico offer some short term disability through which women may receive a portion of their pay while on maternity leave1. Federal employees have some of the most liberal benefits for leave, some of which may soon be paid leave. H.R.626 – Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act of 2009 states,
The bill is intended to…Provide that 4 of the 12 weeks of parental leave made available to a Federal employee shall be paid leave, and for other purposes.2
H.R. 626 is still pending passage in the Senate. It has already passed in the House.
My client tried to do the right thing. She had a job, worked hard and paid for her benefits. Yet when she really needed them, she was denied the very benefits she has paid for faithfully for 3 years before ever filing a claim! She did her best to provide for her little family, but now that she is unable to do so, assistance is hardly forthcoming. By virtue of congressional votes against social services, Jennifer has been reduced to a penniless beggar.
Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Ph.D, professor at Princeton University and contributor to MSNBC recently said it best, (and I am paraphrasing her words)
Although I come from a long line of God fearing women, in these United States it is a sad commentary on our culture if the best that we can offer women when it comes to their reproductive health is prayer and hope that God will intervene on their behalf.
Better Bedrest has paid out approximately $9000 this year and Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond’s goal is to raise $1000 (by selling 100 DVD’s) on Behalf of Better Bedrest. They are small steps on a very long road, but we have to start somewhere.
1. Family Medical Leave – www.dol.gov/dol/topic/benefits-leave/fmla.htm
2. HR 626 Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act of 2009
3. The International Partnership “Expecting Better: A State by State Analysis of Parental Leave Programs”. http://www.nationalpartnership.org/site/DocServer/ParentalLeaveReportMay05.pdf?docID=1052
4. The Work, Family and Equity Index: Where Does The United States Stand Globally