In the headlines today, a ‘family friendly’ Queen’s speech (ITV) is being promised. The government says there is plenty they want to do to help alleviate some of the pressure we’re all feeling right now. And yet this report from HR magazine paints a picture with a totally different brush. So does the Queen really intend to announce a reduction of maternity leave to jsut 18 weeks? Is this really a family friendly proposal?
Kylie is blogging about this today over at Not even a bag of sugar. Her son was born premature at just 27 weeks gestation and as a new mother, she faced weeks and weeks of extended travelling to and from the hospital every day. With just 18 weeks maternity leave, she would not have been able to form essential bonds with her son. In today’s blog post she writes:
“I would have used 13 weeks leave before my baby was even due, leaving just 5 weeks left. When my son was 5 weeks corrected he wasn’t even 7lb. He was still frail.”
So the government want women like Kylie to leave their babies when they need them most?
What would this mean for mums who did see their pregnancies through to the end? Ghostwritermummy was created as an outlet after the traumatic birth of my son, who was born at 41 weeks and two days. He was born blue, limp and lifeless. When he was plucked from my body I was asleep. He was alone.
I spent the first weeks of his life moving through the days in a murky bubble. I couldn’t believe, at first, that he was even my baby. I had missed his birth. I hadn’t heard those first cries or felt his little body against mine. My arms were dead when they placed him in them and my eyes were blurred when I tried to see him. I struggled, and I mean struggled to love him.
When my son was around eight months old, I ventured out to seek help. That’s around 34 weeks after his birth. But my maternity leave had started four weeks before his due date, 5 weeks before he was actually born. With proposed new maternity leave, I would be returning to work when my son was 13 weeks old. Where was I when my son was 13 weeks old?
I was not a mother to him. I was a mess.
My son’s health also suffered. At the age of 13 weeks he was referred to a specialist at the hospital, and today- two years on- we are about to attend another appointment for him. At the age of 13 weeks, my son was sleeping for no more than 40 minutes at a time. In between, he was crying, and so was I. My son and I were strangers.
Imagine if I had gone back to work then? How would I teach a room full of children when I was barely able to hold my own baby without an ocean of emotions washing over me again and again and again and again and again? Where would my son and I be now? What would our relationship be like now?
Kylie ends her post today with a statement about her anger. How it wasn’t her fault her baby was born prematurely. How the proposed changes would mean she is forced to miss out on so much of her precious son’s life. I have to echo these feelings. It wasn’t my fault my son was born the way he was (at least, today I don’t think it was…but that’s another blog post). I am angry that women like me could be forced back to work at a time when they are so vulnerable and so frightened. That is NOT good for the family.
Today, I still live with the knowledge that I owe so much to my son. With a new baby in the family, lots has changed but so much still remains. I missed the most important days of my son’s life. I will never get those days back again and I refuse to let the government take them away too. And for women, like me now, who delivered their babies healthily and happily? Would I be happy returning to work in a few weeks time? No way. My daughter needs me. Breastfeeding aside, she is TOO YOUNG to be left whilst I go back to work. As Kylie ends her letter to the minister:
“This isn’t the last you will hear from me”
and you know what? It’s not the last he’ll hear from me, either.