Thursday, July 23, 2009

Preparing for Maternity Leave

The last few months of work before going on maternity leave are a difficult time for mothers. You’re probably dealing with lack of sleep, an uncomfortable body, a kicking baby, and the stress and worries surrounding child birth. You also have to plan your maternity leave, get the nursery ready, and prepare yourself physically and mentally for the big day!

When I first started planning my maternity leave, I was about 6 months pregnant. I remember thinking “why do I need to start this now when I have so long to go?” At my last job, I didn’t have any flexibility with my work schedule. I had a hard time just getting time off for scheduled doctor appointments! If you have a hard time getting time off work, try scheduling your doctor appointments ahead of time so your employer has enough time to prepare.

One of the things I learned is the further along you are in your pregnancy, the more you don’t want to do anything; especially when it comes to dealing with lots of paperwork! Taking care of your maternity leave early is beneficial. If for some reason you had to go on disability early, it is one less thing you will need to worry about.

In the end, I was lucky. I was able to take 14 weeks off when I had my daughter, Elisabeth. I qualified for 8 weeks of state disability (California)* for having a c-section and 6 weeks of baby-bonding (California part of FMLA). Search the internet for more information about maternity leave benefits in your state or country.

I decided to leave work 3 weeks prior to my due date, although I didn’t end up delivering for 5 weeks. I guess that was lucky on my part; it gave me some extra, much needed time off. I was busy going to weekly doctor’s appointments, resting, and getting everything ready for the arrival of our first baby.

I almost forgot, now is a good time to start looking for childcare! I know it seems early, but it could take a long time, and most programs will have a waiting list (that could last for up to 2 years) for infants. Where I live, you probably have to start looking for child care before you get pregnant!

Here is an article about maternity leave benefits that I found to be helpful:

*Talk to your employer regarding any extra policies they may require for maternity leave.

Next time: How to prepare to come back to work after your baby is born.

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