Meet the Mendoza Family

America needs paid family leave

Being pregnant in New York City during the COVID-19 pandemic, Tara Marie’s pregnancy was not what she expected. “You see things on social media,” she said. “You see your friends, your family get to have these pregnancies and be surrounded by people they love. And I was surrounded with love, but virtually.”

During Thanksgiving week, she went to get a sonogram before the long weekend knowing the clinic would be closed. Once there, two doctors told her that her amniotic fluid was low, and because she was at 37 weeks of pregnancy, she needed to have her baby, Ronan, immediately. “I had every intention of going into work, trying to make it through to Thanksgiving break,” she recalled. “And I just couldn't. You plan something and think it's going to happen one way.” Instead, on Thanksgiving Day, Ronan was delivered by C-section.

Family leave in New York City can be tricky when a company doesn't offer maternity leave. Unfortunately, and surprisingly, Tara Marie’s company had never dealt with maternity leave in their 150 years in business. “I was kind of a pioneer for them,” she remembers. Because she gave birth early, her days weren’t lined up properly going into maternity leave, and she did have vacation days, but not enough. Two days after her C-section, she returned to work. “It shouldn't be that hard to get family leave,” she said. “It shouldn't be based on your position. It should just be offered because you need to take care of these children.”

While she cared for her preterm baby, Tara Marie felt guilty that instead she should be working, thinking that she needed to finish up what she started and tie up loose ends. Her pregnancy opened her eyes to the situation, and it’s not something she’d do again. “I was just so deep into everything that I felt like I owed it to the company, you know?” she said. “I'm not the only person that has to fight and cry and beg for a place to pump. I just want women to know they're not alone.”

Tara Marie believes that if parents-to-be don't talk about it, no one will. “Moms, and parents in general, like to suffer in silence to show how tough they are. But we don't need to. We can support each other, and we can lead healthy lives. We don't need to sacrifice everything, or sacrifice our love for our child just to do every day basic things to survive.”

Her advice for families is to do their research. Find out as much information as possible through the many resources, online and other places that can help. “Really lean on your community,” she said. “You'll find community support. I think the problem is that people are very quiet about it.” Tara hopes others will set boundaries and understand what they need because newborns need someone who's healthy and strong and capable. As she puts it: “If you're burnt out, you can't give that baby everything that you have.”

 

 

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