I’m not disabled, I’m pregnant. (36 weeks)

On my first day of leave I took a nap, took a prenatal yoga class (my first of this pregnancy), and took another nap.

On my second day of leave, I did the Sunday crossword puzzle (because really, who can do the Sunday crossword on Sunday when you have a four-year-old jumping all over the sofa you’re attempting to recline on?), ordered swaddling blankets and nursing paraphernalia online, and napped for the entirety of the afternoon.

On my third day of leave, I went to the doctor, fed my iron deficiency with an old school diner cheeseburger, and again, napped for the rest of the afternoon.

It’s anyone’s guess what today may hold. The world is my oyster, and it’s just the right shape for sleeping. I have that long, long list of all the things I’m really supposed to be taking care of before baby comes, but somehow the simple act of submitting my leave paperwork has lifted my anxiety like a magic elixir of relaxation, as if the sudden removal of my fifty hour work from home week has created a wormhole in my life where time is infinite, immeasurable.

This feeling may be related to the near constant dream state I seem to have entered with these long naps and slow mornings. Or the feeling could be the result of the other side effect of going on leave, which is the surprising and near complete cessation of my contractions – all last week labor felt imminent; now it feels eons away.

The past few days represent (by a margin wider than a Cadillac) the longest I have gone without working since I started my new(ish) job nearly two years ago. This is despite vacations, despite sick days, despite long weekends. And while I feel out of sorts and more than a little guilty, I also recognize that I am already a completely different person than I was last Friday. The sleep helps, yes, but in the absence of constant stress I can recognize now the very real physical impact of every mildly snarky email, every minor political intrigue, every reminder of yet another task not yet completed. My breathing has shifted, my brow has softened, my back pain has decreased. And most importantly, because this is maternity leave we’re talking about, my baby has finally settled down.

But because this is maternity leave we’re talking about, there is guilt. In yet another manifestation of institutionalized sexism, pregnancy and maternity leave are grouped under the broad category of DISABILITY. This means that the state is paying about half of my salary, and I’m making up for the rest of it through the sick and vacation time I’ve saved up at work. And because the state is involved, it’s an all or nothing deal – I’m either working, or I’m disabled. And right now, technically speaking, the state considers me to be disabled.

Last week, while working through contractions, anxiety, and exhaustion, I almost bought into the disability argument. I had reached a point where I really, truly could not work anymore, and so out on disability I went. But after a few days of intense rest, I’m feeling almost human again and wondering whether I made the right decision by signing my name on the dotted line. Were those few delicious (and clearly necessary) naps really a strong enough rationale for leaving my staff and colleagues in an understaffed lurch? Am I really unable to contribute to society to the point of requiring state-funded assistance? Am I committing career suicide by not waiting until labor begins to formally stop working?

Clearly, I am not disabled. I am, however, at a point in my pregnancy where I could go into labor at any time. I am also at a point in my pregnancy where a couple more weeks or even a few more days could mean a healthier baby. A healthier baby could mean a healthier adult. And a healthier adult, ultimately, means a healthier society. So maybe the problem is not in my decision to start my leave this week, but instead the problem is simply one of branding: I am not in the midst of a disability. I am, however, exchanging my commitment to serve the greater good through my professional work with a commitment to serve the greater good through nurturing a new human being into existence.

Paid family leave is a topic that keeps coming up in the context of the presidential election cycle here in the States. It’s an embarrassment, of course, that for all our talk of progress and freedom and supreme standing in the world, we are dead last in providing social services that are the norm in other industrialized nations. But maybe, just maybe, once we sort out whether or not women should be supported in their desire to contribute to society in both the professional and a procreational realms, we can actually start looking at how to approach finding balance between these two roles.

Not calling us disabled may be a good place to start.

Nap Corner

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “I’m not disabled, I’m pregnant. (36 weeks)

  1. It is very sad how maternity leave is considered a disability. Even just being pregnant people have been treating me differently. “Don’t carry that, don’t bend over, don’t walk up the stairs”. I’m not disabled. I am just creating human life which is the furthest thing away from a disability. I believe the idea of it being a “disability” won’t start to shift until our nation starts to provide better services for families (maternity and paternity leave, support classes, etc.).

    Try not to feel conflicted about being on leave before labor. It is probably a high chance that if you were to have gone back to work after a few days off you would be back to having contractions. Baby needs to stay in as long as possible. Enjoy growing that little human in peace.

    Like

    1. I’m definitely trying to feel okay about being on leave, but I probably won’t get there until I take the plunge and log out of my work email, but then, of course, I’ll just worry about what will be waiting for me when I return! It is awfully nice, though, to finally have a bit of time to actually enjoy the process of growing my new human as you suggest! I have no doubt that I would likely have gone into labor by now if I had kept up the pace I was trying to maintain, so I’m doing my best to keep my focus there.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I often forget that you have incredibly anti family/maternity laws in the US. We don’t believe ourselves to be great but our maternity leave is so much better than yours. Here we are entitled to 26 weeks paid leave and the option of another 16 weeks unpaid.
    Enjoy your pre baby time. Over here you must take a minimum of two weeks before your due date.

    Like

    1. 26 weeks paid leave!?!? That’s amazing, seriously. I see our laws regarding family leave (and a whole host of other weird legal issues) as not just anti-family, but specifically as anti-woman. Despite the rise of women in the public sphere, many Americans still have some very antiquated notions of what women should and should not do, and many of these notions are unfortunately canonized in laws that make independence and equality for women challenging at best. I do believe things are changing, but I worry the change is not happening fast enough. Hopefully our elections will stir things up a bit!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s