Last updated on Jun 21st, 2021 at 12:21 pm
Moms talk about the challenges of losing a child through miscarriage and still birth and being required to go back to work shortly after.
There are 195 countries in the world. Amongst these, 193 of them are part of the United Nations(UN). One of the key reasons for joining the UN is to cooperatively promote respect for human rights and freedom.
From the 193 countries, only two of them (India and New Zealand) give grieving parents time to heal after a miscarriage. Many countries do this, but on the condition that your loss happens after the 20th week of gestation. Early pregnancy loss, in most countries, does not warrant a prolonged leave of absence.
Ntswaki Khoza lost her beautiful daughter Leano at 37-weeks of her pregnancy. This loss happened in the third trimester and therefore qualifies for leave according to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA).
The act states that “an employee who has a miscarriage during the third trimester of pregnancy or bears a stillborn child is entitled to maternity leave for six weeks after the miscarriage or stillbirth, whether or not the employee had commenced maternity leave at the time of the miscarriage or stillbirth.”
Ntswaki took her full six weeks and even then, going back to work was an emotionally overwhelming experience.
“How is the baby?”
Ntswaki’s clients kept asking her this question because the last time they saw her, she was heavily pregnant and was about to give birth. “Explaining what happened to the baby every single day was the hardest part.”
Early pregnancy loss and maternity leave
Like 80% of women that lose pregnancy in the first trimester, Kathryn Dista miscarried at 8-weeks. A vet, Kathryn was back at work four days after her Dilation and curettage (D&C) which is a procedure to remove tissue from inside your uterus. Kathryn miscarried on Tuesday, had her D&C on Wednesday, and was back at work that Monday. Her doctor only gave her leave until that week.
A lot of women wait to hit the 12-week mark until they announce their pregnancies. Many of these women have no choice but to move on as if nothing happened. Like their bodies were not painfully dispelling hope for a baby. That they just experienced on the most traumatic events any woman can go through.
They did not announce the pregnancy to anyone, so they will not announce the loss to anyone.
Katlego* miscarried at 22 weeks in February 2021. She was only given 2-weeks off by her doctor and went to negotiate with her company’s human resources department. She needed at least two more weeks to deal with this trauma.
Unfortunately, her loss occurred during the 2nd trimester and does not qualify for the 6-week maternity benefit in the BCEA.
Thembisa says “I am still negotiating with my gynae and trauma therapist to allow me the month of March to gather myself.”
That is all she is asking for. Time to gather herself as she deals with the reality that the baby she was waiting for is no more.
At 3-weeks gestation, Tumi* found out she was pregnant and not pregnant at the same time. After noticing a blood clot on the last day of her period, doctors would later confirm that she was actually pregnant, but the pregnancy did not continue. What she thought was her period was a miscarriage.
This happens to many women, and the trauma is just as overwhelming. “I didn’t know how I felt. I’d spend endless nights crying and my partner didn’t know how to comfort me,” Katlego says.
Kathryn says “I felt as if I wished the pregnancy and the baby away, and that was the hardest part.”
Miscarriages compromise any woman’s mental health, whether they talk about it or not. In some cases, women are reported to experience post-traumatic stress disorders after a miscarriage. This is also regardless of when the loss happens.
And the WHEN aspect is the difference between getting at least six weeks to try and heal from this sudden wound or taking three days of sick leave because your pregnancy had not entered the “right” trimester.
Breaking down at work became a norm for Ntswaki. Kathryn and Katlego both shed sad tears during this trying time. All of them can attest that time heals.
The wound needs time, and this time should not come at a financial loss for women. Time to heal after a miscarriage should be a human right. There might not be a piece of legislation that covers your rights following a loss, so it is up to the lawmakers to deem it necessary to show women some humanity.
*Moms requested anonymity
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