Dreams of baby showers, pigtails & pink dresses, sports & blue baseball caps, the perfect name, tooth fairies, holidays, and unconditional love: so many women experience such pleasant thoughts when they find out they are expecting. What an exciting time it is in a woman’s life when she learns of this new life forming in her womb. It’s a time of celebration and reflection as the preparations begin for this new little baby. How wonderful would it be to not only enjoy this time, but to enjoy this time knowing that you have peace of mind in regards to making arrangements with your employer?
Now or Later?
While many new moms are aware of the benefits available through their employers, sometimes, new moms may seek out maternity-related resources later in the pregnancy. As the old saying goes “…better late than never,” though I’d highly recommend familiarizing yourself with your employer’s policy before or even immediately after you find out that you are expecting. This process may be simple for some, but for many, it can oftentimes be a stressful process, especially when dealing with hormonal changes, possible morning sickness, and prenatal care appointments. Whether you have conceived or are yet to conceive, I hope to share with you a few important steps for preparing as a working mom.
1. Review Your Benefits
One of the most important benefits to review is your health insurance. If you have health insurance through your employer, your partner’s employer, through retirement, or private policy, there are several questions I suggest asking yourself and/or your health insurance company: (Future blog post topics will include navigating access to maternity care when uninsured.)
- Is maternity care and delivery covered? What about newborn care? If so, what portion will I have to pay out-of-pocket, if any through deductibles and co-pays?
- Does my health coverage include midwifery (Certified Nurse Midwife) services either billed directly or under a physician, or am I required to see an Obstetrician?
- Are prenatal vitamins and feminine care supplies covered through my pharmacy benefits?
- What are my options for in-network vs. out-of-network providers and birthing facilities?
- How many nights in the hospital or birthing facility will my insurance cover if I have a vaginal delivery? How many nights in the hospital will my insurance cover if I have to have a cesarean section?
- Are maternity-related services covered? This includes prenatal classes, lactation support (including breast pumps and supplies), chiropractic treatment, acupuncture, doulas, and exercise options.
2. Maternity Leave or Sick Leave Policy
Of course you will need time off when the baby gets here. In fact, some women may start maternity leave early, either as ordered by their providers or simply to have time to relax and do last minute preparations. It is important to understand what is included in your Maternity Leave or Sick Leave policy and any short-term disability coverage, should your employer offer this option. Some questions to ask may include:
- If time off is available, will this time be paid or unpaid? If paid, does this include the vacation time I already have available? If unpaid, what paperwork is required to secure my position under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), if my employer participates? It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with FMLA because if you qualify, this law guarantees your job security after as much of 12 weeks of leave.
- If vacation days must be used, are there remote (work-from-home) options available before or after my pregnancy so that I do not have to use all of my vacation days?
- Is it possible to save some maternity leave days for post-natal appointments and check-ups for the baby and me?
- Is short-term disability coverage available? If so, when does it begin and what are the coverage amounts? What documentation is required?
- Upon returning to work, are job-share options available so that I may come back part-time, as needed, in case I’m still healing?
- Is your partner eligible for Paternity/Partner Leave from their employer? Can your parents or relatives arrange Medical Leave to help you during the postpartum period if such is desired or needed?
3. Childcare Options
It’s never too early to talk about plans for childcare. While you are pregnant, research options such as daycare centers, a nanny, a family member or babysitter, co-ops for childcare, etc. Many daycare centers have waiting lists, so it’s a good idea to visit various centers early to sign your child up with the one of your choosing. If you plan to use private childcare, like an in-home daycare or a nanny, you may also want to start interviewing candidates before your baby arrives. Some employers are able to offer their employees reimbursements on childcare, or may provide the option to use pre-tax dollars for childcare such as the Dependant Care Flexible Spending Account (DCFSA). Check with your employer or your partner’s employer to see if such options are available.
4. Post-Postpartum Support
If your employer participates in an employee services program option, ask if they cover emotional support or counseling. It is important for women to have the care and support they need after birth physically, but we must also put emphasis on the mental and emotional changes occur post-partum. Check to see if there are any support groups available, which may be covered by your insurance benefits. Additionally, there may be free options available in your community, and even on the Internet. Postpartum Support International is a fantastic website with resources for women who have dealt with or are experiencing “baby blues.”
5. Insurance Plus One More
Consider learning the benefits and costs associated with adding your new baby to yours or your partner’s insurance plan. Find out when you need to add your new baby to your plan and what documents will be required. This is also a good time to inquire about life insurance options so that you are able to rest assured knowing that your child can be cared for financially, in the event of your and/or your partner’s death.
Pat Yourself on the Back
It is truly admirable to see so many mothers providing for their children in ways that warrant the highest award obtainable. Mothers truly deserve the utmost respect for their hard work. Whether you are a homemaker or employed by an organization, we all know that being a mother is a full-time job. What’s important is that we continue to plan ahead and prioritize when it comes to the resources needed for our babies. Open communication with your partner, family, and employer can assist in making this process less stressful. In the event of an unexpected early maternity leave, you will be glad you have one less thing to worry about and that you have coordinated these administrative items with your employer ahead of time. After all, finding the perfect “coming home” outfit for your baby or deciding where to take your babymoon weekend getaway is already enough to occupy your mind (smile).
Image courtesy of Simple Pleasures Photography by Kim Holderfield