My world crumbled when my daughter was stillborn – then I was refused maternity leave as I didn’t have a breathing baby
IN November last year, Elizabeth O’Donnell’s world came crashing down on her.
The mum-to-be was seven months pregnant with her daughter Aaliyah Denise when she noticed her baby had stopped kicking.
Just to be safe, the teacher, from Washington D.C., went to George Washington University Hospital where she spoke to doctors about her concerns.
There, Elizabeth was given the devastating news that they couldn’t find a heartbeat for her baby girl.
Writing about her experience in a deeply emotional Instagram post, Elizabeth explained how she had to have an emergency induction to deliver Aaliyah and the traumatic birth lasted almost 48 hours.
But as Elizabeth was coming to terms with the earth-shattering loss, she learnt that she was not eligible for maternity pay and would be expected to return to work.
Before Aaliyah passed away, Elizabeth had been set to receive eight weeks of paid family leave – and she was planning on using holiday allowance and unused sick days to take her up until the end of June.
But Elizabeth – who worked at Watkins Elementary for seven years – claims the District of Columbia Public Schools told her she was no longer eligible for family leave because she is “only caring for herself”.
She continued: “Please, reread that to understand how gravely insensitive and hurtful a statement like that is to a mother who delivered a sleeping baby.”
In order to grant her paid family leave, Elizabeth claims the District of Columbia Public Schools told her they needed to see a birth certificate – and she only had Aaliyah’s cremation papers.
“DC government policy is essentially punishing me for not walking out of GW Hospital with my daughter, Aaliyah,” Elizabeth added. “The DCPS has no respect for the fact that my body is still healing from having a child and that my body is still functioning as if there is a child to feed.”
Speaking to Yahoo!, Elizabeth claims she was told to apply for unpaid family leave and use her sick leave to cover her absence.
She claimed: “I explained that I did ‘birth a child,’ which is one of the qualifications for the eight-week PFL. I was again denied and told it no longer applied to me.”
In her Instagram post, the teacher said the process has meant she has been forced to re-live the trauma repeatedly over the past few months.
Elizabeth wrote: “Eight weeks postpartum recovery should be covered as paid family leave whether or not your child enters this world with a breath.
“No woman should have to relive this trauma all over again the way I am. It’s absolutely disgusting. So, I share this picture of my daughter Aaliyah and I so that everyone knows, I am still a mother.”
After DC Mayor Muriel Bowser heard Elizabeth’s story, Yahoo! reports the politician signed an action to offer certificates to stillborns on request.
She is also trying to pass the District Government Parental Bereavement Leave Emergency Amendment Act of 2021 which would give parents who have experienced similar loss an extra two weeks paid leave.
In the UK, you are entitled to full maternity leave if you have a stillbirth or if your baby later dies according to the charity Working Families.
Fabulous Digital has contacted the District of Columbia Public Schools for comment.
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This content was originally published here.