Paid bereavement leave for miscarriages is long overdue


Speaking about the loss of her own baby, Sarah Owen said this week: “What I was feeling was not an illness – it was physically painful, yes – but my overwhelming feeling was grief.” I don’t even remember the physical pain of my miscarriages; I can close my eyes and vividly remember the emotional pain. I remember setting aside a vacation day for a procedure in the hospital, under general anesthesia, four days after the bleeding started – just as I was juggling my work hours and time off to accommodate treatment of fertility that I had. And I remember therapy sessions years later where I was forced to admit that I had never gotten over my losses.

Today endless friends still have the same conversations I had with myself back then, about when and whether to go to work, how they will face or talk to people, s ‘they are ready to do it or if they feel they have no choice. Each of these women feels like she’s the only one when she’s not.

The proposed new law has yet to receive the government’s time and support. Women have little confidence that male cabinet members will see her worth, even though the Prime Minister’s wife Carrie Johnson has revealed she miscarried earlier this year in a bid to bring in more people to talk about the still taboo subject.

In March, New Zealand’s Parliament, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern – a woman leader whose progressive and compassionate policies have gained worldwide attention – unanimously passed a law allowing mothers and their partners to three days leave to deal with loss after miscarriage. The legislation also applies to those expecting a child through surrogacy or adoption.

“Being forced to take sick leave mistakenly reinforces a woman’s feeling that her body has abandoned her or that it is somehow her fault,” said Owen, deputy chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on loss of baby, in the House of Commons. “For thousands of women, unfortunately, miscarriage is a part of pregnancy, just as death is a part of life. The law urgently needs to catch up with society.

In Britain, discussing trying or losing a baby in the workplace is part of a larger and tense conversation young women face, too often as a hurdle to be overcome via carefully e-mails. studied and nuanced conversations with the bosses. Kinder companies are putting their own policies in place, but too many women still fear stepping back from hard-won roles before their baby has even arrived admitting they want one – not to mention the heartache of losing one. That they cannot rely on the safety net of paid time off while they weave their way through the fog sets back our desire to be a progressive and egalitarian society.

We are better talking about miscarriage. Now we have to face its reality better.


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