Selena Allen

Selena and her son, ConnorPHOTO: John Froschauer/AP

Selena and her son, Connor
PHOTO: John Froschauer/AP

Her doctor had said her son Connor was due in May, but he arrived unexpectedly in early April, and faced serious medical issues. Despite planning ahead, Selena was now in a bind.

“Early on, my husband and I decided we could afford for me to take a four weeks of maternity leave. This meant saving all of the health and vacation leave I would accumulate over the next nine months so I could have two and half weeks of paid leave, and cutting back expenses so we could afford to take another week and half off unpaid.”

With Connor six weeks early, Selena had far less paid leave than she expected. On top of that, Selena and her husband had no idea when Connor would be released from the hospital. “It could have been days, weeks or even months. And there was no way we could take any additional time off unpaid – money was already tight in spite of our two full time jobs.”

Selena was forced to make the difficult decision to return to work and save her time off to be with Connor when he came home. “Instead of focusing on my child who had health issues, I had to go to work because I couldn’t afford not to,” Allen said, who gave birth on Thursday and returned to work on Monday.

Selena describes those three weeks as “by far, the most difficult time of my life.” The stress of working in Kent, driving to Seattle to spend a few precious hours with newborn Connor during visiting hours, then fighting rush hour traffic to pick up her older son before childcare closed – all while recovering from childbirth – left her emotionally and physically drained.

And while her small office of 15 people was eager to assist by reassigning projects and taking on extra tasks, it provided little consolation.

“I was surrounded every day by the research citing how important those first days are for bonding and lifelong learning,” said Selena, whose professional expertise in the field of early childhood education made it all the more difficult to cope. ”It broke my heart that I could not be with my son when he needed me so much.”

The experience inspired Selena to work for pai¬¬d family leave legislation in Washington State. “It is society’s duty to protect and care of our most vulnerable: our children, the sick and the elderly. Family and Medical Leave Insurance allows families to do just that—to take care of themselves and/or their families when they are most needed.”

Written by Aaron Keating. Thanks to Selena for sharing her story.

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