Have you ever worked in a fast food restaurant, high volume department store or hospital? More importantly have you ever worked at one of these establishments while pregnant? I'll be honest and say that while pregnant with my last child I worked as a full-time labor and delivery nurse. Fresh out of college and rearing to begin my career in nursing, it was during this time that I was quite surprised to find that I was pregnant with my third child. Having experienced three miscarriages prior to this pregnancy I didn't hold out hope that this one would carry to term. But low and behold, my son was a fighter from the start. It was during this time that I was applying for labor and delivery positions near my home and I count my blessings that a small hospital near by took me under their wings, 6 months pregnant and all. I had initially applied at another hospital close by, but I didn't get the job. However, I did have the sinking feeling that my pregnancy had something to do with it. But this can never be proven, because discrimination is against the law....right?
After starting my job, I didn't want to tell my co-workers that I was pregnant, for one I felt like it would be held against me. Like I would be considered weak for acting tired and not working as hard as everyone else. As I got to know everyone a little better, I revealed my little secrete. All though I don't know who I was fooling, kinda hard to hide a 6 month old belly. What I remember of those first few months of working was that I was extremely tired after being on my feet for 12 hrs, sometimes I was to busy to take a break to eat a meal, and as soon as I came home I would lay on the couch with my feet up. My back hurt and it usually took me a couple of days to feel rested again. The demands of working as a nurse were sometimes out of my control. I don't think anyone expected me to go all day without eating, that was up to me. However, being short staffed and handling multiple tasks were not under my control. So I did what most women in my situation, I pulled up my big girl panties and went to work. To this day, my co-workers remember how hard I worked when I was pregnant, they say "you never complained at how tired you were, you just went all day like the rest of us." I have to say, the woman in me was proud that I was able to work just as hard as everyone else, but I now look back and wonder why I risked the health of my baby to work so hard.
I am sharing this story because I feel a bond with women who are pregnant and are working at fast food restaurants, high volume department stores and hospitals. It breaks my heart every time I have to write a note to their employer asking for more frequent rest breaks, even most recently hearing that a friend of mine was not able to bring her own healthy meals to work because they were only allowed to eat food from the fast food restaurant they worked at. I find that these places tend to be Walmart, Sonics, McDonalds, and even varies hospitals. Some of these women are anemic because they are not getting the proper nutrients in their diet and some are underweight because they are working so hard. Even after having their babies and now faced with returning to work breastfeeding will stop, because they don't have time to pump at work, they can't take the time to eat appropriately at work, or there is just no place to pump.
Each of these encounters have me taking a closer look at NM labor laws and scrutinize what is in place. Furthermore, knowing that what is in place is not good enough for pregnant women. The midwife in me says "pregnancy is not a medical condition" but if you are pregnant and are working at a place where your pregnancy has to be treated like a medical condition to be treated humanly, perhaps something is wrong with where you are working. Unfortunately, with jobs being scarce and businesses looking to get more bang for their buck, it feels humanity has gone out the window. I am not sure what the answer is to this problem, I just know I am in a place to advocate for the women in my care. I am also learning which establishments treat their pregnant workers well and which ones show no mercy. These places need to be held accountable for the humane treatment of all their employees.