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How family Leave Helped One NJ Family

How Family Leave Helped One NJ Family

When my son Xavier was just a day old, his father and I were concerned about a little lump on the left side of his forehead, and his right eye would not open as often as the left eye would.  The discharging doctor from the hospital told me to not worry about it, but suggested that I have our pediatrician check it out during his first well baby examination.  I did as the discharging doctor suggested and in the examination, our pediatrician also said Xavier’s symptoms seemed to be a “molding issue” that I should not worry about.  However, I had a gut feeling that there was more to it than that.  When Xavier was 15 days old a home visiting nurse following up on his hospital stay strongly suggested that even if it is something that may pass, I should trust my maternal instinct and have a second opinion.  

I immediately requested an appointment for a detailed cranial examination.  During this exam the doctor confirmed my worst fears, there was something seriously wrong with my son’s skull.    She told me that Xavier could have “Craniosynostosis;” a birth defect that occurs when one or more of the sutures found in the skull of an infant harden prematurely.  In so many words, he did not have all of his “soft spots” as an infant should have.  The pediatrician told me that if her suspicions were correct, he would need surgery and it was going to be a scary process; however, afterwards he would be just fine.  She wrote down the term, referred me to a neurosurgeon and advised me to stay off the internet about it (yeah right).   The neurosurgeon confirmed that my 3 week old beautiful  and delicate baby boy needed surgery to reconstruct his skull.  It would need to be taken out and replaced properly by a plastic surgeon.  The neurosurgeon informed me that Xavier should have surgery as soon as possible. 

Knowing I had a remaining 9 weeks of NJ Temporary Disabililty Insurance available including the 6 weeks of NJ Family Leave Insurance, I knew that I would have to return to work earlier than expected and use my Family Leave to cover my lost income while being out of work during the time Xavier would have his surgery.  I discussed my options for leave with the Human Resources Manager at my job and learned that NJ Family Leave Insurance would allow another 6 weeks to care for Xavier at whatever time he had the surgery.  We also found out Xavier’s dad could also use NJ Family Leave Insurance time to bond with him as long as it was within the year of Xavier’s birth.  However, he was unable to use it upcoming change in his employment status and fear that he could lose his job since NJ Family Leave Insurance does not provide job protection. Furthermore, 2/3 of his wages was not enough to get by on so he did not take the leave.  If the wage replacement was higher and he would be sure not be at risk of losing his job or being penalized for taking time off, he would have jumped at the chance to be with us. 

Despite my worries, I did my best to enjoy the rest of my maternity leave time with my son.  I would hold him and think of an 8 hour surgery process, the risks of the surgery.  I dreaded this surgery which was fast approaching us.  I felt heartbroken and guilty that he even had to bear it.  I returned to work after being out of work for 7 weeks, collecting 6 weeks of NJ Disability Insurance.  I went back out on leave under the NJ Family Leave Insurance program the day before Xavier ’s surgery when he was 7 months old.  It was the challenge of a lifetime to bear it, but the surgery was an overall success.  I am so grateful that the NJ Family Leave Insurance program allowed me to enjoy most of the summer with my family as Xavier quickly recovered.  He never had any complications and has developed well to the smart, bouncing, happy, and active little boy he was destined to be.  I returned to work after enjoying most of the summer embracing the mother/child bonding time that I longed for.   

-Tamara Horn