These are real stories submitted by Connecticut residents who have been impacted by our state’s lack of paid family and medical leave.

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“While I was a public teacher, my late husband’s diabetes caused catastrophic health issues. Anything diabetes can do to a person, it did to him. During what turned out to be his last year of life, he had already been in end-stage kidney failure for 5 years, & we were doing peritoneal dialysis at home, which requires twice daily (set-up & break down) of very heavy bags of liquid & tubing. Well, he developed a toe infection, which led to its amputation. But it led to further & further amputations, until a below-the-knee amputation was our only option. He developed sepsis. It was a living nightmare. While this was developing, I decided I needed to avail myself of FMLA. He was unable to set up his dialysis care. He had multiple doctor’s appointments. He had to get fitted for a prosthetic & have therapy. I HAD to be home. I took FMLA from October to end of school year. I was SO SO SO FORTUNATE to have inherited some money from my dad’s passing the year before, so it paid for my health insurance & bills. I cannot even fathom how someone would keep their sanity, health, & any sense of self-care without the time. I know most people do not have an economic cushion like I did. My husband then developed infections in his other foot at the start of the next school year, & I could see the end in sight. I sadly had to take FMLA again. He entered hospital, had more surgeries, & passed after about 4 weeks. IF I did not have access to FMLA, I still fear what the stresses could have done to me. I know most people do not have the resources I did, but God forbid, they have to continue working under such horrific circumstances. Physical & mental health of caregivers becomes fragile as it is. I believe FMLA saved my own life. Paid Family Leave can only help, not hurt, an employer and an employee. I am certain it is a literal life saver. Thank you.” Nancy, Wallingford CT

“As a mom to 3 year old, I was truly surprised during my pregnancy at the lack of support for new moms and families in our normally progressive state. Even as a middle class, two income family, with jobs at fabulous employers we still had to decide on leaving our child in daycare at just weeks old or going unpaid. I was “lucky” to get 6 weeks of STD at 80%. We are failing families. To have to choose between a paycheck and bonding with your child is torture. We also forget that many women do not recover, physically or emotionally if forced to return early. I struggled with a difficult delivery, complications, and postpartum depression. I NEEDED that time at home; my life depended on it. I was lucky enough to be able to take it and my heart breaks for those that cannot. We go out there telling women the importance of nursing and bonding for healthier babies- but then don’t support that. We ignore their mental health. Do you know how hard it is to pump in a bathroom somewhere to make sure a child gets breastmilk? If time with mom equals healthier moms and babies, wouldn’t medical costs go down for both? Isn’t the investment in our children worth it? Childcare is outrageously expensive too- let babies be with their families during those crucial stages of early development. Let’s get ahead like so many other states (and countries) have done!! Statistics show that it pays off!” Sarah, West Hartford CT

“I am currently on (unpaid) maternity leave after the birth of my second child. I have had to limit the enrollment of my oldest in preschool to save money and I’m only able to afford to send her at all because I’m fortunate enough to have savings to dip into. If I did return to work now, I would struggle to find quality care for my infant at this age (7 weeks) and also my entire salary (or more) would go towards paying for care for my two kids (perhaps public preschool beyond magnet lotteries is next?) I know that I am lucky to be able to take unpaid leave. I know that paid leave would directly benefit not only myself, but every family in this state who navigates the complexities of this issue just to create the families in this state.” Naomi, South Windsor CT

“When my oldest son was 14 he was misdiagnosed with depression. He was treated with medication that made what we would eventually learn was bi-polar disorder almost unmanageable. It took 2 months to get an accurate diagnosis and level out his medications. During that time I was trying to balance working full time, my son’s medical needs, and caring for a younger child. It was brutal. Some days I had no choice but to bring my suffering child with me to my office so I could be with him. Some days I had to miss work and miss pay to be at the hospital, or numerous appointments. It was a difficult time for my family made more difficult by our need to keep my job and make money. It will allow families to care for their own and reduce some of the burden on them during difficult times. It will also relieve the burden of overwrought systems of care.” Barbara, Middletown CT

“I just had my beautiful baby girl Emilia N. Sanchez on June 01st, 2018. She came into this world via c-section and I am already back at work July 2, 2018 and attempting to breast feed. I am emotionally torn. At work people are constantly asking me why are you back so early? Who is taking care of your daughter she’s only 4 weeks old? This brings feelings of regret, abandonment, guilt and other frustrations. I felt as if had no choice, no option, no other way of having more time with my baby girl. Why? One, because I am a temporary contractor and although I have been working at the same job for 4 years I do not have benefits that allow me the amount of paid time off to stay with my daughter. It is difficult not to be with my daughter especially when she is so young and both of us would benefit having more time but, bills do not pay themselves. FMLA right now would allow me to spend the time with her but at the cost of my job. If I had access to paid leave I would be less stressed about the impacts of not being with my baby at what might be considered the most important moments of her life. I wouldn’t feel as if I am being forced to chose between family and work. I feel I would be more focused on my responsibilities at work rather than feeling guilty or depressed about not having more time or feeling as if failed my family. I hope that in the future CT develops a plan to help people like me. People who have no choice and suffer for it. No one should be forced to choose between the family they love, their own well being and the job.” Bianca, East Hartford CT

“When my second child was born, I did not have paid leave. I was working for a school system, which allowed me to use FMLA despite the fact that I hadn’t been at my job for a year when my daughter was born ( I had been working there for nearly ten months at the time of her birth). If I had been working at the school for a few more months prior to her birth, I would have been able to use supplemental short term disability insurance if I had signed up for it, which I would have paid for out of pocket. I took the FMLA that was offered when she was born, but was concerned about my lack of income for the time that I was out of work.” Read the rest of Kristen’s story here.

“When my daughter was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia this last Thanksgiving, I only had access to the federal unpaid FMLA, where i could use up my vacation time to help pay my bills, but that wasn’t going to last long. My husband stopped training at his unpaid training program to stay at the hospital with her during the day while I worked slightly reduced hours supplemented with my dwindling vacation time, and we swapped nights staying at the hospital with her for the month long stay. She is now in outpatient clinic treatment, but has had unexpected hospitalizations for fevers with low blood counts, and allergic reactions to treatment medications. All while i have to keep working full time.” Read the rest of Christina’s story here.

“I am a professor at a CT State University. My first son was born in the summer 9 weeks before my very first day of work. As a new employee, I had no access to additional leave time. So at 9 weeks old, my son started daycare, and we were very fortunate to have found an excellent, relatively affordable home daycare two miles from our home. My second son was also born in the summer with impeccable timing, exactly 6 weeks before the first day of class for the fall semester. Because I had three years of work experience under my belt, I was able to work out a flexible schedule with my employer for the fall semester. Nonetheless, my second son began daycare at 7 weeks old, and again we were fortunate to find a new home daycare close to our house as we had recently moved. I returned to a full-time schedule when my son was 6 months old. Having the comparison of working a full-time schedule with a 9-week old baby versus a 6-month old baby, I can say, without a doubt, that the extra paid time to care for my baby, my family, and myself played a critical role in my physical and mental recovery from childbirth and the ensuing challenges of breastfeeding and interrupted sleep. I believe that mothers and fathers caring for a new baby need as much paid leave as possible. This will benefit the health of the baby and the parents, resulting in better care for our children and a more engaged workforce.” Jenna, Wethersfield CT

“As a parent of a chronically ill child I currently use FMLA intermittently, although there is job protection I am not paid for time that I must take for appointments or when my child is home sick. As a single mom this can be detrimental to my finances that are needed to pay rent, bills, pay for medications that are needed. Paid leave would benefit many people in all situations. CT is only getting more expensive and when you are losing wages due to uncontrollable circumstances it becomes harder to stay in a place you can’t afford. It would also benefit mentally eliminating the worry for struggling caretakers. Our finances are already limited caring for loved ones, without being further cut by the necessity to take leave unpaid.” Jessica, Stamford CT

“I am self-employed and do not have access to paid family or medical leave. When I was pregnant with my first child, I had complications at 28 weeks and was forced to spend the remainder of my pregnancy on bed-rest, unable to work. When I went into labor, the umbilical cord was wrapped around my son’s neck and an emergency C-section was required. Three weeks after that, while I was still in pain from having surgery and bleeding from giving birth, I went back to work. I had already been without an income for over three months and could not afford food for my newborn. No one should have to choose between healing from surgery and bonding with their baby, or eating.” Sally, Windsor CT

“My mom fought terminal breast cancer. I was able to use sick time to spend Mom’s final weeks with her. I took one month off between her hospitalization, funeral and grieving. It would’ve been better to have had paid leave rather than use sick time.” Jessica, CT

“Paid is important to me as the daughter of aging parents. As an individual with medical issues and as a parent with grandchildren.” Althea, Hartford CT

“Paid leave is important right now to me because I have doctors appointments and I need medical leave. The doctors offices are not open after regular 9-5 hours.” Timero, Hartford CT

“I take care of my parents. My dad takes care of my mom 90% of the time. If my parents ever get hurt or go through surgery that requires long term recovery, I would need to leave work without pay.” Luis, Newington CT

“I have been lucky to not have to take leave, but I understand that everyone will need to at some point. Paid leave helps to ensure that people are not penalized for taking care of themselves or their families.” Amy, Torrington CT

“As a millennial, I am considering starting a family in the near future. I would like to raise a family in CT, but cannot afford to not have paid leave.” Stephanie, New Britain CT

“When my daughter was born 2 months premature I used up all my vacation time before her mom was able to take 5 months combining disability and maternity leave.” Merrill, New Britain CT

“As a pediatrician, I feel that paid family leave is important for the health and well being of the family.” Gerald, Enfield CT

“We all deserve to take time for our family’s benefit, without worry for our job and the money that comes with it. This is a normal ask for our society. We need to make it happen.” Nija, Milford CT

“So many people are living one pay check away from disaster. We need to keep gender pay equal. This is a basic human right.” Sharon, Fairfield CT

“I believe that sooner or later most of us may be faced with the need to take care of a loved one and we should not have to choose between family and job. We are human, we may got sick and we deserve time to heal.” Eluisa, Norwalk CT

“I believe in families being together during times of hardship. I believe that a mother and father need to be with their child(ren) during those early days/ weeks. We can be better employees if we eliminate the stress of working during hard times or when adjusting to a new baby.” Carla, Fairfield CT

“Suffering a miscarriage and having my husband return to work the day after. Him needing to return to work a week after having a baby, even through Postpartum depression.” Caitlin, Fairfield CT

“It is important to me because I want to have children in the future and want to make sure I am able to do so with adequate time off and support. I also have an older mother and anticipate having to care for her in the future as well. This isn’t just for me – it’s for me neighbors, friends, family, and future partner.” Constance, Bridgeport CT

“I want to have a family one day. Work-life balance is something I hope to have by the time I want to have babies. I am willing to work and do what I can with the time I have to get family leave passed”. Dayna, Bridgeport CT

“My husband and I are both freelancers, so when we don’t work, we don’t get paid. Last month he had a heart attack. I had to stay home and take care of him. Neither of us was earning anything, and on top of this we have high deductible insurance. A triple whammy.  My husband is recovering well, but paid medical leave for him, and paid family leave for me, would have been a great help to us. We need this insurance in CT so we can stay competitive with states like New York and Rhode Island which have this protection for small businesses like ours.” Amy, Weston CT

“I am a college professor working at a CT State University. My employer allows for 6 weeks of unpaid leave following the birth of a child, and I was fortunate enough to be able to bank enough sick time beforehand so that I was able to collect a paycheck during that leave. I worked, full-time, until I went into labor – at 41 weeks plus 2 days.” Read the rest of Kelly’s story here.

“The last weeks of my father’s life were agonizing. We brought hospice into our childhood home and made final arrangements. During this time, I would still work from the hospital or my father’s apartment so that I could save the days I needed for his funeral and burial. No one should have to experience that additional anxiety about their job security and finances when they are caring for a loved one.” Read the rest of Danielle’s story here.

“My professional support arises from my understanding of the importance of breastfeeding to the health of mothers and babies, the decrease in illnesses of both mothers and babies in our community and workforce, and our ability to decrease exploitation of mothers by BIG business formula companies whose pockets are lined by separation of mother and child in the first weeks postpartum (there is a time and place for formula and it HUGELY overused).” Read the rest of Christy’s story here.

“My wife and I are in the process of a domestic adoption as a means to create our family. Infertility has left us no other option. As an educator, my wife is a member of a union and in most cases is the beneficiary of family-oriented policies. While her school system does offer paid maternity leave for mothers of traditional birth, there is no paid leave available for adoptive mothers of newborns.” Read the rest of Marc’s story here.

“I took maternity leave in 2014. As I had been at my job for less than a year, I could not use FMLA and did not have access to my workplace’s parental leave (3 weeks paid). I was forced to use all of my sick and vacation time, which meant that I had to save up and not use any of these days before going out on leave. I took 6 weeks (the maximum that I could take under my employer’s policy. Of that time, I was able to cover 3.5 weeks paid using all of my vacation/sick time but when I went back to work, I had no vacation or sick time and when my baby did get sick, my husband had to stay with him.” Read the rest of Katie’s story here.

“When I had both of my children, now 4 yr and 2 yr old, I took 4 months off from work. I was paid short term disability during that time. I also used vacation time. My employer then allowed each child to come to work with me. I was given an office with a door so I could have privacy to nurse. This allowed me more time to bond with each child and still be paid. I’m so grateful that my employer was open minded and allowed this arrangement. At first coworkers were concerned about smells and noise but each realized neither was an issue.” – Brynn, Waterford, CT

“I have not personally been impacted by lack of family or medical leave – yet. You see, as a single mom, I have not had a medical checkup in nearly 20 years. I can’t afford to know. I have a job. I have health insurance that is decent enough that IF I had paid leave should I have a serious illness, we could make it work. The problem is that if I ever need leave of any more than a total of 3 weeks in any given year, my salary would be reduced to 50% during that leave period. That would translate to over $1000/month less than we need for our basic necessities to say nothing of unusual medical copays and deductibles. I have two choices – get up in the morning and keep plugging away, or keel over dead. Serious illness is simply not an option so I have to keep my head in the sand.” – Susan, Monroe, CT

“When I had my 2nd child, I had to take the last 4 weeks after my c-section as unpaid leave. In addition, my husband had to take unpaid days every time he was ill or when he needed to stay home with a sick child when he used to work retail. As you can surmise, that had a huge impact on finances when he was being paid a small hourly salary.” – Karla, Cromwell, CT

“My husband and I adopted a baby from China. We were in Chins for two weeks to get her. That was my vacation time. When we got back in took one week unpaid. And returned to work the following week. My husband is self employed. So absolutely no family leave. It was hard but we lived through it.” – Janet, West Hartford, CT

“When I was pregnant in 2011, neither my husband nor I had any paid leave from work. In fact, neither of us were covered by FMLA: his company had less than 50 employees, I worked several part-time jobs. He was only able to take 2 weeks of vacation after our daughter was born before returning to work, and I stayed home for almost 12 weeks without pay.” Read the rest of Liz’s story here.

“When I was pregnant with my son – I thought finding great care for him would be a breeze. It was not! I thought I would be given 12 weeks of paid leave before having to go back to work, nope that wasn’t given either. I only took 7 weeks leave (6 weeks were paid at 60% of my income and 1 week was paid using vacation time and sick leave).” Read Cynthia’s full story here.

“I am currently 12 weeks pregnant with our first child. I work for an (amazing) nonprofit here in CT, which is focused on promoting healthy moms and healthy babies by preventing prematurity and birth defects. I don’t just love my job, but I need it also. My partner and I live in Fairfield County, as both of us work here, and in order for us to live here we need both of our $65,000 & $40,000 salaries in order to pay rent, pay back student loans, and have a tiny bit left over for retirement and savings.” Read the rest of Keely’s story here.

“I hate the fact that so many people are forced to go into work even though their hearts are grieving for their sick family members, alone at home without care. It’s not fair and it’s not right. Who can focus on work when their loved ones are sick and in need of aid? We must pass Paid Family Leave. Our families need it and we do too.” Read Dvora’s story here.

“I work for Planned Parenthood and they have been very supportive of my need for family medical leave. With my second pregnancy I was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum. I was on bed rest for about 11 weeks while pregnant. My job was maintained and I was still able to take maternity leave after my daughter was born. I lost about 25 lbs during my pregnancy and a growth was found on my liver. I don’t know what would have happened if I had to work through this crisis.” Erin Livensparger, Portland, CT

“My husband has heart failure, he is always in and out of the hospital, or visiting doctors . Sometimes he feels ok to drive by himself but most of the time I have to drive him, I take a lot of time from my job (not paid) to take him to his appointment, send him home then go back to work. It would be good if I was able to get paid when I leave work to take care of my husband because we live on his social security (he is disabled) and my paycheck.” – Nadia, CT

“I am very lucky that I have a wonderful husband who is employed full time and I could take maternity leave.  However, 8 of the 14 weeks were unpaid time.  Only 2 weeks were paid at my full salary; I luckily had banked 2 weeks of PTO.  The next 4 weeks were paid at 60% of my salary by the short term disability offered by my employer.  And so, I felt irrevocably forced back to my job.  Work that I truly enjoy and find very rewarding.” Read the rest of Sarah A’s story here.

“I’m a single mother of four children. When one of my sons was 10 years old, he developed shingles. They covered his face and his chest. My son was in desperate need of care, so I used up my days off of work caring for him. He still needed care, so I stayed home even though I didn’t have any more days off allowed. Because of this I was fired from my job at a time when I desperately needed money to buy my son medicine and feed my family nutritious food so that my other children would not get sick. During this time, paid family medical leave would have been very helpful because I could have taken care of my son and kept my job.” -JoAnn Ndiaye, New Haven

“I work as a teacher in an affluent district here in central Connecticut.  The way my school district handles maternity leave is the female employee must use all of her sick time during maternity leave.  If she runs out of sick time before the allowed 6 or 8 weeks is up (depending on vaginal vs. cesarean delivery), she does not get paid for those remaining days/weeks.  In addition, when the woman returns to work, she has zero sick days for the remainder of the year since all earned sick time is used during maternity leave.” Read the rest of Jessica’s story here.

“My employer, a small firm of under ten people, can’t afford to provide paid family leave for medical emergencies or for childbirth. While my wife was visiting family in California, she suffered an unexpected attack of acute intermittent porphyria (a rare genetic condition that leaves sufferers in debilitating, life-threatening levels of pain during an attack) and was hospitalized for a week. Our CEO and the rest of the company all insisted I fly out to be with her, and covered what tasks they could for me while I was at her hospital bedside for the week-long attack to run its course. I am fortunate that I could be with her during that time.

If I hadn’t still been working from afar my work would have kept piling up – and our company isn’t big enough to offer a benefit other than personal time off to use on this. I could have chosen to sacrifice my week of vacation time, but I had promised to take my wife on a trip out of the country. I didn’t want to deny her this much needed vacation, so I chose to work while I was at her side in the hospital, adding to my stress and having a detrimental effect on my work as well.” -Krishna Sampath, New Haven

“Up until a year before I had my first child, the company I worked for (20 people) had never employed a woman who had had a baby while employed there. The first woman to have a child while employed there pushed hard to get them to provide short-term disability (STD) coverage. We finally got this going a few months after she became pregnant, so she did not qualify. It was fully employee paid, the company did not contribute. I felt frustrated that they would only pay for 6 weeks whether it was a csection or a vaginal birth. I also felt frustrated that they would not start paying until the 8th business day. This ultimately made the 6 weeks of STD pay equal 4.5 weeks. It paid 60% of gross earnings.” Read the rest of Jenn’s story here.

“Last year I suffered an ACL tear during a weekend softball game. Suddenly I was facing a painful surgery and several weeks of recovery and rehabilitation. Additionally I was burdened with extreme discomfort and a lack of mobility for months following my surgery, making it very difficult to sit at a desk for hours a day. My company gave me 2 weeks paid medical leave and additional time off during my work days while I attended 2-3 sessions of physical therapy per week. I was allowed to leave work to work remotely on those days where the pain and swelling was severe.

Even with health insurance, therapy sessions can cost well over a hundred dollars a month. I can’t imagine how difficult mentally and financially it would have been had I been forced to deal with the stress of mounting medical bills while earning no income during my state of invalidity.” -John Dickhoff

“Children with Neurofibromatosis or other chronic illnesses are already fighting a long, terrifying battle.  They need their mothers by their sides focusing on nothing but their care—not how they will pay the growing pile of bills.” Read the rest of Sara’s story here.

“My husband and I are the primary caretakers of our elderly mothers, both of whom are 94, and have a variety of physical and cognitive health issues you would expect for women of that age. My mother-in-law lived with us for a year until she broke her hip recently and had to move to an assisted living facility. I have medical Power of Attorney for my own mother, and my husband has medical and financial Power of Attorney, as well as conservatorship, of his mother. In addition, we have a child still living at home, and while he is in good health, he, too, has routine, but time-consuming, medical and dental appointments.” Read the rest of Christine’s story here.

“I’ve watched my sister struggle with chronic illness since the age of 10. I’ve seen the toll that illness has taken on her life and the challenges she’s had in caring for her needs while still working full-time. There have been times in her life when her illnesses have flared up and she’d struggle to just have the energy to get out of bed.” Read the rest of Michelle’s story here.

“Several years ago, my sister and I were caring for our parents. My mother has since passed and I continue to help my father. I feel a great deal of uncertainty due to the uncertainty of caring for an ailing elderly parent, especially someone who has a long-term illness.  The associated level of time and energy needed from caregivers to maintain continuity of care was daunting, especially while attempting to sustain employment. As a caregiver, I became responsible for knowing my parents’ medical insurance, medication requirements, medical history, and current symptoms. These were in a constant state of flux, depending on my ailing parent’s care needed and other particular circumstances. The caregiver must tend to each of these needs, often in roles that they have never experienced before. In a matter of weeks, I was saddled with this situation, in addition to the daily family obligations of my spouse and children.” Read the rest of Betty’s story here.

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