The Single Mother Who Couldn’t Leave Her Job

Photo: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

Chasisty has been pregnant six times and is the mother of four children. Her first pregnancy, when she was still in high school, was unexpected. But Chasisty was determined to overcome teenage-mother stereotypes: She says she worked hard to be on the Homecoming Court and graduate near the top of her class. At 18, she became pregnant again, and decided to withdraw from community college and look for full-time work. She found a job at a Verizon warehouse, where she worked for years.

In October, the New York Times published an investigation of the warehouse where Chasisty worked, detailing how women had lost their pregnancies after employers denied them requests for light duty. In the piece, Chasisty described having two miscarriages during her time as an employee. When the Times inquired, a Verizon spokesperson told the paper the allegations were “deeply troubling” and that the company had opened an internal investigation, while a spokesperson for XPO Logistics, which currently owns the warehouse, deemed the allegations “unsubstantiated” and “filled with inaccuracies.” In November, nine senators wrote letters to Verizon and XPO Logistics, inquiring further about company policy for pregnancy and the working conditions under which Chasisty and other women miscarried.

The Cut spoke with Chasisty about working long hours as a young single mother, going back to work six weeks after a C-section, what it feels like to miscarry at work, and the reason she ultimately found a new job.

On her entrance to motherhood. When I was younger, I never thought that I would actually have kids. I thought I was going to travel the world, join the Navy. But God had other plans for me: I ended up a teen parent. I was 16. At first I thought, No … but once I got to the doctor and heard the heartbeat, that changed my whole perspective. Everything became all about her; it wasn’t about me anymore. The fact that I was a teen mom and I still had a lot of things ahead of me in life just made me think, I’m still going to do those things — but my baby comes first.

I graduated, No. 12 in my class. I was on Homecoming Court. I did a lot of things normal teenagers did, but I also had a baby. Everyone in my class loved her — I had so much help from my fellow classmates. After I graduated, I wanted to go to nursing school, so I started at community college. But when I was 18, I got pregnant again. I was living at my grandfather’s house at the time; I knew I wanted to be more on my own, so I looked for a full-time job. That’s how I ended up working at the warehouse, when I was about three months pregnant.

On becoming a working mom. To get that job, I had to be one of the first ten people in line. I was number nine. They put me on a special project, eight hours a day. At first, it seemed like a dream job — just eight hours a day, not much heavy work. Because it was a special project, I wasn’t on the actual production floor. It was a temporary assignment, and when the assignment ended they said it could become permanent. I was thankful because I knew I could get my own apartment, where I could raise my daughter and the son I was going to have.

During this time, I had a lot of help with child care — from my grandparents, from my daughter’s father. I was exhausted, though, from working full-time and spending time with my daughter and being pregnant. That eventually caught up with me: When I went into labor, I didn’t even realize my water had broken. I thought just I needed to use the bathroom. Then I had a hard time finding someone who could take me to the hospital and watch my daughter. I ending up needing a C-section and a blood transfusion — I think the stress definitely had an effect on my body.

On returning to work. After six weeks, I went back to work, even though that’s not really enough time after a C-section. I didn’t really talk to anyone about how hard it was, to work and have an infant and a toddler. I was closed in, and I was a proud woman. I wanted to do everything on my own and prove everyone wrong. I didn’t want to be the cliché of being a teen parent. But I really could have used more help.

When I came back, they put me on part-time hours, which seemed great at first — more time with my kids. But I eventually needed more shifts; I needed more money. Working five hours a day really isn’t enough. So I switched to the night shift, which is when my hours got pretty crazy — sometimes up to 14 hours a day.

Then I got pregnant with my third child. The management at the time was pretty understanding — they didn’t put pressure on me, I could sit down if I needed to. That pregnancy went well, but the birth was hard. I had to have a C-section and was hospitalized for seven days. I took off work two weeks before I had my baby, and that’s when my maternity leave began. I was off for eight weeks after that, for a total of ten weeks.

On her first loss. After my third child’s birth, I got pregnant again. We had different management by then. During that fourth pregnancy, I was working, working, working, often in the heat.

One night, when I was about three months along, I was hurting pretty bad. I was sitting on the couch, doing my daughter’s hair, when I felt something fall out. What fell out was my baby. I had to put it in a Ziplock bag and bring it to the doctor. I’d told one doctor about my working conditions, and the doctor said I should leave my job — but how could I leave? I was a pregnant woman with kids. Miscarrying was the worst ever … it’s still stuck in my head.

After my miscarriage, I was numb. I tried to move on as much as I could. But it was hard: None of my supervisors, no one from upper management, said they were sorry for my loss, or offered their condolences. I was just a number to them. There was no sympathy or empathy. It felt like a slap in the face.

On experiencing loss for the second time. In September 2014, I was pregnant again. My miscarriage started at work. When I went to the doctor the next day, I found out my baby was gone: I had passed my baby at work while using the bathroom and didn’t even know.

On her sixth pregnancy. I hadn’t been thinking I was going to have anymore children, after everything I’d been through. In 2015, when the doctor told me congratulations, I was pregnant, I was like, what? Because I was so determined that nothing bad would happen this time, I would leave work after eight hours, even if my supervisors said no. I did not want to lose another pregnancy.

When I was only six months pregnant I went on leave, because I was sick. After my daughter was born and I heard her cry, it made all the pain I’d been through worth it. I knew I did not want to miss moments with her. My other children missed out on so much time with me, because of my job — sometimes it seems like they grew up without me.

After maternity leave, I went back to work for about three months, and then I quit. I told them I needed to be at home and make sure my children had everything they needed. Now, I do security work.

On what she’s teaching her children. Even with everything that happened, I don’t regret my job at the warehouse, though — it taught me what a bad job is. Now I know the difference between a good and a bad job. In 2017, a co-worker of mine passed out and died on the floor. The other employees were told to keep working. Sometimes I can’t believe that this nightmare was real. [Editor’s note: As reported in the New York Times, Linda Neal died on the job in October 2017. Four workers told the Times that managers said employees should keep working, while a spokesperson for XPO said workers were allowed to leave after Neal’s death.]

I tell my kids how it was a learning lesson for me, and now a lesson for them. I don’t want them to put up with what I put up with. Especially after this, I want the best for my children. I push them harder now, I think. I want them to be better, not just good. It’s made me be more open and aware of my children, too — I used to have a harder time being present because I was working so much. Ever since I started telling this story, women have come up to me and told me how this happened to them, too, at their jobs. Jobs act like your pregnancy is a burden. This is a precious time, and people act like it’s a burden.

Being a mother is such a gift. I have friends who can’t have kids, but I think a lot of other people take being a mother for granted. But these kids are going to be the next generation. We need to be careful with them. Sometimes my miscarriages feel like a hole that will never be filled. But having two pregnancy losses made me really appreciate the four kids I do have.

The Single Mother Who Couldn’t Leave Her Job