The Importance of Family Benefits for a First-Time Mom: Poonum’s Story

Stories@Gilead - September 28, 2021

When Poonum Dhokia received the good news that she was pregnant in 2019, she was already very familiar with Gilead’s benefits for families and parents-to-be. She went through IVF treatment and had done her homework every step of the way preparing for this moment. During her eight years with the company, she even worked with the Women at Gilead employee resource group to help shape some of the benefits and policies.

But for Poonum, a Senior Product Manager in HCV Marketing, seeing a benefits package on paper versus actually needing to put the plan to use was a whole different story. After delivering her son, Ari, by cesarean section in June 2020, she found herself needing support amid the isolation of becoming a new mother during a global pandemic.

“While having a baby during the COVID-19 pandemic provided bonding benefits, the flipside was the difficulties of navigating through almost everything being shut down,” Poonum says. “My husband wasn’t able to attend a lot of our appointments. All of the in-person baby preparation classes were cancelled. Essentials like baby formula and diapers were sold out due to supply chain issues. It was such a challenging time filled with so many uncertainties, especially for a first-time mom.”

Gilead’s parental leave policy allowed Poonum to care for herself and her family while navigating this major life transition without rushing back to work. She pursued benefits through the Lyra Health program and was able to see a therapist to treat her postpartum depression. She also took advantage of the Cleo family support benefit, which offers one-on-one coaching to parents from pregnancy up to the baby’s first birthday. The services were particularly useful during the pandemic, when most in-person services were shuttered and opportunities to connect with other parents were so limited. Poonum frequently texted her coach but also had the option of staying in touch by phone, video conference or email.

“She was there with me through all the ups and downs of the journey, serving as a life coach for me through a series of unknowns,” she explains. Her Cleo coach helped provide lactation and sleep training support once Ari was born, and she managed much of the logistics and paperwork that Poonum needed to complete before returning to work. Perhaps most importantly, she was a trusted resource for tips and support along the entire journey.

Ari just turned 15 months and the whole family has adjusted well to Poonum’s return to work late last year. And Poonum says Gilead’s benefits program has added a layer of loyalty to the company she’s spent nearly a decade working for.

“I think what Gilead is doing is extraordinary,” she says. “They give time off and flexibility, but they also offer additional benefits, such as back-up childcare and an onsite daycare center, that go beyond the basics. Those things, as you stack them on top of one another, have been incredibly helpful as I navigated parenthood.”

It also doesn’t surprise her that Gilead is so attentive to its employees’ wellbeing. “I expect Gilead to be the leader when it comes to women’s health,” she says. “We work on addressing unmet needs for people living with HIV, cancer, hepatitis and other diseases, and it makes sense that caring for its own employees is a company priority.”

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