Motherhood is a constant lesson in humility from my experience. But, I’m glad I humbled myself. I didn’t have a choice really. Humility – along with WIC and couponing – saved my life.
I wasn’t planning on having a baby. Not then. Not ever. The Universe had other plans for me. I was graced with a baby girl, but her biological father was not consistently in the picture, and he didn’t even start financially contributing until she was five years old. My family all moved away when she was seven months old. I went from serving in the evenings and on weekends, along with a day job, to just serving part time a couple evenings a week and on weekend mornings. I traded off watching friends’ kids on my days/evenings off. I did whatever I had to in order to keep a roof over our heads and take care of the little girl I was responsible for.
Even with trying to save every penny I could and hardly eat myself, I still couldn’t figure out how to pay for all her formula, diapers, and wipes. When I had her, we almost didn’t make it, and she was separated from me in NICU for a week while I was stuck in a hospital bed with tubes and catheters and multiple blood transfusions. A lactation consultant would come in every day and try to help me pump whatever I could so that my supply didn’t dry up by the time I could actually be with my baby and start breastfeeding her. I only ever was able to give her about half of what she actually needed.
She did great with the breastmilk I could provide for her, but she had a lactose sensitivity when it came to formula that was devastating. I’d go to supplement with the bottles they gave us at the hospital, and she’d puke up the entire bottle’s worth plus all the breastmilk I had just struggled to give her. The only thing then, well over a decade now, that they could give her that would stay mostly down was a soy-based formula. She’d only throw up about 1/4 to 1/3 of that, at least. I spent most of her first year of life covered in yellowish puke stains that NEVER would come out of anything, and she had to wear bibs 24/7 to protect all the cute outfits family and friends had blessed us with.
A big problem with the soy formula is how expensive it was. I couldn’t do it myself. I had no one else. As it was, I was only eating on $40 a month – a MONTH; about $10/week. I also ate all the free soup and bread I could while on my shifts at the restaurant. I finally humbled myself and did something I thought I would never do (I had worked since I was 14 and always managed my money well) – I turned to public assistance to ask for help. I was referred to the local WIC office, and they got me right in.
I was amazed at how compassionate and wonderful they all were. I actually started looking forward to my recurring appointments in those early years. We met with a dietician, we got fun booklets with info on each new stage, and they recorded her height and weight on each one. I still have those saved for her till this day. We got our food and formula vouchers, and we enjoyed famers market vouchers during the Summers. I couldn’t have done it without WIC. Ady had her best chance at a healthy start to her life. Back then, it was all paper vouchers and had to be done in separate transactions for each type of voucher check. People in line behind me would get frustrated, etc. I learned quickly to organize everything by which voucher it went with, and I befriended all the cashiers I could, coming back to the same ones each time. I believe things are MUCH easier and more electronic these days. 😉
I wish the Mom Collectives had been around when I first had my daughter. I would have felt so much less and alone and so much less hopeful at first. The Louisville Mom Collective has a guide with resources to help support new moms in ways that I never had:
Pregnancy & Infant Support Guide
I had solved the food crisis, but I still had to figure out how to pay for all the trillions (it felt like) diapers and wipes she was going through that first year… and into the second year or so. I started joining research panels, doing online surveys, and couponing. It took all of my precious me-time to do this. When I wasn’t working or with her or a friend’s kid while they were awake, I was spending her nap times and early bedtimes doing all of this. Then, there were virtually no work-from-home opportunities. I couldn’t possible afford childcare for her. The monthly rate was $800-$1,200/month. It was more than I made some months; it just wasn’t an option.
The ladies at Kroger, Wal-Mart, CVS, and Walgreens all got to know me quite well. I spent more time with them than my actual friends sometimes… ha. I was a master at finding all the deals, getting all the coupons from everywhere, working every rebate available, flipping every CVS and Walgreen buck, etc. to always have enough diapers, wipes, and toiletries on hand for me and little girl. I’m proud of myself for being humble and doing what I had to do (while keeping it legal and ethical) to provide for us the first few years. There are so many things I would change about my life, and I would never want to go through any of that again, but I’m so incredibly thankful for the lessons it taught me and the better person it made me.
Funny thing is, I was talking to my mom one of those rough parenting nights when Adilyn was about a year old, and I told her about being on WIC, etc. and feeling ashamed. She told me that there were several years when I was little that she and my dad were on WIC, cash assistance, and food stamps to be able to take care of the five of us kids. I had no idea my entire life!!! She said there’s not shame in humbling yourself and admitting you need help to take care of your family. I wish she would have told me long before then, but it made me love her even more that she’s one of the strongest people I know and even more humble than I had known.
If you need help, don’t be ashamed or afraid to ask for it. The resources are out there. You have to put a lot of work into it yourself, but you do what you have to for your kids. LMC is here for you along the way, as best we can, as well.