I sat with an infant on my lap trying to keep a 2 year old quiet and still in a crowded waiting room while exhausted and nauseous. I was almost in tears every time I told my toddler to sit down. (About 100 times, but who’s counting?) People all around were giving me sideways glances as I tried to bribe him to be quiet. A cookie, a book, a matchbox car…PLEASE just just sit and be quiet while we wait our turn. Nothing was working.
My Name is Called
Finally, after what felt like hours, my name was called and I went back to talk to the nurse. While looking over my paperwork she asked how she could help. I informed her that I needed to speak with someone about Medicaid because I was pregnant and didn’t have insurance. We had just moved and my husband was still looking for a full time job.
I could feel her looking at me. Judging me and my two small children. It took swallowing every ounce of pride I had and come to the health department looking for assistance and she looked at me like I was trash. Like I was dirt. Like I was looking for a handout. Like I didn’t need her help.
But I did. I didn’t plan this.
Do You Have Proof?
The next question, for some reason, took me by surprise. Do you have proof from a doctor of the pregnancy? All I could think was “Um, no. If I could afford a freaking doctor would I be at the health department with a toddler who keeps trying to run away and a 9 month old who is trying to put EVERYTHING in her mouth?” I gained my mental composure and said that I didn’t.
What do you want from me, lady? I didn’t plan this.
She informed me that in order to proceed with the Medicaid application I needed proof. They could do the test there, but there would be a charge if it came back negative. “Fine. I know I’m pregnant.”
I was sent back to the waiting room with my circus of miniature monkeys. Great. I was out of snacks and new bribes. All of the toys that I brought were no longer keeping my son’s interest and my daughter was determined to crawl around the not so sanitary health department floor.
When I get called back I am dropping everything out of my bags as I try to scoop up my kids. I just wanted OUT of that tiny, overcrowded waiting room.
The nurse was not amused.
She checked my information and hands me the test. I start to drag my kids to the restroom with me when she informs me I cannot bring them while I take it.
“Can you watch them for me then?” I tried to ask in the nicest tone I could muster. Then it happened. The comment that was so judgmental it might as well have been in the comments section of a blog post. The comment that has stuck with me for over 5 years.
“Are you sure you need another one? You seem to have your hands full.”
With tears in my eyes, I set my kids in a chair and go to the restroom to take the test. “I didn’t plan this.”
I rushed into the restroom and peed quicker than I ever have in my life. I didn’t want to leave my children with that ghastly woman a second longer than I had to.
I don’t remember anything else about our interaction except for her stating that I was pregnant. She handed me a printout of the test result and I was sent BACK to the waiting room until a Medicaid counselor could talk to me. My patience was SHOT. They are trying to kill me with this waiting room.
Not Done Yet
Finally I got to talk to someone who I thought would be at least a little sympathetic. She was there to help me after all. Nope. The one thing that sticks out in my memory from our interaction was that she told me that Medicaid would pay for permanent birth control, or sterilization, after I gave birth.
I was shocked. I wasn’t even 30 years old and the state of Georgia was suggesting that I tie my tubes. I hate that I was encouraged to go this route within minutes of meeting with the counselor. As if I was a nuisance and a baby factory that the state didn’t want to have to keep paying for my pre-natal care and deliveries.
I Didn’t Plan This
I never planned to have three kids so closely together. Heck, I never planned to have three kids. Who plans to have to ask the state for help with having and raising their children? Certainly not me.
My husband and I are hard working, but we have fallen on hard times here and there and have relied on public assistance for help. Not just the Medicaid for my pregnancy, but SNAP to be able to feed my children. We were only on them for about six months, but they doubled the amount of money we could spend on groceries each week. It meant that I was able to eat something other than ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese.
When push came to shove I did take them up on the permanent birth control option. It was best for my family, not because the state decided I was done having kids, because I decided I was done. I didn’t want to end up back in this same situation later down the road because life didn’t go according to plan.
I know that there are people that abuse public assistance programs. I’m not dumb or blind. But you do not know who is going through what at any point in their lives.
Maybe the primary method of birth control failed.
Maybe you lost your job with the awesome insurance AFTER making the decision to have a baby.
Maybe a husband left his wife while she was 6 months pregnant and she had no one else to turn to.
When you need help, you need help and that is what these programs are for. If you see someone getting help, don’t automatically assume the worst. THAT is what makes people not ask for help no matter how much they need it.
Be kind and stop judging. It costs nothing to be kind, but it means the world to the recipient.
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