Saturday, January 02, 2010

When I Was on WIC

It was a spring day in 1998. I only took the pregnancy test so I wouldn’t have to worry. I knew it was going to be negative, and then I could get on with my life. As soon as I took it, the control line appeared. I waited a while. Still one line.

“Just what I thought,” I said, and set the test down on the bathroom counter.

After taking my contacts out and brushing my teeth, I reached for the test to throw it away. But now there were two lines. A microscopic Julia was forming right inside my body. I nearly passed out.

We had been married almost five years, and I had wanted to get pregnant for a long time. But Chad was in the middle of grad school. I had a job that paid $20,000 a year. We needed to wait until Chad graduated and got a job to even think about starting a family.

But that second line changed everything. I wasn’t going to get to be a stay-at-home mom. Not when I was making our only income.

Julia was born in January. One Sunday at church, the wife of another graduate Bible student came up to me.

“You should get on WIC,” she said, and then, after noticing the look on my face, “We did it after Abigail was born and it was a big help. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about.”

WIC (Women, Infants and Children) is a federally funded program that began in 1972. It provides food, nutrition education and referrals to health and other social services at no charge. The program serves low-income, post-partum and breastfeeding women and infants and children up to age five.

I had never been on government assistance. No one in my family – except possibly during the Great Depression – had ever been on government assistance. I don’t like to think that I considered myself above such a thing, but I did.

But money was tight. My pregnancy had been fraught with complications and my hospital stays and time away from work had drained our savings. Anything I could get would help. So I applied at the WIC office and qualified.

I had to take Julia to the WIC office every few weeks for the staff to check her health and for me to take nutrition classes. I usually went there from work, which meant I was typically wearing a suit. To say I stood out from all the teen moms in there is an understatement. I saw them pass looks among each other – looks that said, “What is she doing here?”

But I never felt weird about being there. The staff was so sweet and they loved on Julia and were so friendly to me. Even when I discovered I had known one of the WIC employees in college, I still wasn’t embarrassed. I was just doing what I needed to do to take care of my family.

Money was still tight. I remember pushing Julia around the mall in her stroller, going into Sears, looking at all the pretty little baby dresses and wishing I had $15 to buy one. But WIC helped a lot. We never had to go without anything we needed. And even though we were technically living in poverty, I have the sweetest memories of that time. We never make a trip back to Abilene without driving by the little house we lived in back then. We didn’t have much, but life was simple. I miss it, in a way.

Chad spent his last year in grad school teaching biology at one of the local high schools. His income rescued us from poverty, and our WIC days were over. I’ve always been grateful to my friend for referring me to WIC and helping me change the way I viewed government assistance.


  • At Sat Jan 02, 04:06:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


  • At Sat Jan 02, 05:12:00 PM, Blogger jndhuck said…

    Deana, you would be shocked at how much WIC has changed since those days! In October 2009, Texas WIC cut the allotment of milk and cheese down a bit, and replaced it with fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables and whole grain bread or tortillas! If you are a vegetarian, you can get soy milk and tofu instead of milk and cheese. You can also get a variety of fruit juices now, and gone are the huge canned ones that tasted awful. What I'm most pleased about is the change of heart they had about whole milk, they no longer insist that babies one year or older get whole milk for a year before allowing a switch to a lower fat choice.

  • At Sat Jan 02, 05:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I appreciate your writing about this. I'm glad the WIC program was there for you and your family when you needed it.

    --Mary Lou in Charlotte

  • At Mon Jan 04, 01:17:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I have several friends who were on WIC, and I am glad it was there for them. Also, when my parents were first separated, my dad was not sending any support yet, and my mom had no job. We received some government assistance for a while. Those who haven't been in a position to need it, don't understand. I do think it is abused at times, but it is a good thing to keep in place for those who really need it. There should be no shame in using it. Every time I see the amount of my tax money that goes to such programs, I think about my friends and our little single parent family, and I don't begrudge one penny.

  • At Mon Jan 04, 06:56:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I was on WIC after Trey was born too. I had a lot of pregnancy problems with him and missed a ton of work and school and Sam was only working part-time. We lived on about 175/week. Completely unbelievable because I spend more than that on groceries and eating out a week now!! But yes, WIC was a lifesaver!!

  • At Tue Jan 12, 03:02:00 PM, Anonymous Amy Boone said…

    I work at a crisis pregnancy center (well, I work for no pay... better known as volunteering, but volunteering sounds so un-worklike and I do WORK there! Enough of that...) and I do WIC referrals all the time. The personal situations of the girls/women I see are as varied as what you mentioned seeing at the WIC office. Lots of women I see know about WIC, but it makes me particularly happy to tell a mommy-to-be about WIC and see a look of true relief spread across their terrified face. Thanks for sharing.


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