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.