I officially joined the ranks of the thousands of low-income families in our county that benefit from WIC. There was no question that we would qualify based on the one measly NC teacher salary to support our family of six. I had no need to apply for WIC this past year since the triplets primarily received breastmilk, then formula through the Enfamil multiples program. However, now that the trio consume one half-gallon of soy milk a day, along with three full meals, the prices add up quickly! And unlike last year, I will not receive any performance bonuses this year so I will not be able to make any financial contributions. (Even though I did not work last year, I was able to pay the mortgage every month through various bonuses and stipends from my student's scores the previous year.)
Our WIC appointment was painfully humbling. I would have left in tears if Jesse had not gone with me. Even though we had a scheduled appointment time, it took 2.5 hours from entering the health department until we returned to the parking lot. I was disappointed that there were absolutely no toys, books, or entertainment for the children to play with. I wasn't about to let the babies crawl all over the health department floors. I was not prepared to have to keep the babies confined to the stroller or our laps. I didn't think to bring Jackson's LeapPad or anything to occupy him.
Thank God I brought the printout from the triplet's one year well check the day before. We avoided having to undress each baby for weight checks. More importantly, we avoided repeated finger pricks to check iron levels. Unfortunately, Jackson was less than cooperative during his weight check and finger prick. I was humiliated by his outburst. He absolutely refused to stand on the scale. I was eventually asked to stand on the scale by myself, then while holding him, so they could get an accurate weight. Jackson violently kicked and screamed while numerous parents watched with disgusted faces (as if their children have never had temper tantrums). The finger prick was equally traumatic.
The entire process was tedious and unorganized. We were herded around like cattle from one room to the next, with nothing to occupy the children. Each worker had a different title, such as "the nutritionist" and "the interviewer". Most of the employees were apathetic and cold. The nutritionist told us Amelia had low iron and Maddie was average for weight. Jesse and I just exchanged "what the hell" looks and kept our mouths closed.
As frustrating as the process was, the actual program provides tremendous support. We will receive a great deal of food through WIC. We received vouchers for the next three months. Each child has two vouchers per month. Maddie and James have the same vouchers (pictured below) with soy milk. Amelia and Jackson both receive cow's milk and cheese. This is one of eight vouchers we have per month.
If I wasn't embarrassed enough during the WIC appointment, I felt absurd getting on my hands and knees looking for which items were WIC approved. The tiny "W" that indicates whether or not an item is approved is at the very top of the price tag. That slip is narrowly covered up in the refrigerated section so I had to try and take the tag out to confirm I was selecting the correct soymilk.
I quickly learned the many rules for using WIC vouchers in NC.
- You have to buy everything on each voucher at once. If you don't buy something at that time, you will not receive it.
- You should give the WIC voucher to the cashier before the transaction begins.
- Each voucher should be separate transactions. So if I were buying anything else, such as a jar of applesauce, I would have to separate my purchases. The applesauce could not be scanned with the other items.
- You must sign the check after the cashier rings up the items. The cashier keeps the check.
- I am the only person who can use and sign the WIC checks. (Jesse cannot.)
- The check-out process takes a bit longer. Impatient people will grumble and stare.
Here is what we were able to receive with the one voucher pictured above.
We will return to the WIC office in three months for a (supposedly) 20 minute appointment and receive vouchers for the next three months. Three months after that, we will repeat the 2+ hour process with weight checks and blood work. That totals four appointments per year, where children are required to attend every other appointment. I will make every effort to schedule WIC appointments immediately after well-checks so I can simply forward the doctor's notes to the WIC workers.
I wish I could say I felt no shame whatsoever applying for and using WIC vouchers. I wish I hadn't pridefully debated whether or not I should write this post for the past week. I wish I wasn't resentful about being a low-income family, despite the fact that I have a Master's Degree and National Board Certification. But just like I ended a previous post with, having triplets changes all plans. I'm still learning to roll with the punches and make things work, all while smiling.