For those who don’t know what WIC is, it is a government sponsored program to help struggling families, specifically woman and children under the age of five, with supplemental food costs.
Living in California, Cory entering his Doctorate program, and 19 weeks of modified bedrest for me left our bank account dwindling fast. If we were going to continue to support ourselves until Cory finished his program, we would need help from somewhere.
This is exactly who WIC is made for, families who find themselves with babies or young children in financial situations that force them looking for temporary help. Women can only claim WIC while pregnant or breastfeeding during the first year of a child’s life. Children qualify until they are five years old. WIC provides necessities such as veggies, fruit, eggs, bread, milk (or formula), peanut butter, rice, and beans (may differ depending on state) for families below the poverty line. WIC is not food stamps. WIC does not allow receivers to pick what food they are to get, it is predetermined on a check or a card written specifically what the store is to give them.
In the months following the twin’s birth WIC was a huge help in many ways. Like most companies, I only received 60% of my pay while on maternity leave. Nearly half of that went to insurance for the family. The food I received from WIC made up some of that gap. Especially with the twins as I needed to supplement with a bit of formula (two babies are difficult to breastfeed). Eventually, we were able to say goodbye to WIC’s help. They were there for us when we needed it to support our family. I wanted to share the good, the bad, and the ugly from my WIC experience.
The good is pretty much summarized above. WIC ensured that my husband could stay in his doctorate program and not be forced to drop out, while I was able to stay home and take care of the twins. They also provide pamphlets with meal ideas for mom and baby to help with breastfeeding or introducing baby to new foods etc.
Moving onto the BAD
- Uneducated case workers– The misinformation given to me at the WIC center on several occasions. I would confirm with my doctor that the information they gave me was inaccurate. They made comments about my baby’s weight gain being abnormal, when he was only in the 23 percentile, he needed to gain weight! He was premature.
- Guilt trips- Many of the workers made me feel on several occasions that I was a bad mom. I was giving my twins 100% breastmilk until they were six weeks old, and even during this time, one clerk gave me a hard time for giving pumped breast milk in a bottle instead of breastfeeding the twins right there in the center. Breastfeeding twins is not easy, especially in public. But she shamed me all the same. It was even worse when I heartbrokenly began to supplement because I wasn’t making enough milk for two growing and demanding babies. WIC offers formula but they WIC clerks are strongly against using it.
- The hoops- I’m getting something for free, so I’m not against being told to jump through hoops to get it, but I think people should know maintaining WIC requires a monthly visit (with the kids) to the center, 2 classes taken a month on parenting online, or 1 in person, notes from the doctor for all participants, blood test information for mother, 1 year old blood test results for babies, 1-4 pages of paperwork each visit, required conference each visit, and proof of address and income every three months. Those receiving WIC are still working hard to get these benefits.
The worst thing about when we were on WIC was the way you are treated by people when you are shopping.
Mommies on WIC can avoid this, by trying to shop at WIC distribution stores, who are trained and happy to help.
However, WIC centers don’t offer a variety of brands or product, and often produce is not the freshest, so you may venture to a grocery store to use your WIC check. In which case, be prepared for some of the ugliness that can come from your fellow humans.
Cashiers that sigh and begrudgingly get a manager because they forgot how to process this “welfare” check, which they announce for everyone to hear. The people waiting in line behind you may mutter things like “get a job” “stop having kids if you can’t afford them” “you can’t pay for your baby’s food?” (ALL THINGS I HAVE HEARD).
One time in particular, a nurse behind me was talking on the phone, “ I’m checking out at the store, but I’m stuck behind someone and it is taking forever. I mean I worked an 11 hour day, but sure, hand out free food to her.”
Needless to say I cried. I wish I had some victorious story of how I put her in her place, but I don’t. I felt ashamed to take help from WIC, but I didn’t know what else to do. My twins were too little for daycare, even if we could afford it, we have no family living around us, and my husband is gone all the time trying to finish his doctorate. I knew that we wouldn’t also struggle, I knew someday we would pay plenty into the system to support others. I knew there were people out there who abused the system and that was why I was being given a hard time. But these things I know didn’t matter. Words hurt.
Be kind to others, you don’t know their situation. Had she known that I had been out of work 20 weeks to get out babies delivered safely, staying multiple times in the hospital during my pregnancy, and paying $4000 in medical bills just the month before, maybe she would have been more understanding why I accepted help for this $17 can of baby formula.
If you are thinking of signing up for WIC or are currently receiving WIC benefits I hope you find this helpful. I hope you can utilize the program as needed and take comfort in no matter what someone says, you are doing what you need to for your family.
If you have never needed to accept help for food, count yourself blessed, and show kindness to those that have not found themselves in as fortunate of situations.