After seeing my OB/GYN doctor for nine months, I felt a huge void after I gave birth. I got along well with her and felt like I was getting excellent care. Then I had my baby. I saw her for my 6-week checkup and that was the end. Last year I found an article on NPR that resonated with me. It discussed the need to redesign maternal care and quoted the committee opinion of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:
“To optimize the health of women and infants, postpartum care should become an ongoing process, rather than a single encounter, with services and support tailored to each woman’s individual needs.”
I believe this statement and wish that could have happened for me and many other women.
For me, I found my postpartum support and financial assistance through the Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC). I’d heard of WIC through my work with a nonprofit in Kentucky, but I learned firsthand of the program when I was pregnant with my first daughter in East Texas.
Here are 5 ways WIC made a difference in my post-baby life.
Many people know of WIC for its financial assistance for formula and healthy food for mom and baby. I didn’t know if it was something we would qualify for, but it was extremely helpful to my family financially as my husband was still in graduate school and my job was not yet making me a millionaire. (Spoiler: I’m still not a millionaire.) WIC made it a little easier to keep fruits and vegetables around the house which encouraged me to eat well for my own health and my baby. I still have several cookbooks I was given through WIC with simple recipes for toddlers and ways to help kids eat vegetables.
WIC became a support for me, especially in those first few months. The hospital where I delivered my daughter was 45 minutes away. When I called to ask if they had any out-patient breastfeeding support and help, I was told they did not. The hospital in my town told me that they had a lactation consultant, but she only worked in the hospital and saw current patients. Rock and a hard place.
Enter WIC. The nutrition and breastfeeding support staff were so helpful and encouraging at my visits. They even called to check on me at home.
The continuing and consistent relationship with the staff/specialists made me feel like someone was rooting for me to figure out this mom thing.
A safe place to try out breastfeeding
I mentioned that breastfeeding was challenging. I felt like I couldn’t get a good latch. I couldn’t figure out the nursing bras and tops with folds and layers. It was just hard. So I planned my days with the baby for how long I could be out before I had to feed her again. I didn’t feel comfortable, confident or adequate as a mother breastfeeding anywhere but my house.
However, I felt instant relief walking into the WIC clinic. They had signs all over the waiting room that stated: “THIS IS A BREASTFEEDING FRIENDLY ZONE.” I saw mothers feeding their babies — some with covers and many without. Also, no one looked annoyed or impatient that I couldn’t get my baby to latch or couldn’t figure out my stupid, complicated shirts. No one batted an eye if my baby cried because, surprise, that’s what babies do!
A DRIVE THRU!
After having a newborn, you wish everything was a drive-thru. Fast food is not enough. We want a drive-thru convenience store complete with ketchup and toilet paper, am I right?
When I found out that my East Texas WIC office had classes I could complete online, instead of attending in-person, I was excited. But when I found out that THEY HAD A DRIVE THRU and I didn’t have to wake up the tiny human to hand anything in, I was thrilled!
Help with a breast pump
We had Tricare with my first child, but it was not providing breast pumps yet. I was so grateful for my local WIC office. For the first two weeks, they loaned me a hospital grade pump to help increase my supply. I had looked at the price of pumps and wasn’t sure which to get or if it was in our budget to get an electric one and thought I might get a hand pump for cost reasons. When I returned the magical heavy duty hospital pump, they told me as part of the program I could receive a pump. I was able to get an electric one and it eased the burden of wondering how we could afford one. It also saved me a bazillion hours!
I know that many of my challenges of having a newborn were me feeling self-conscious while experiencing some postpartum depression, though I didn’t recognize it at the time. WIC was a huge support to me and my family during this time.
There are times in everyone’s life when help is needed, and I’m not embarrassed at all that my family was a beneficiary of WIC services.
It was more than a food program for my family. WIC provided a safe place for me to be a new mom. They gave me support and encouragement and reassured me that I was doing a good job. I came to know the staff in the office and looked forward to meeting them and showing them how my daughter had grown. When we moved away from our small town, I felt better prepared and more confident in my abilities and looked forward to having my second daughter.