Friday, October 30, 2015

Naked & Afraid

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Snow made soft powdery drifts along the edge of the lawn.  Noah had just turned four months old.  The winter's cold stung as if I were outside walking around in the frost, but only I was indoors and the sting I was feeling came from waiting at my door for a delivery.  The delivery no one ever really expects to have to accept in their lifetime.  But there I was standing at the front doorway watching condensation slowly creep up the glass of the door and glancing at a crying Noah who wouldn't soothe despite my best efforts, in a rain forest bouncy in kitchen.

The sliver sedan pulled up in my driveway, and lady hurried to the door with her footprints etched on the ground.  I didn't know what to say.  The only words I could say that rolled off my tongue  - "Thank you." 

"Think nothing of it." the lady with this beautiful and colorful scarf replied as she hurried back to her running car that was still heating for warmth.    I sat the box on the floor and opened the four folded edges to examine it's contents; a package of baby diapers, wipes, a gently used purple caterpillar alphabet toy, seven canned goods, a package of pasta, a gallon of expired milk, a loaf of Wonder Bread, a dozen eggs with one cracked in the carton, a block of cheese, a pound of potatoes that had just started to grow ears and started to root.   And I sat on the floor with one incredibly grateful tear climbing out of my left eye.  With the knowledge that I had reached a level of poverty. 

The thing about poverty is no one ever imagines themselves there.  Before Noah's birth I had three really successful jobs.  Not because I financially needed them all, but because I loved the financial freedom and security that it brought to my life.  A secure nearly decade of my life dedicated to the State of Colorado's Judicial System,  a call service representative dispatching nurses at all hours of the day on weekends and in the evenings during the weekdays, and I owned my own transcript business.   Knowing that I had a baby on the way who would require a lot of night time hours, I let go of the call service job two months before Noah's birth knowing financially we'd be just fine if I did.

I didn't see what was about to happen on the horizon.  God didn't foreshadow it for me.  My plans, hope and dreams would be forever altered that December day in 2008.   In my mind I prepared myself for the biggest Christmas gift of my life - our first born son.  I was nesting like all moms to be do.  Counting down the days, hours and minutes until I could hold my new bundle of joy in my arms.  I was preparing for this blissful event.   But the day of Noah's birth changed the course of our lives forever. 

Noah was three months old when I finally came to the realization that I couldn't return to work.  I lacked the ability to find the words to pick up the phone to tell a Judge who was really the best boss I ever had that I wouldn't be returning to work.  Instead I took the path that I thought would be less painful, which was to write my letter of resignation and submit it to Human Services.  I know that my boss deserved hearing it directly from me, but I knew I couldn't get through it without being a mess of tears - something that wouldn't have been at all professionally characteristic of my hardworking and dedicated nature. 

I was scared, there I was unemployed, I still had my business which crumbled beneath me too since I couldn't dedicate the hours needed while caring for a medically fragile child.  Business disappeared in a matter of weeks and that was gone too.  I was left with a large Cobra insurance payment as a result of my resignation nearly $700 monthly, and we were trying to survive on a single income with my husband's job as a truck driver.   Noah's medical bills started rolling in.  As a result of an incompetent hospital social worker Noah's Medicaid would only back date to three days after he was born.  The first three days weren't covered, a mistake due to the caseworker failing to timely file the application. 

Our savings was depleted quickly.   And before I knew it I was trying to line up all the help I could find.  I had to swallow my pride - and swallow it hard.  My independence felt shattered, my self-worth felt non-existent, my identity as a successful person in life was gone.  I found an organization willing to help me through the first year with baby supplies and food - There With Care.  They became my life-line for a long time, even coming to me in snow storms so I would have food, as I patiently waited by my door for the drop off.   When that went a way, I turned to finding food at a local Catholic Church, but then their program went bankrupt and I lost that avenue of support, I even was even forever thankful for my neighbors who detected our struggle and would sometimes bring us cooked meals or my Mormon neighbor who would bring me food from her church.  We found ourselves applying for TANF and WIC trying to limp along the best we could, but denied applications because Noah's daddy made $40 too much monthly disqualifying us from full government assistance.

You find yourself dealing with the rollercoaster of emotions that come along with the health complications of your child and feeling completely kicked to the ground with the loss of security...

And then the judgments start to compile.  People who think you aren't worthy of being able to buy soda, sugar, or even steak at the grocery store if you or your child is receiving any government benefits.  You become viewed as a lazy low-life. Here we were with a child that wouldn't be accepted by society any more than we would be. I'd love to tell you we somehow dug our way out.  But the truth is there is no real complete digging out.  For thousands of special needs families we are merely existing and doing the best we can do moment to moment.  Our children's costs are so excessive, and quite to popular belief SSI and Medicaid don't even begin to really take the edge off of what severely disabled children like Noah need.  We trade new shoes that don't leak, a full refrigerator of food, or a full tank of gas for trying to pay for medical supplies like special soaps, saline swabs, pulse ox machines, suction machines, thermometers, toothette swabs and therapy costs for therapies Medicaid doesn't feel are needed, or equipment that Medicaid denies because it's considered a non-covered benefit, non-medical necessity or in the most painful excuse - because they feel a child has no restorative potential. You feel naked and afraid.  The parent in you says hock your life to care for this child.  Because that is what any good parent would do.  Give up anything and everything you have to provide for this little life that deserves all that you can give.  That is what parenting is supposed to be about.  The most unselfish form of love exists between a parent and child. 

It's always been in my nature to work hard.  And I'm still doing that.  Noah is my job now.  And I try to invest my positive energy in making a difference in the lives of those I touch.  To make others know and understand they are not alone, that there are many of us walking this unexpected journey that often forces the majority of us into poverty status.  None of us thought we'd be here, it could happen to you, it could happen to anyone. 


Noah's Miracle by Stacy Warden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.