Dear Baby H,
Yesterday, you looked right into my eyes and touched my heart – deep joy & heartache knotted together in my gut. I met your Mommy when she was 8 through a mentoring program. She is now 19 and you are 6 months old though you would only be 4 months if you would have come to the world full term. Every time I see you I search your face to try and read how you are developing. Your early arrival weighing less than four pounds meant you spent your first two weeks of life in the NICU (newborn intensive care unit.)
Yesterday, we went to Kmart to get Mom some sneakers for her birthday since it is now way too cold for flip flops. I gave you and Mom & Dad a ride from your great grandmother’s house to your great aunt’s house with your stroller, pack & play, a couple bags of clothes and a bag of food. When we arrived it was clear auntie wasn’t totally happy to see you and she could be heard yelling to uncle, “I TOLD you they were coming.”
In our 90 minutes together your young family reminded me of how cruel poverty is and how hard it is for people earning minimum wage. Your Dad had calculated how much it would cost him each week to take a cab and bus back and forth to work from auntie’s house (the bus doesn’t always run when needed) – $235 a month out of his $8.06 an hour job. That’s 29 hours of labor or nearly ¼ of his pay for the month. You know retail, you never get full time hours.
Mom and Dad are waiting to get a section 8 apartment. Actually, they haven’t yet turned in the paperwork because they don’t have it all. Dad lived his teen years in foster care and doesn’t have his social security card. His trip down to the federal building 30 miles away did not successfully result in a copy of his card showing up in the mail. (God knows how much that trip cost.) In the meantime, your family is among the hidden homeless, euphemistically known as “couch surfers”. Mom’s Mom kicked you all out of her apartment. Mom’s Dad let you stay for a while. You went to Dad’s Grams and to Mom’s gram’s ex-husband’s and now to Dad’s aunt’s. I can’t think too deeply about what this means for your tiny growing body and fragile nervous system and rapidly growing brain because the gut-wrenching sadness just overwhelms me.
Did you know that WIC vouchers can only be redeemed for exactly what is printed on them? 10 cans of formula is wonderful until you go to the grocery store and they only have 3. You can’t get 3 cans because the voucher says 10 and so Dad leaves with none. We go to a second store, and you, Mom and I wait for Dad in the car for a very long time. How long can it take to get a gallon of milk and some formula? Turns out the formula isn’t in the baby aisle, it is in the locked tobacco section (yes, tobacco!). Dad had to stand in line to get the formula and then stand in line again to pay. Apparently it must be a high theft item at this store. We are happy they have the formula though so you don’t have to use one of your bus passes to go back into town tomorrow.
When I got home, I realized I had forgotten to bring the board book I had picked up for you. But then again, where would Mom & Dad keep it?
To be continued . . .