We just passed Joe’s fourth birthday. Or at least it should have been. I told someone it passed without much fuss but that wasn't entirely true.
I am writing from the DHHS office in Portland Maine. I have my last two years tax returns, pay stubs for the past month and an eviction notice. I am here with eleven others waiting to be called. Those around me are not speaking English but I can tell by their tone and expressions they are having the same conversation I am having with my partner via text. He's in the car with a sleeping baby and a kindergartener. We can't both be in here.
We weren't able to go to grief support together either. We had a toddler back then. No kids allowed. So I went and met other couples who had babysitters and shared their grief. I would go home and tell him what I heard, describe the pictures of the lifeless babies we all shared, and try to impart what the nearing retirement facilitator had tried to tell us. Things like “I've been doing this job for thirty, no forty, no thirty, no forty years...and in that time the number of lost babies and pregnancies and the reasons for the losses have not changed” and “You are not ready to be pregnant again. I don't recommend you have another baby anytime soon” and “Is there any way you can reframe that story you just shared, perhaps with less swearing.”
I don't know what became of the group after she retired. I left shortly before she did. I didn't feel right or welcome anymore after I got pregnant with our rainbow baby.
I didn't fit in with the prenatal yoga group either. They recoiled when I introduced myself and mentioned a previous stillbirth from Trisomy 13. I had a healthy child too but all they heard was stillbirth and they tried to not breathe in too deeply around me.
So why am I applying for emergency assistance. Good question. I am working on my Masters in Adult Education. Josh is working on his Masters in Education and just got certified to teach high school English two weeks ago. But the pay for the semester of required student teaching is zero dollars a year babe. We have lived off the GI Bill, then student loans and credit cards and now here we are. Still not employable. Unless either of us will take that maintenance job at the grocery store cleaning floors and toilets. That's the only company that asked for an interview. It pays 9/hour. We could get by if they offer 65 hours per week. To both of us. Rough estimate.
Last month I organized a walk for child abuse prevention. It took 14 weeks of work - all unpaid. Thirty one people showed up including two politicians. The woman who asked me to organize it told me the next day what a shitty job I did.
I taught a self defense class for women this past month or at least I helped. Also volunteer work. Nobody signed up for the interpreted classes I tried to get off the ground. Sort of like the child sexual abuse classes I booked around the state when I started MPower last year. Late last year. September to be exact.
So emergency assistance. Why am I back in the welfare office with all this education? Why does my veteran partner who is four classes away from a Masters degree have an EBT card in his wallet?
I have been in counseling with a host of diagnoses since the death of my son - anxiety, depression, PTSD, OCD, you name it. I guess carrying him for six weeks after we got his diagnosis was ‘not good’ for my psyche. Perhaps I should have listened to those doctors who recommended an abortion. Maybe getting pregnant right away was ill-advised. And it was advised.
My ex-therapist claimed it was the only way for someone like me to heal. That it would be a corrective emotional experience. There was no way to know I would not be able to find an ob/gyn for my prenatal care. Or that a resident doctor I had never met would refuse to go get a real doctor when I was in labor.
I have let go of the notion that if I had waited to get pregnant that third time that I would somehow not have the child I did. He would have gotten here no matter when it happened. Rushing was bullshit.
DHHS has got to be the saddest place in Maine. There’s a woman with a newborn in a car seat she can barely lift, another woman who was a fellow germophobe that told me in the bathroom why I should never use a hand dryer, another family who didn't want to sit too close to each other...fuck I hate this.
I brought along a book from home by my favourite writer Ed Smith called You Might As Well Laugh. It was good company.
I exploded at my partner last night. I do that a lot. There's nobody else to yell at. I don't know if we are going to make it through this. In a few months he will likely be working full time for a nice school district and we would have plenty of money but right now we have an eviction notice. We ran out of food stamps this month because our freezer was accidently unplugged and we lost everything that was in there. Our bank account is overdrawn and the credit card payments haven't even started coming out this month.
I applied for help two months ago. I missed an interview because the letter got mixed in with a pile of toddler artwork. When I found it the day of the appointment it was already too late. So I convinced myself we didn't need it.
A month later I changed my mind after we still hadn't gotten called for any of the jobs we applied for. I met a nice social worker who laughed when I told her we just needed help for a couple of months and I planned to never be in this office again unless it was to provide training of some sort and I would be the instructor. Dream big baby girl.
We got turned down last week for help because we were up to date on our bills. Assistance is only for those facing homelessness. And there has to be a job you will lose if don't have a place to live.
So here I am. The nice social worker who gave me her direct number but will not return my calls just came into the lobby with another family and looked straight at me and immediately looked at the floor.
Some guy in Maine got turned down for assistance last week and came back with a bag of bed bugs and dumped them on the counter. He was on the news. My brother out west shared the story on Facebook. He doesn't talk to me but maybe he’ll be interested in this blog post when he sees the picture of the bug crawling on the wall behind me.
It does help me feel better to think of those diplomas on the wall at home.
I should just get a job. And quit trying to get better with reiki and meditation and yoga and endless therapy and just accept the pills my state healthcare would pay for. They could prop me somewhere, a complete fucking zombie, while someone else takes care of my kids (also paid for by the state) and get out of the system. I won't make enough to live on and I won't qualify for help so I would be homeless so that's not a great plan. Plus you know with the kids.
Anyway the good news is that it's almost four and the office is closing and I might have to come back tomorrow.