“No one can do it alone.” “God helps those who help themselves.”  “We all need a little help sometimes.” “Pull yourself up by the bootstraps!” ” “If you don’t care for yourself, you can’t care for others.” “Always look for an opportunity to help”. “Good help is hard to find.” “If you want something done, you’ve got to do it yourself.”

Well, it’s no wonder we’re confused about help- the messages are as mixed up as the directions on my GPS.  We all do need help from time to time, but we’re ‘Mericans, darn it.

This week I sought  a little help. The short, or ‘man’s version’ is that after surgeries and an estimated 30% chance of having children, I am pregnant with a second son. Now  in my final trimester, my ducks are finally in a row but it’s time to get them quacking. I am considered high-risk and have had my paperwork lost twice, my blood type entered incorrectly, and have been ‘lost’ between two clinics since February. I made several calls to get information for birth and after-birth care to be pro-active about available services. I’d left messages for my OB, a specialist, a social worker advocate, and for a case manager. After three weeks of repeated calls I still hadn’t heard anything. I finally reached out to an amazing midwife here who delivered my first son. As a fellow redhead, this is a woman who can get things done. She assured me I’d receive a call shortly.  A grateful mother’s salute to you, Colonel!

A few friends assigned to the same case manager raved about her helpfulness and timely responses, but after 2 messages and 2 weeks I only had radio silence. She called today to sadly tell me my file was on her desk with a big  note that read: DENIED- INSUFFICIENT NEED. When I heard that I almost snorted Diet Coke out of my nose. According to the referring managers and doctor, to warrant attention my baby needs to have a birth certificate, have more problems/risks, I need to be less healthy, and I need to seem like I am not as able to handle the situation. Now this referring doc has accused me of “being grounded in reality” and having “unusual capacity to cope and handle potential difficulties”.  Perhaps I should have taken the ‘Prissy-Birthing-Philosophy’ from Gone with the Wind, pitched a hissy fit and declared, “I don’t know anything ‘bout birthin’ no babies!”

Now, this is not a criticism of the Army, any form of health care, civilian workers, or soldiers. I have yet to see any flawless system that didn’t need Human Resources or pre-printed apologies. Army resources are stretched thin; our health care system has to be ‘rationed’ for those who need it most. Still, it is disheartening to be told I have a need that requires help just to be denied it. After a very helpful chat with the case worker (very helpful, funny, and again, a fellow red-head) I felt better equipped. She called back a few hours later to say that after she and the doctor had a quick chat with the ‘powers that be’, it was  suddenly decided I should have a case manager, as I would probably be low maintenance. As she joyfully filled out my initial paperwork over the phone, glad to be able to help, she came to the last question: what was the ‘problem’ that I needed help solving?

The label on my case folder now reads: Knowledge Deficit. (Is that code for ignorance or stupidity?)  Join me in a laugh, won’t you? I’ve gone from being an insufficient need for help services to having a knowledge deficit in 3 hours, and I can’t blame it on pregnancy hormones.

It can take a lot of humility to ask for help. I struggle with my pride and the fact that I can usually find the people or resources to get the job done with minimal extra assistance…but becoming a mother changed the story. When I waddle ask for help for my kids and receive silence, it is crushing and infuriating.  However, when one expects a service to be performed by a professional and is totally ignored, it can be maddening.

Earlier this week I attempted to enroll Firstborn into a provided care system; children are not allowed in medical appointments and when a husband is deployed we gals need some help. I strolled in armed with completed paperwork, toys, and snacks… hurry up and wait. When noon rolled around the area swarmed with uniforms and- like magic- they were taken back or had their problems addressed immediately right at the counter. I watched as another mother who had waited an hour returned through the waiting area with her 3 year old son, obviously upset. With a quivering voice she said to the greater waiting area, “I just wanted to get him enrolled in a painting class but apparently no one can help me!” Poor Momma. I decided to bravely stroll past the counter to see if my name was anywhere close to being called. I’d been ‘next’ for over an hour as dozens went right past me to be helped. By 12:30 I had waited almost two hours, had a hungry and cranky child, and desperately needed the bathroom on the next floor. Thankfully, the Stanley Steamer’s guys were present, so if push came to shove the carpet wouldn’t remain stained.

For those who have seen MAD TV’s skit about King Burger, I felt like I’d approached Bon  Bon Qui Qui’s counter. I had received the Army Covenant’s version of an eye-roll and “I’ve got a complicated birth and childcare need!” Yes, just trying to figure out what to do with a high-risk pregnancy/birth and to enroll in a service provided for my use that I will still be paying for…hold the drama and the mustard.   “Thanks for your sacrifices, but don’t get too crazy.”

When I was finally helped, the clerk was an exhausted young mother who worked quickly and was understanding of Firstborn’s meltdown. As her phone rang I watched her jump for it, just to look disappointed. She was also waiting for the hospital to call; she had lost a daughter 12 hours after birth and wanted some counseling as the 1 year anniversary was upcoming. She’d reached out for help, although it was obviously painful and difficult. As she waited, she sat at work and did her best to help other mothers in need. My frustration with my wait melted into compassion.  I’d forgotten that everyone who is helping is also in need of help in some way.

There is a great blessing in the Armed Forces community- most of us understand the necessity to pull our own weight, but we also realize that our lives and survivability depends on those alongside us. We carry each other (sometimes literally), make each other meals, cry together, celebrate together, babysit, and stand in as birthing coaches while holding up the phone so Daddy won’t miss his daughter’s first cry. NO one, no matter how strong, should be labeled“denied: insufficient need”. The key is recognizing that we all need help, knowing when to offer it, and knowing the right source to go to.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills–where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”Psalm 121:1-2


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