I sat in the office, looking at a list of expenses, disturbingly long compared to the very small number on the income line. In fact, the numbers did not reconcile at all. Despite a ridiculously small food budget, cheap rent, no clothing or entertainment budget, and certainly no health insurance premiums, the total expenses were higher than the income. The financial counsellor reviewing the application for aid with me was not judgemental at all, but when she asked me to go over what I had written, I started to cry.
“I know these don’t match, and I honestly don’t know how it works.” My voice rose at the end, as I tried to keep myself from breaking into full sobbing. I was humiliated and frustrated. I had five years of college under my belt, but no degree. I was working as a waitress, trying to figure out why my post-college life was so different than what I had pictured it would be. I didn’t have a regular budget, because it was too depressing to look at the numbers.
The counsellor was soothing, understanding. She wrapped up our session quickly, telling me that Planned Parenthood was there to help, and I would get the care I needed. They would be able to give me a heavily subsidized rate for both my physical exams and my birth control prescriptions. When I turned out to have an infection, they were able to give me the antibiotics for free. What I valued most, though, was the feeling that someone was caring for me, and thought I was worth their time. Someone thought that I, like everyone, deserved access to health care that could save lives or even just improve quality life. I loved that I had this one area of my life under control, like a normal person. When you are totally broke, and cannot afford many of the basics of life, much less any extras, something as simple as having a regular gynecologist is incredibly helpful to the self-esteem. I had gone to Planned Parenthood and applied for aid. I had made something work for me.
That was a long time ago for me, and I now have a job with great benefits, including health insurance that allows me to get all of my medical needs met. I still value my experience with Planned Parenthood, though. I don’t remember all of the details, because I try not to think about that period of my life much, but I wonder if I would have my two wonderful children if I hadn’t had the reproductive health care I needed then. I also think about all of the people that are still helped by Planned Parenthood every day, and the people who work there because they truly care about getting reproductive health care to those that need it. This seems especially important here in Missouri, where it is very difficult to get any kind of medical aid. In fact, to qualify for state aid, you have to be a child or already be a parent . There is no aid for people who want to avoid becoming parents through good medical care and birth control. Except there is, because Planned Parenthood provides it.
The blog carnival is being hosted at What Tami Said and Shakesville. You can find a bunch of wonderful stories here.