My Immense Gratitude for Social Programs

One of the things I missed most about Canada was having access to social programs, health care, birth control and subsidies. That it was kind of okay to be working and not making a ton of money, because you had your basic needs met.

These programs made it so you could do things you cared about even if it wasn’t making bank. Aaaaand if you were an artist, you had access to grants on a federal, provincial and civic level. Grants that you could apply for, get, create things and live off of while you added to the cultural fabric of Canada. The Canadian mindset felt to me like it was about maximizing the quality of life for all people by meeting their basic needs. Which in turn increased the feeling of equality. (Note: Canada falls short in this mindset, and equality, especially concerning First Nation peoples and the systemic racism they continue to experience.)

I’m in a similar situation to where I was when I previously lived in Canada. I’m an artist, (living in Los Angeles) and I’m not making a lot right now. Though my career is doing pretty well: I have an artist rep, show my work in galleries, and I’m making work I care about… I have to say I feel fairly successful. But in reality, it is my husband who is keeping us afloat financially, since whatever I make, pretty much pays for my business expenses. Currently, we see my art career as an investment; It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

With my current poverty income level, I qualify for Medi-cal which gives me access to free healthcare. Because of Medi-cal, I have two good OBGYN’s for my pregnancy: One for regular prenatal things (who will also deliver my baby in November) and the other who is keeping a closer eye because I have to take Celexa for depression. Also, I have access to a fabulous therapist, who has been like a sweet jewish grandmother to me, with lots of hugs, words of encouragement and loads of compassion.

Recently I was directed by Medi-cal to the Women, Infant and Children program, known as WIC, to seek additional prenatal support. Specifically I was looking for access to breast pump loans. A good hospital grade breast pump costs $2000, and to rent for 6 months, it’s $300. Which is a pretty good rental rate of you don’t want to spend most of your time pumping, but still, with a baby on the way, $300 is pretty penny. Having access to a good pump will give me freedom to work while I am still nursing. With this type of pump I am no longer isolated as the main caregiver of my child. The burden can be equally shared with my husband, daycare and others who can now bottle feed my son. Which means I can keep working, or hell, take a nap!

I’ve always wanted a family of my own but have been afraid of having children because I feared being the main or only caregiver and didn’t want to give up making art and working. Luckily I found a man whose views of women were modern and progressive, thanks to his modern and progressive hard working mother.

Being able to work is a necessity for most women. I have been working since I was 15 and loved the confidence, independence and freedom it gave me to make my own choices, and support myself. Now that I make art as my living it’s even more important that I don’t stop! Since the success of an art career often thrives on momentum!

I am going to be a career loving parent, and that’s just the way it is. I have my own wants, needs and dreams and having a child will only add to that. But support is needed in order to keep working and thriving. I mean, come’on? These picture books aren’t going to draw themselves!

Today I found out that I qualify for the WIC program AND will be receiving breastfeeding classes, access to a dietitian and a hospital grade breast pump for free. Y’all hear that? FOR FREE!

I feel so incredibly grateful that I qualify for Medi-cal and WIC. They are the types of support systems that increased my quality of life in Canada, and though I feel the US needs to support these programs more ::cough, cough:: Planned Parenthood… I am very thankful they are available to women and their families.

2017.01.15 Update: When I finally needed my pump, WIC denied me because I work from home. They said pumps were reserved for mothers who work outside the home. Even though I said my child would be in daycare so that I could work, I was still denied. :(

Apologies for my terrible grammar and punctuation. :)