I could write a book on the many things first-time parents aren’t expecting after they’re done expecting. You anticipate the bulbous bellies, stretch marks, swollen ankles, back pains, ligament pains, everything pains that come packaged with pregnancy. You bite your nails over the anxiety of the impending labor and how excruciating you know it will be. You prepare for sleepless nights and days crying, pooping, peeing, plus your baby will be doing all that too. Most of us are even aware our nipples are going to chap and we’ll need a special cream for them.
But one thing nobody warned me about, is paperwork.
Nope. It wasn’t till after my little bundle of joy arrived I was handed the first stack in what has become a lifetime of filling out and filing piles of documents giving him the right to exist in American society.
At the hospital, nurses came in with a manuscript of papers for me to sign. To this day, I have no idea what I signed. I was doped up on the Oxycodone I was given. I was sleep deprived because, hello, just popped out a baby. I was in agony anytime I felt the twinge in my bladder telling me I had to pee. (If you think child birth hurts, nothing compares to peeing after a vaginal birth). I was being woken up by nurses every two hours and told to wake my happy sleeping child to feed him. The only document I remember signing clearly was, of course, his birth certificate.
Guess what the hospital never filed.
Guess what document will be required to do anything with your child ever.
That’s right. The birth certificate.
That meant a trip to the county department of health. And you guessed it, more paperwork.
I suppose is you’re financially stable enough to afford food and health insurance, you may need to fill out less paper work. I was not. I’m still not. We needed assistance from WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) which required a live oak tree’s worth of paper to fill out about my son. And in order to be approved, we needed to provide my personal favorite, the income documents. (Who actually keeps their pay stubs? And, when you’re an unmarried stay-at-home mom with no income or, even more confusing, self-employed and don’t have pay stubs you’re lost in the Bermuda Triangle of paperwork–no one knows how to navigate through it and you’re often stuck in the status of ‘Pending’ forever until someone figures out what to do with you).
Every time I went in to pick up the new round of vouchers, I was handed a clipboard full of questionnaires asking me the exact same questions I would subsequently be asked to answer by the nutritionist who I would watch type them into the computer. Um, what happened to those papers I filled out? How many trees die a day because WIC can’t get their act together and join us fully in the twenty-first paperless office century?
When I lost my milk and asked to switch to formula for our assistance. Yep. That required paperwork from the pediatrician before they would process the request – because my word that I’ve lost my milk and the fact I’m asking for formula as a formerly breastfeeding mom in the first place clearly isn’t sufficient proof I’m no longer breastfeeding. Instead, the pediatrician who isn’t my doctor and knows nothing about my body is the authority here.
I was at home with my son for eighteen months, and his father, while we were still together, didn’t have insurance through his job. Which for families in Florida means applying for Medicaid. So, we applied online with the archaic system that looks like it was coded in 1995 and hasn’t been updated since. It took us hours to get through the process only to be denied. Their reason? We had too many assets. I co-owned our house with my mom, and both cars, a 2001 Dodge Intrepid and 1979 Chevy Camaro costing a whopping $3,500.00 together and fully paid off, were registered to my name. Apparently, according to the government of Florida, that means we have too much money to be considered medically needy. My son’s father was bringing home $450 a week. We were loaded.
Our next option was to apply for Florida KidCare, another program supplemented by the government so that the insurance is affordable. Another online application. What was their response? We made too little income to qualify and so they registered our son for, guess what, Medicaid.
One more time, fill out the paperwork to finish the process of getting him insurance.
And renew every year.
Then, Obamacare rolled in. And, since I had to apply for it myself I tried to add my son so I’d be submitting my taxes as proof of my now self-employed income only once. The government said, nice try. We’re not going to let it be that easy. He’s on Medicaid, he stays on Medicaid. So for both of us to be insured I have to submit my taxes twice with two separate applications to two government agencies. You would think departments within the US government would be able to access each other’s files so that all I need to provide is my name, his name, and our social security numbers for them to pull up my taxes on their own, but no. I have to file my taxes with the federal government then turn around and file them again to a second federal government agency then turn around and file them with the state of Florida.
That’s just to have the insurance.
Then, I had to keep track of all the documents the doctor paid for by the insurance gives us because once a year the day cares and schools will need them.
To register him for Kindergarten, I filled out ten sheets of paper asking for the same information on every page: Name, address, phone number for him and myself. These are papers that are filed in the same folder in the same drawer at the same school he’ll be attending. You’re telling me I couldn’t have written in the name and contact info once? Especially since it’s going to be typed into his electronic file which is what they’ll use to find it anytime they need to actually contact me?
With that packet I needed to submit his birth certificate, a copy of my lease (because while my ID is good enough for a police officer to believe where I live if I’m pulled over for speeding, it’s not suficient proof for a public school registrar), a copy of my custody papers, his immunization record, and his physical form from his doctor. The physical form for the physical I didn’t even remember him having. The physical he had nine months late because I forgot they get shots at age five and are supposed to see their doctor around that birthday. The physical form I never turned into his preschool and only a month before his graduation had to call his doctor and request a copy because they needed one despite him being in attendance the entire year without it. The same physical form I couldn’t find and ended up asking the preschool to make me a copy so I could get the Kindergarten registration papers turned in. In total, when you add up the travel time to the school and being told I needed more forms (I was missing my lease, custody papers, and physical form because silly me thought the birth certificate, immunization record, and my ID would be enough), the time actually filling out the papers, the time searching for the missing physical form, and the second trip to the school to finally turn in the paperwork, three hours of my life were lost.
All this, and on Meet the Teacher night a few days before school started, I’m handed a folder filled with, guess what. The same papers asking all the same information I filled out earlier in the summer. Because, the school administration doesn’t share those with the teachers, and these copies were for her files.
And it does not stop there. Once his Kindergarten binder was all set up with his special folder for the teacher to send papers home in, sure enough, there it was. A sheet of paper directing me to go online and register my parent account and, guess what. Fill out electronic copies of all the same forms I’ve now filled out twice. And of course, I log in and fill out these forms only to be asked for his student identification number, the one piece of information I haven’t been given by the school. So, ePaperwork not filed.
There may be people who don’t mind the mundanity and senselessness of being asked to answer the same questions repeatedly by the same institution who could share it amongst themselves, but I’m not one of them. If I were going to have a parent access portal, please can someone explain to me why I couldn’t have had that at the beginning and filled out all pertinent information once? And been done? Isn’t that one of the benefits of computers and the web? The easy sharing of information?
I don’t care whether its hard copies or digital, paperwork sucks. But I’ll keep doing it. Because I’m a zen mama who’ll learn to accept the suckiness of it all and get through it.