I called the DEERS office Friday before my appointment on Monday to verify what time it was since I never received an email. “Wilson?” “No, Weldon. W-E-L-D-O-N.” “Oh, okay… I don’t see any appointments. Wellons, right?” This went on for over a minute. Since changing my last name, I had never had trouble spelling it for people, which is what I liked about it after growing up with a name evident of my Nigerian roots. She didn’t have an appointment for me even though I had called a week prior, but she put us in another slot on Monday and told me to bring the baby’s birth certificate.
Here comes Monday. Before I finally get the baby back in the crib at 6 am, I think to go ahead and get the necessary documents out and ready, except the social security card is nowhere to be found. I don’t get to lie down again.
As my husband eats breakfast he asks for the documents and I slide the birth certificate over in its envelope hoping he won’t look. “Where’s the social security card?” I tried to convince him he didn’t need it based on what the ladies at DEERS had said but he let me know he had already done that portion of the enrollment. As bravely as I could, I told him I couldn’t find it. He told me to put the baby down and look for it. When I informed him I already looked and couldn’t find it I just knew he was going to punch me in the face for the first time, but instead he kept looking.
Later he came into the nursery. “Here is why I’m upset with you,” he stated diplomatically. This was funny to me. Why he was mad seemed obvious, but he tacked on the fact I had lost baby’s sentimental quilt from his late father’s girlfriend. I had found it while looking for the card.
I spent a couple days trying not to panic flipping through every book and random cluster of papers. I managed to find a sealed thank you card and put it in the mail…three months late, but no social security card.
I decided was time to stop the madness and obtain a replacement. A quick google search told me I needed identification and a birth certificate. What four-month old has an ID? The next option says medical records. In retrospect this is dumb of me, but I thought if the hospital didn’t have my child enrolled as a dependent, they don’t have anything with his name on it I decided to take what I had, discharge papers from the hospital down to the social security office and let them tell me what I needed. Incidentally, the record said I was white. I hoped that wouldn’t be a problem.
The social security office opened at 9:00. I work at 10:00 and had to drop my baby off at the babysitter’s house and then drive 10 minutes home. I basically had 35 minutes to be seen.
Fortunately, the first day I get in there at 9:18, which leaves me plenty of time… I sat down next to an older woman in an ill-fitting polo shirt. She immediately began interacting with my child and commenting on his size. She also had a big baby that was due May 29 but born June 20. Neonatal care was wild in the 80s. At one point she mumbled something about liquor and says defiantly (to whom?) that at least she took a shower. She reeked of alcohol. Maybe she was trying to assure me she didn’t come in after being on the street all night, but I’m still pretty sure she was drunk. Alcoholism aside, even though we were just on A19, I couldn’t wait for A20 to appear on the screen. I had to leave.
The second day I went was the following Monday. I was able to go on my own and I got there right as they opened. I should have known people would have spent all weekend thinking of reasons to go to the social security office; the line was out the door! I made it inside at 9:15 and only to be turned away because I had mace in my purse… I didn’t know I had mace. I look to the right at the ten people now in front of me in line and decided I should just leave and not return after taking the mace to my car.
After this I decided the most efficient option would be to spend more time looking for the card.
Three days later I was able to return to the social security office in the middle of the afternoon. I was called back quickly and extremely relieved, but before I sat down, the very nice attendant advised me I would need to bring my child’s immunization records and specified that they needed to be tagged. I did not ask what “tagged” meant because figured the clinic would know.
At the clinic another nice woman prints off the record. That’s it? I tried to ask about the tagging and she didn’t know what I was talking about. I was going to have to go to Medical Records at the hospital.
The next day I called in to work. I had more important things to do.
I went to the hospital and took a number at the kiosk. Somehow, I missed M67 being called and look up to see M68 on the screen. When I saw M69 had not appeared at the window, I presented myself and explain I missed my number. The attendant told me to get another number. M69 wwas nowhere to be found.
There was a line of four people at the queue. The kiosk was broken. At this point I began to question if I was meant to be trying to replace the social security card because this was an inordinate amount of struggle. I didn’t mention the social security office was 18 minutes from my house and I had made three trips both ways.
I went back to the window to tell her I couldn’t get a number and within 90 seconds I have my record…which looked exactly the same as what I had gotten the day before.
Back downtown. Card Ordered. Forty-five minutes late to my hair appointment. I should have felt relieved but instead I was exhausted.
Over the next week when I was in O’Fallon, Illinois visiting St. Louis, Missouri, I tried to call the DEERS office at nearby Scott Airforce Base at least eight times. I had hoped I could use the paperwork from the social security office to update the number and get my kid squared away. No one ever answered. I thought the Air Force was better than that.
While my child had been healthy up to now and my husband an extremely safe driver, the risk we were carrying traveling around the Midwest without health insurance on our infant was not lost on me.
Fortunately we made it back to North Carolina without incident. My neighbor had let me know the card arrived about 5 days after I requested it. My husband added our child as a dependent. Two days later he had his four-month appointment at five months; healthy as a baby horse and freshly vaccinated.
What did I learn from this experience?
Besides how to get a social security card for a kid, nothing. I put things in safe places. I have no explanation for what happened to the card. I lost my kid’s most important piece of paper but I’m still a good mom. I would say everyone makes mistakes, but I can’t really say being too stressed to remember exactly what I did one day in early parenthood was a mistake. It was a part of life. Much to my husband’s chagrin no one judged me for my folly, not even the pediatrician when Brooks had his check up a month late. I’m sure I’m not the first to lose an infant’s social security card, and this definitely won’t be the last time I create a major problem.