Infertility and the Military

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Personal Stories from the Military Infertility Community

Sallie's story:

Sallie Bailey

My husband is an active duty Army officer and a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point.  He has been serving for 12 years now and plans to serve a full 20.  In the past 3 years alone, we have lived in Clarksville, TN, West Point, NY and now Leavenworth, KS.  This summer we will move yet again for a new Army adventure!

I met my wonderful husband when we were both in graduate school studying environmental engineering at the University of Missouri Rolla.  We became friends and worked on some school projects together and eventually started dating, even though he was due to leave for a year long assignment in Honduras after he finished school.  We continued a long distance relationship while he spent the year helping to build schools for the people of Nicaragua.

Immediately after his one year tour in Honduras, he was sent to Iraq for his first combat tour, which also lasted a year.  We decided to go our separate ways since he was never home, although I never stopped caring for him.  After he came home from Iraq, we reconnected and it wasn't long before we got married - twice!  Once at the courthouse just so we could prove to Uncle Sam we were hitched, and a few months later we had our big family wedding.  I was 27 and he was 30.  Three weeks after our wedding, after being home from combat for less than a year, he left for Iraq again.  This time he was gone 14 months.  I had still never even lived with my husband at that point.  The people around me had no idea what it was like to be in my shoes.  I thought deployment was the hardest thing I would ever have to go through, until we started trying to conceive.  It turns out there are a lot of parallels between the two things.  There is a lot of waiting, and a lot of envy of the people around you who have no idea what it's really like to make such sacrifices.

It didn't take me long to figure out that my body was going to have trouble figuring out this pregnancy thing.  Once we started trying in the summer of 2009, I immediately started tracking my waking temperature and doing ovulation test sticks.  I was 29 at the time.  It became clear pretty quickly that I never ovulated on my own.  My ob/gyn let us try on our own for a little while before putting me on clomid, and miraculously we got pregnant on the first round of clomid with timed intercourse in March of 2010.  We were both thrilled.  But then week 8 rolled around and our ultrasound revealed that we had miscarried.  It was devastating, but at the time at least it seemed there was reason to be hopeful.  At least we knew I could get pregnant.  I woke up from my D&C procedure ready to fight infertility with everything I had.  And then 5 more rounds of clomid went by with no luck.  I sank into a pit of despair that I'm not sure how I would have gotten out of if not for the support I found on RESOLVE’s Online Community.  My ob/gyn referred us to a wonderful RE in late 2010 and we felt hopeful all over again.  I was officially diagnosed with PCOS.

Our RE suggested we consider IVF, and I would have loved to pursue that with him, but the Army told us it was time to move.  We got orders to PCS (military lingo for permanent change of station) to Kansas, and I did all my research ahead of time and found the very best RE in the area.  My husband is surely going to be due to deploy again before long, so we are really starting to feel the pressure of time.  A few weeks ago I turned 32 and we have now been through 2 rounds of IVF in August and October with our new RE and the results have been disappointing at best.  Our embryos haven't been very good quality, which our RE says indicates an egg quality problem.  I absolutely refuse to believe that I have no good eggs left.  I feel like I am just too young for that.  Our RE, my husband and I have come up with a new protocol for IVF #3, which will happen in January 2012, and I'm very hopeful that the changes we've made will have a positive effect.  I've also recently started seeing an infertility focused therapist and acupuncturist and am trying my very best to manage the depression and anxiety that infertility has created in my life.  I have vowed to myself that I will be in a better frame of mind for the next round of IVF.  I feel as though our chances of success and my sanity depend upon it.

We have paid for all of our treatment out of pocket, but we are very fortunate to have our medications and monitoring covered by insurance.  I know some couples are not even afforded those luxuries, so I am very grateful for what coverage we do have.  Still, we have spent more than $30,000 on treatment this year and the number just keeps going up as I now add on counseling and acupuncture.  However, I feel like at the resolution of this battle, I have to know that I gave it my all, so we are no where near ready to give up yet, even if it does drain our savings.

Struggling with infertility as a military spouse is a special kind of hell.  Military families seem to breed like they are trying to outfit a platoon on their own, and many of the other Army wives I've met seem to have no idea how to relate to me because I'm not a mom.  If we can't talk about parenting and children, they don't seem to know how to talk to me at all.  Almost always the first question when you meet someone new is "how many kids do you have?"  The question is not even whether I have children or not, but how many do I have?  It is a foregone conclusion that if you're a military spouse, you stay home and raise babies.  Believe me, I would love nothing more, but it just isn't as easy as they make it look.  Activities on military bases are almost always aimed at children so if you ever want to take part in anything, you have to stand by as all the parents file in with their adorable children  At my husband's last duty station at West Point, we lived on post and our neighborhood was inundated with children.  Every time you drove up the street they were everywhere, out playing while the parents all talked amongst themselves.  I never felt like I fit in anywhere.  Beyond that is the idea of another deployment constantly hanging over your head.  When will he leave again?  How long will he be gone this time?  Will he come back ok?  Will he even be the same person when he gets home?  What if I do get pregnant, will my husband even be here when our baby is born?  It terrifies me to think that my husband could possibly miss the birth or the entire first year of his child's life, if we ever manage to have one.  As badly as he wants to be a dad, I can't imagine how he'll cope with that.  The constant moving also creates its own problem.  Trying to find a new doctor, getting all your charts sent over, trying to figure out what insurance will cover this time and what you'll be paying out of pocket, etc.  Moving across the country is such a monumental undertaking anyway, it creates a huge interruption in the treatment process which feels like precious time being lost.

Even though it is a very hard life, however, I would never give up being an Army wife.  The pride that I feel in my husband overrides everything else.  I know our infertility struggle will have a resolution.  Maybe not the one I thought I wanted, and maybe it will take a lot longer than I though I could cope with, but we will get there.  And when we finally do, I will be able to tell my children that their daddy is a hero. 

Michelle's Story:

My husband, Specialist Clinton Chaput, is a combat medic at Fort Bragg, NC in B Company, 28th Combat Support Hospital, 44th Medical Command. He was deployed to Baghdad in an ER on Sather Airforce Base from October 2009 - October 2010. We've been trying to conceive since he came home in October 2010. We are currently going through infertility treatments at the Womack Army Medical Center's Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Services. TRICARE doesn’t cover infertility treatments at all, but we are extremely fortunate to be at a large military installation that offers these treatments to us. If we have to do IVF we will have to pay out of pocket for some of these expenses. If we weren’t at a military base that offers these services, we would have to pay for all of it out of pocket.

My advice to other military couples is to find the closest military installation that offers reproductive services (even if it’s a different branch of the military) so you can get as many services free of charge as possible. Some bases also offer free lodging for military families (here at Fort Bragg we have the Fisher House).  It doesn’t always have open availability, but if you need to travel to Fort Bragg for infertility services, it’s worth looking into. TRICARE will cover the costs of infertility medications for free if they’re filled at a pharmacy on-post.  If you get it filled off-post, there is paperwork and co-pays associated, so it’s easier to go on-post.  Good luck to everyone going through this journey!

Jacqueline's Story:

My husband is Marine. He served until 2004. We did not attempt to try to have children while he was a Marine and based on what I have learned about tricare and IVF through other Marine wives, I sometimes wish we had not waited so long. We waited mainly because we knew that he was not going to reenlist and we were trying to be responsible financially. We did the "responsible" thing and he got out of the Marine Corps, we moved, found jobs and then bought a house. We were ready to be parents! We even knew which room was the nursery. However, we had no idea it was going to be this hard. After two surgeries, we had to proceed with IVF but the money wasn't there. We both went back to school to not only take advantage of his GI Bill benefits but to help us with our careers. We both graduated and then had IVF a couple of months ago. We paid for every penny of IVF out of pocket and are starting again to save for another attempt next year.  Our IVF was a failure in the sense that we did not take home a child but was a success in that we know in our hearts that we are parents to 12 embryo angels in heaven. I am proud of my husband's service in the Marine Corps. I had to be strong during his deployments and he is my strength during our infertility journey. God bless my infertile friends and God bless the Marine Corps! Semper Fi.

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