The Perfect Storm of Stress

Back in October, I was contacted by a writer from Military Spouse Magazine asking me if I knew of anyone who was going through infertility treatments at home alone while her husband was deployed.  At the time, I didn’t.

Little did I know that if she’d waited six months to write the article, she could’ve used me as a source.

Infertility issues are delicate and private.  They’re also extremely stressful.  Difficulty in having a child is rough on any couple out there, but pair that up with the tempo of today’s military lifestyle and you have a perfect storm of stress.

The worst aspect, for me, has been time.  Infertility takes time: time to realize you’re having problems, time to diagnose, time for treatments.  And what do we have a severe lack of these days in the Army?  Time when your soldier is at home.

We thought we were the lucky ones.  My husband was at an Army school, which meant a little more than a year in garrison, deployment-free.  We thought we’d get pregnant and have a few months together as a new family before my husband had to leave again.

We thought wrong.

We used the entire time trying to get pregnant and trying to get any doctor or nurse to listen to our concerns.  They finally did, when my husband found out he was deploying in two months.  That left two months to get tested, meet with doctors, figure out the problem and a solution.

Unfortunately, those two months didn’t leave any time for treatment.

Family planning is already difficult with the pace of deployments these days.  And like I said, infertility is hard on any couple.  But we military couples have some extra hurdles.  It’s added stress when you see month after month ticking away with no baby in sight and deployment getting closer and closer.  Then you have to make the decision of whether you want to keep trying — knowing that daddy won’t be around when baby arrives — or wait until later.  And will "later" be any better?  Finally, once you realize that you’re going to need some added help, it’s also extremely frustrating to squeeze these types of doctor appointments in between trips to the field, combat lifesaver training, and block leave, because they absolutely have to be done on certain days of the wife’s fertility cycle. 

So when you do realize there’s a problem, then you have to decide whether you’re going to tackle the problem alone while he’s on the other side of the planet.  Do you use your time right before he leaves to pump yourself full of strange drugs and freeze his samples for defrosting later?  Is that any way to spend your last few weeks before war?  (I have the answer to that rhetorical question: Not really.)

And while I’ve discovered that Tricare helps tremendously with medical expenses, there are still additional costs associated with treatments while he’s gone.  We’d have some out-of-pocket expenses even if he were staying home, but treatment is going to cost us $500-$900 more because of the freezing aspect.  Funny, I doubt the military had that cost in mind when they came up with Separation Allowance.  That’s what ours will be used for.

Plus, I haven’t even gotten to the weirdness factor.  Civilian couples can generally hide the fact that they’re seeing a doctor, but it’s pretty hard to be discreet if I get pregnant while my husband’s deployed.  Someone’s going to do the math.  So there’s no privacy there; the whole unit might be in on our business if the treatments are successful.  We’re new to the unit, and I don’t feel comfortable broadcasting this info at the FRG, so I feel a little nervous that there might be some Nosy Nellies who will gossip. (Humorously enough, I keep imagining the rumors Pamela dealt with as a surrogate at the beginning of the show Army Wives.)  Plus, I really hate to imagine my husband getting ribbing and Jody jokes downrange.

My husband is leaving in about two weeks, and I still have so much mental anguish over whether this is really the route we should take.  Should we forge ahead and let science help us out?  I never imagined that my first child might be conceived in a doctor’s office while my husband was 6000 miles away.  Or do we take a breather and wait until he gets home?  We already know that another deployment is just around the corner from this one; there will never be a Good Time.

But we only have six days to make the choice.  Six days until the money gets paid and the choice is irreversible.  And if we do choose to get treatment, I start the day my husband leaves.

How’s that for pre-deployment stress?

About the Author

Sarah has been married to her soldier for a bit more than 10 years. In the past decade, they've been at six different duty stations in four different branches of the Army. They've also endured three deployments, six miscarriages, and a failed IVF. Sarah's blogging focus has shifted some in the past five years, from common military issues to something more personal: the difficult intersection between the military and infertility. It's hard for some couples to start a family; it's even harder when one person spends a lot of time on the other side of the globe. But Sarah was lucky enough to declare Mission Accomplished when their daughter was born 10 days after her husband's return from Afghanistan. And she tries to remind herself how irreplaceable and cherished that daughter is now that she's entered the terrible two's. In her free time, Sarah is a pioneer housewife: knitting, crocheting, and cooking ... and sometimes even firing a weapon.
  • phyllis

    It depends on how old you are and how much more time do you have to get pregnate. Don’t worry about what others think do what is right for you and your husband. I wish you luck.

  • I have no answers for you, just wanted to send you a hug..
    Good luck on your decision.

  • This was a hard thing for my husband and I to decide about. And I feel like I pushed him into freezing his sailors as he took minimal pleasure in calling them. And then we ended up not needing them. Double the guilt there. Pushing for the expense we couldn’t afford, convincing him to be accepting of not being around for conception/pregnancy/birth. Huge deals. But I didn’t want to add an additional year (plus) till we could begin again. Because trying for a year already we knew the first cycle (or 12) he comes back can all pass by without a healthy pregnancy. And then that is three years focused on this with just more frustration and heartache.
    I wish you guys the best of luck. And science. Or with science. However it can be worded.
    I will aggree we are tremendously fortunate when it comes to Tricare and fertility treatments. But in addition, the bank up here gave a year of waived storage fees for deployed service members. Amazing.
    This was a tmi comment to make my husband cringe. Oops.

  • Docswife

    I went through the same thing. We found out 2 months before he left for deployment. It was very hard on us and it wasnt any easier when he got home in November. But I am glad to say we are now due to have our first in Dec. There is hope and prayers for everyone who needs it.
    I was one of the fortunate to get pregnant after three rounds of fertility. Not that it wasnt painful because it was but we are so glad it finally happened. It may be the only pregnancy for I am already 30.
    Best wishes for you and yours.

  • Sarah

    Wifeunit — My husband also thought this entire post was cringe-worthy, but I wanted to put it up because I know we’re not the only ones out there going through this. And it’s definitely something that I need to vent about.
    Docswife — Congrats on being pregnant! I hope my persistence pays off in the future too.

  • Sarah, I just want to thank you for sharing your journey with all of us. Your journey will help to enlighten and serve others. I am sure of it.

  • MilSpouse

    I too am going through infertility treatment while my hubby is deployed. We did our best to try to make sure “it” happened before he deployed, but I ended up having a miscarriage.
    I also worried about people gossiping. My husband says he doesn’t care what others say & he pretty much told everyone he knew what we were going through before he left. I am sure some idiot will still spread gossip, but we shal survive!!!

  • Emily

    Send a claim to TriCare for freezing his swimmers.
    They repaid the entire amount!
    I have done everything you mentioned and more, and it was a very emotional (and unsuccessful) process with him both home and away. If you can, wait for his support.

  • Sarah, what an amazing, crazy, cool world we live in! I hope that you have peace with which ever choice you make.
    I thinking getting (legitimately) knocked up while your dh is deployed atleast makes for a great story to tell.

  • I’m sorry that you’ve had a hard time trying to have a baby. I am where you are, but there are people out there doing IVF on their own with their hubby’s deployed. A friend of mine just got her BFN (big fat negative) a few weeks ago and is having an extremely difficult time dealing with it. Is it better to do that stuff when your spouse is around?
    I don’t know. I dealt with cervical cancer while my husband was deployed and that was tough…can’t imagine IVF while he was deployed. Would rather go the adoption route alone than IVF, strange as it may seem.