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?

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