Today a very brave pregnancy hopeful steps forward to share her story. Racheal is married to the love of her life, who also happens to be a member of the military. While some doctors have been helpful along the way, Racheal has learned the hard way that the military and infertility are a very difficult combination. I had a chance to ask Racheal a few questions about her experience, and I am grateful for her honesty and willingness to open up.
How long have you been married?
We’ve been married for 5 years.
How long has your spouse been a member of the military?
He enlisted into the Army 2004. We got married in 2007, after a very short-lived “relationship”. He came home from his first deployment and we became friends. Then he came home a couple of months later to attend his second AIT in VA. We started talking then and just a few months later we were married and moved to Fort Drum NY.
How long have you been trying to get pregnant?
I have to be honest here; I was on birth control (the patch) when I was dating my first boyfriend when I was 17. I was allergic to it so stopped taking it when he moved away. We carried on a long distance relationship off and on for two years. I then was in another 2 year relationship which we never used birth control and after 6 months no condoms. I never got pregnant with either one and never really thought about it either.
I tried the pill when I started dating my husband, as I was in a new relationship and didn’t know where it was going for sure…and it made me violently ill. So we abstained until we were engaged. On the first day of marriage we officially started trying for a baby. We both agreed that we were ready, but unfortunately we have been through two, one-year deployments, and numerous months of training. It can get a little difficult!
When did you first realize that you might need infertility testing?
We started using OPK’s a couple of months into our marriage but weren’t really concerned. Then the first deployment happened right on our 1st anniversary…once he came home we started trying again. That spring I knew something was wrong so I decided to make an appointment to discuss things. I kind of always knew deep down there had to be an issue but I ignored it. Due to rape when I was 18 I contracted HPV and other things that, some were curable. But unfortunately HPV was not, and I was told there could be an issue conceiving someday.
What was the response of your doctor when you mentioned your concerns about infertility?
He was VERY concerned! He wrote my referral to the fertility specialist that day!
Were you referred to a specialist?
Yes the first and second time. No the third time (see below).
Did you ask to see a specialist? If so, what was the response?
My referral was put into the system and it took 14 days to be approved. But here is the juicy part of the story, Chris deployed again during the fertility process in October 2010. He arrived back stateside October of 2011 and I asked for a new referral as I had issues with the previous FS and he was no longer allowed to accept my insurance. I got my referral right away and scheduled my appointment for March of 2012. In Jan 2012 we found out we had orders to PCS to Fort Irwin CA and had to report here on March 9th. Unfortunately that meant I would have to cancel my appointment with the FS as we would be in transit, and I wanted to give up my spot for someone who would actually be able to use it.
Once we arrived in Fort Irwin I asked again for a referral, and that’s where the issues started. I was sent to the OBGYN, as that is who has to write my referral here…and was given a horrific doctor. He was very rude to me and gave me excuses every month as to why he wouldn’t refer me to a fertility specialist. He went as far as telling me that I probably won’t ever get pregnant and that I was not going to be a success rate. He insulted my weight and talked to me like I was stupid.
Do you think/know your experience is similar to that of other military spouses?
In some aspects yes, I’ve had wives come to me since I was on Ricki Lake and they have shared their stories from all over the world. Most of them do suffer from PCOS though which I know for sure I do not have. Some have had no issues with referrals and others have been treated like garbage. All of us share the same pain though, we all want that miracle to hold in our arms and love unconditionally. I have friends who have suffered from all different sorts of infertility issues, I’m just still waiting to find someone who is suffering from unexplained infertility…or at least seeking out an explanation for my issues so I can finally feel like I at least fit into a category.
Is infertility talked about openly among your friends?
Actually not really, not until I was on television. The ones that are really close to me know about my struggles but most of them can’t relate. Usually it’s something I talk about and they just respond with the usual, “That sucks, I’m sorry, and I hope they figure something out for you.” Now my friends ask me more in depth questions, which I’m very happy about because now I don’t have to bottle up my feelings, hide from my friends, or ignore phone calls when I’m having a bad day. I’ve also seen a huge change in my friends on Facebook who have gotten pregnant. I expressed how upsetting it was to find out on Facebook and how depressing too because I’m jealous whenever I see it in the first place, but I also have the anxiety of, “You could have WARNED ME!” Now they will call me and tell me first to soften the blow so I don’t throw myself into a depression. I absolutely love my friends! My best friend is actually pregnant right now and I was the first person she called. She calls me at least 3 times a week to check on me and when she does I immediately ask how the baby is doing. She is very understanding about me being jealous of her but at the same time I’m very happy for her.
Does your insurance cover any of the cost of testing/treatment?
Yes they do cover the office visits (thus far) but treatments are completely out of pocket. From my understanding as far as Clomid and Metformin…stuff like that it’s covered by the insurance, but if it comes down to injections it is not covered. When he deployed the first time and we were going to do IUI through the first FS my injections were quoted to me at $1,500 a month for a minimum of 3 months, completely out of pocket. That was almost his whole paycheck at the time.
How does your spouse feel about the way you are being treated by military doctors?
He’s very upset too, but he’s quiet about it. He was not a fan of my last fertility specialist because of how he treated me and put me off 3 months to do my HSG/Surgery and then waited until two days before deployment to actually do it. So we didn’t have a chance! He has been really irritated with this doctor that I just finished with because of how he talked to me and treated me to. He has not met the new OB who I am now seeing but he’s very happy that this doctor seems VERY concerned about me. He’s not only concerned about my infertility but also my other health issues. (Heart and back)
How has infertility affected your marriage?
At first it wasn’t that big of a deal. But as the appointments have gone by and the ones he’s actually been able to go to…it’s changed. He’s a trooper through all of the mood swings, depression, and anxiety. He’s a great husband. That doesn’t change the fact that I see the expression of disappointment and sadness and it makes me feel worse. I’ve been so depressed that I thought about leaving him so that he can be with someone who could give him children. I just can’t imagine my life without him though…childless or not.
How about your friendships?
This is a tough one…I’ve lost some friends due to infertility. Some have not been able to handle the depression and mood swings. Some have found my desire to be a mother too intense, others have just plain not understood and rubbed their pregnancy in my face. But the ones that I still have by my side have been so amazing!!!! I already told you about Sydney (my bestie who is pregnant) she lives in PA so I don’t get to see her until probably April. I have another best friend here with me, Chaning, who at first was overwhelmed by this all but she has done exactly what a best friend should do. She demanded that she gets to take care of me after surgery so that my husband didn’t have to use his leave days to do it. I know he should be the one taking care of me but those leave days are precious and I would rather us get to use them together doing something fun…like IVF if needed!!!! Not to mention it’s going to occur right at block leave and my husband is needed for duty.
What do you want others to know about infertility?
I want them to know they are not alone. Someone else out there is also suffering through the same thing. I don’t want them to give up either. I know it’s cliché but there IS hope and us ladies need to stick together. Even when we hit the point of our deepest depression there is someone out there who can pull you out of it and hold your hand. I also want to educate those that don’t suffer from infertility. I want them to know how difficult and delicate of a subject it is for those of use who are infertile. I want them to think before they speak to their friend and give advice. It’s not as simple as “relaxing”, “throwing your legs over your head”, “get drunk and just do it”, “that artificial insemination”, etc. I want them to be educated on the actual process, costs, heartbreak, and hope! I want them to realize it’s not a simple as they think it is, and when they have a friend who’s going through it…they need to know how important it is to just be there for them and to be compassionate. Also maybe see what they could do to help, become active! There is a bill that is trying to be passed for help with things like IVF…do your research and write your congressman. Possibly consider becoming a surrogate or a donor. Anything you could possibly do to build the future, as you never know if you or your child is next. And most importantly help EDUCATE!
In one word, infertility is…heartbreaking.
Thank you, Racheal…I know that your story will help many others.