I have always been patriotic at heart. Growing up and even now, still I romanticize about the sacrifice, loss and love of the military families in wars past and present. It is an odd romance as I am immersed within the military community with a husband who has been Active Duty for thirteen years now. Yet, sometimes I have not considered myself a true member. I have felt like an outsider. After all, what is sadder than walking around a military base without a baby in your arms or a second on the way? Not much could be worse if you struggle with infertility or have gone through losing a child.
The military community is full of families. FULL of them! You cannot walk around a military base without seeing at least a dozen strollers, fifty pregnant women, and kids laughing and playing with their dads on a playground. This is a blessing. It is a wonderful thing to see so many of men and women who serve being supported by a family behind them. Children are a blessing and we know it, which is why we want them so badly. For those of us who struggle with infertility, we want the rest of you to know that most of us genuinely are thrilled when we see happy and close military families walking around base enjoying their time together. When our friends share their news of a new little arrival coming or when we attend ANOTHER baby shower for the FRG ladies who are expecting. Most women who struggle with infertility or loss of a child, if you ask them, their hearts have struggled so much that they truly appreciate each and every life that comes into this world.
There is also another side of us that you may not see unless you are close to us; even then we suffer mostly in silence. We are also very bitter. And on top of that we feel guilty about our bitterness. We feel we can never be the wife who will show up to the FRG lunch with a baby on our hip and share sarcastically another painful story of how our husband just got home from TDY and now “whoops” we are pregnant again. We know these situations happen and we will laugh with you, we will be thrilled for you, but our hearts will be troubled. We long for a pregnancy to be in our control or even a random surprise.
There is a large community of military families struggling with infertility and/or loss of a child(ren). As of last year it was reported that almost 3 million women suffer with secondary infertility. Whether one has never conceived or they have gone through losing a child it, can be a struggle simply doing daily tasks around base. Alexa Elderkin, a military spouse at Fort Campbell describes it in her own words, “Since losing my daughter and learning that I may never be able to conceive again, the way I feel spending time around other military families changes like the weather…sometimes, I sit in the car and give myself a pep talk before entering the store. Other times, I simply cannot stomach it without my husband for support.”
There are many options for support. Technology and seeking out other military families struggling through social media is one option. Another option is to seek counseling or to get advice from your PCP. Counseling services can be provided by your installation’s chaplain, Military One Source, Military and Family Life Consultant program (MFLC), the Family Advocacy Program, and some may choose outside civilian services. Be aware that some outside services may have some out-of-pocket expenses.
In today’s military, technology is our friend. Military spouses all over the world have started Facebook groups to share their stories, offer support or assistance, and overall just find peace in knowing they are not alone at their current duty station. Constanza Carluccio, a military spouse stationed in Italy, shares how much a support group is helping her by saying, “The fertility group has been helping me a lot, knowing and meeting women that have lived and experienced the same struggles and they had success makes me feel I have hope.”
Being educated in what TRICARE covers is a big step. Most Infertility Clinics offer financial counseling and will go over what your options are as far as what is covered and what is not. If you are PCSing or new to the scene, reach out and find a Facebook Group from your area or send a message to your friends at other bases to locate individuals who have used clinics at the post you are heading to. There are others out there who can and will assist you. It is a humbling step to take but having all the information at your fingertips will give you peace in the process.
If you are someone who is going through infertility or has lost a child, then remember you are not alone. If you are a friend or family member who knows someone going through it, reach out to them, be compassionate, and communicate about how they feel you can best support and encourage them. We are a part of a wonderful worldwide community with a lot of information to share with one another. Reach out to others for support and encouragement. You are not alone.