In February TLC, the cable channel behind series such as "A Baby Story" and "A Wedding Story," put out a casting call to Fort Benning couples for the third season of the web series "A Conception Story: A Circle of Friends." The third season in comprised solely of Fort Benning-based Army families.
Participating couples share their stories on the TLC website and are responsible for documenting their conception process through video and blogs. Many of the couples have been trying to conceive for many months (or years) and discuss fertility treatments, in vitro fertilization (IVF), intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) and other roadblocks or tough decisions they face while trying to start, or build, their families.
Amy and Skye McNan share their story of trying to conceive their second child.
Why did you decide to participate in TLC's "A Conception Story"? We wanted to participate in the show so that our story could encourage other couples who struggle with infertility. When we first learned what was wrong I (Amy) shared with my bible study class and asked for prayer. I was shocked at the number of ladies who sought me out to share that they, too, struggled with having a baby. I was far from alone in this walk. Yet most women feel alone because very few share what they are going through in this intensely personal and emotional area. I want other women to know that they are not alone. And there is hope.
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Skye wanted to participate in the show to shed light on male infertility. He has an incredibly rare condition called congenital bilateral absence of the vas deferens, seminal vesicles, and epididymis. Basically, he was born with a very thorough and permanent vasectomy. Many men refuse to even get a semen analysis done out of pride/shame. A semen analysis is usually the first diagnostic step after a couple has been labeled infertile (not pregnant after 12 months of trying). He wants other guys to know that it's not a big deal to get it done. And it is not a blow to your manhood if there is something wrong. Many guys have problems that can be easily corrected -- they just have to find out there is a problem. It boils down to how badly do you want to have a baby? If you want a baby, you'll do what it takes.
We also want to shed light on the little known fact that there are four fertility clinics in the military for military personnel to use. Tricare (military insurance) does NOT cover fertility treatments at all. And it is very expensive. The military fertility clinics are not free, but they are much cheaper than going to a civilian clinic. Many couples may feel that being told they must have IVF/ICSI in order to have a child is a life sentence to childlessness simply because of the huge cost of the procedures. There is hope!
What in particular has helped you cope? That's easy: Jesus Christ. Neither one of us could have walked this road without our faith and hope in Jesus Christ. When we still did not know what was wrong and a few years of trying with no success had gone by, Skye deployed to Iraq for 15 months. I cannot describe the hopelessness and despair that came over me KNOWING that for 15 months we would have zero chance of becoming parents -- and we were both in our 30s. People don't realize just how much soldiers and their spouses sacrifice for their country. Obviously, we deal with separation and the very real fact that the soldier may not come home. In the shadows are the couples putting having a family on the back burner -- during their prime years of fertility.
During Skye's deployment I dealt with judgments by people just assuming that a couple married as long we had been and as old as we were just didn't want kids. People have no idea how hurtful and rude telling a woman, "You really should have a child. Children are a blessing from the Lord" can be! I would go home and sob.
It is very easy to sink into bitterness while struggling with infertility.
But I realized that God has a plan for each child. Who am I to question His plan? I need to take joy in each child being born because God rejoices over each new life. No more feeling sorry for myself instead of being happy for a friend who just announced her pregnancy. Rejoice.
So, I did. And it changed my life. I went from desperation, sadness and bitterness to joy. God does have a plan for us. It certainly has not gone according to our plan and timing, but it is His plan. And it has been more than OK. Our faith in the Lord and our marriage has been strengthened through this trial and we have seen the miracle of Brennan from conception to birth. Twenty-some years ago Brennan's conception would have been impossible because the technology did not exist. We were born in this day and age so that Brennan could be born. God's plan is wonderful. And we know this very, very well. We have a living, breathing, laughing reminder living in our home!
Would you recommend others who are trying to conceive to keep video diaries, a journal or blog? Yes. It will be a great story to share with your children someday. It will also be an encouragement for you and for others to see you walk through difficulty (if you encounter difficulty) and emerge on the other side. Furthermore, if you share with other people, you'll get support and encouragement from places you never would have expected. And prayers. We absolutely treasure the people all over the world -- people we know and don't know -- who have prayed with us along this journey. There were bible studies in Korea praying for us when we went to Walter Reed to get pregnant with Brennan. We've never been to Korea and those people have never met us! I share my journey on Facebook and ask people to pray for us along the way. It's neat to look back and see how God has answered prayer.
What are the benefits to having other Army families also participate in the program? Military insurance and health care is a different animal. We all understand that -- and share with each other how to conquer the beast! We also understand that military life is different. Deployments, TDY, training -- all of those cause husbands to miss "The Day" when we're trying to get pregnant. And we don't have a choice. Commanders can support or sabotage our efforts to have families. We all understand this -- no explanation needed. We can empathize with each other on this journey. I also think it's good for civilians to get a glimpse into what military life is like by watching our journeys and conversations. Civilians need to know that one of the prices paid by some soldiers is the inability to have children. It's absolutely devastating. There are programs available to help soldiers who have PTSD or have lost a limb, but nothing for soldiers who have lost the ability to have children "naturally." That needs to change.