Conceiving Challenges: Previous Miscarriages And A Military Schedule : The Baby Project Ashley Charter and her husband Jesse started trying to have a baby two years ago, but after three miscarriages, she was referred to a fertility specialist and diagnosed with "unexplained infertility." What made things a bit harder was that Jesse, who is in the Army, kept getting deployed.
NPR logo Conceiving Challenges: Previous Miscarriages And A Military Schedule

Conceiving Challenges: Previous Miscarriages And A Military Schedule

Ashley with her husband, Jesse, last summer between his deployments with the Army. Courtesy of Ashley Charter hide caption

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Courtesy of Ashley Charter

Ashley with her husband, Jesse, last summer between his deployments with the Army.

Courtesy of Ashley Charter

Things did not go as easily as we expected when we started trying. We got pregnant in August 2009, but it ended in miscarriage, and the same happened again that December and the next February. During my third pregnancy and miscarriage, Jesse had been deployed to Haiti , which surprisingly was not as difficult to deal with as I thought it would be. By the third miscarriage, I had become numb to the whole thing, like it was my normal process.

Jesse came home from Haiti in April last year, the same month the OB on base sent me to the infertility clinic at Womack Army Medical Center. From there, I was referred off-base to the reproductive endocrinologist at the University of North Carolina.

I went through lots of tests, and they determined that I had a clotting issue that would be resolved with aspirin. I also had a progesterone deficiency, and my cycles were irregular. But because there wasn't one specific thing they could say without a doubt caused the losses, I was diagnosed with unexplained infertility.

The doctor prescribed Clomid to make my cycles more regular, and a progesterone supplement. We tried in April and May, but our efforts were once again put on hold when Jesse was deployed to Afghanistan. When he got back in August, we got back to the business of trying to start our family around a military schedule.

After finding out that the original dose of Clomid was not doing anything for me, my reproductive endocrinologist upped my dosage, and we hoped and prayed that this would be it. I got into my normal cycle routine — take the meds, pee on a billion ovulation tests, try to time everything just right, and then go crazy in the two-week wait.

I knew from all the time that I had spent on the "trying to conceive" message boards and looking things up that getting a positive pregnancy test was more common at 12 days past ovulation. In my past three pregnancies, I had not gotten a positive test before 14 days, so in my mind I had convinced myself that getting a later positive meant problems.

At nine days past ovulation, I started going pee-stick crazy. You seriously get addicted to those things — thank goodness for the cheap ones you can get online. I woke up on Nov. 16 and took a pregnancy test, and it was positive. I was in disbelief, so I did another one. This time, instead of a test I bought online, I used a store-bought one. It, too, showed a line. Still, after months of trying to conceive and no luck, it was hard to grasp that this really was it, so I did a Clearblue Easy digital test (all three kinds of tests have different hormone-detection levels) — and it too said "pregnant."

About Ashley

Ashley Charter, 21, is a college student who lives in Lillington, N.C. Her husband, Jesse, is in the Army and is currently deployed to Iraq. They welcomed Abel Weston Charter on July 23.

I waited an hour until my doctor's office opened to call to go get blood work. I got there as fast as I could and it felt like forever till I found out what my hormone level was. It was 12. (Hormone levels double every 72 hours and reach their peak between 8 and 11 weeks). I didn't know whether to be excited or not. I told Jesse right away that we were pregnant, but we kept it a secret from everyone else. It's so hard to tell friends and family, and when something happens, having to tell them that you're not pregnant anymore. So we decided that we would wait until we were both comfortable.

Two days later, I went back to get my hormone level drawn again. This time it was 45 — I was so excited. It was only the second draw, but so far it was going better than any of my past pregnancies, where I had really low levels that never doubled. So this was a good sign. But I still couldn't let myself be 100 percent excited. On Nov. 20, I went back for a third draw and it doubled again. But I was still not convinced.

At seven weeks, I went in for an ultrasound. I was so scared for that appointment. I kept having flashbacks to numerous ultrasounds I had in the past that showed no heartbeat. I couldn't even look at the sonogram screen — I just stared at Jesse the whole time until the doctor said, "There is the heartbeat." I cried. I was so excited and relieved; I had never gotten this far in a pregnancy before.

We decided to tell our family around Christmas. I was so nervous and scared, I almost backed out but Jesse convinced me to go ahead and tell them. We decided to wait until after the first trimester to tell everyone else. It has been a long, hard road to accept that this is really happening, and that we will be having a baby. Throughout most of the pregnancy, I didn't really have time to focus on the fact that Jesse was leaving for Iraq for a year earlier this month. I was preoccupied with worrying about the pregnancy progressing, so now I am getting used to the fact that he will be gone so long. Right now, it helps me get through to just focus on how fast time will go by with having a baby and going to school.