For One Army Couple, a New Mission: Find a Surrogate
Like so many lifelong service members, Jennifer Strauch initially found the Army on a whim. “I had been in college for a while, but I didn’t really have any direction,” she says. “I decided to join the Navy, but they wouldn’t let me pick my job. So, I walked into the Army recruiting office next door and found my purpose.”
Career-driven and ready to serve, Jennifer was stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia, as an Intelligence Analyst with the 3rd Infantry Division then later at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, as part of the Mission Control Training Program. There, she would learn virtual warfighting at what is known as the “Intellectual Center of the Army.”
In Georgia, Jennifer first began to feel intense pain around her hip. After seeing various medical professionals on base, she was referred to a civilian doctor who diagnosed her with endometriosis. His recommendation? Remove Jennifer’s uterus.
“I was 23 at the time, and my only serious relationship was with the Army,” she says. “I went along because he was a doctor. I didn’t realize that endometriosis was so common, that it’s treatable without a hysterectomy. I know now I could have preserved my ability to have children.”
On base and following a life-altering surgery, Jennifer would meet and fall in love with military corrections specialist Alexander Strauch, whose family has served for five generations, and whom she married just three months later.
“We both talked about fertility before we got married, and kids just weren’t on the agenda at the time,” she says. “But now, we are ready.”
The couple has decided to pursue surrogacy with IVF, a complex and expensive road under the best of circumstances. With limited covered military clinics and no financial support for surrogacy, their VA medical advisors directed them to the Bob Woodruff Foundation.
“Luckily for us, the VA was very aware of the foundation, and immediately told us we should get in contact,” says Jennifer of the Veterans In Vitro Initiative (VIVA), which provides financial assistance to veterans looking to start a family. To date, 32 VIVA babies have been born, with more on the way.
Through their VIVA coordinator Ann Philopena, Jennifer submitted proof of her disability. “That same night, I got an email telling me that we qualified for support, and within two weeks we had a check covering half of the cost to create our embryos through a local IVF clinic.”
Of the support they have received, Jennifer says, “it means everything.”
While she wishes the military would cover infertility “like they do a broken arm,” she says having VIVA standing behind them has brought some “peace of mind to a process where there are so many other things to stress about.”
Even though they are at the beginning of a long process to create healthy embryos and find a surrogate, Jennifer and Alexander say VIVA has been there every step of the way. “This is not a faceless foundation. There are real people on the other side who genuinely care about what we are going through.”
As they await their next steps, Jennifer and Alexander are hopeful, and eager to share what the Bob Woodruff Foundation can offer with other veterans and active-duty military. “A guy I work with, and his wife are going through a similar situation,” says Alexander. “They had no idea that the foundation existed, but they know now.”
If you know of any surrogacy resources available to the Strauch Family, please send an email to [email protected].
For more information on how the Bob Woodruff Foundation helps military families struggling with infertility, visit our VIVA homepage.