Amy Klein's down-to-earth advice for enduring fertility treatments

Klein, a New Yorker, shows how to survive fertility treatment without losing your sense of humor.

Peeking in at newborns at a Jerusalem hospital (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)
Peeking in at newborns at a Jerusalem hospital
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)
Amy Klein’s The Trying Game is subtitled Get through fertility treatment and get pregnant without losing your mind. That could just as readily have been changed to how to survive fertility treatment without losing your sense of humor.
Reading it, I wanted to give Amy a big hug. Full disclosure, a few times during the long and painful process, I did indeed give her a hug: I occasionally bumped into her during the years 2012-13 when Amy and her husband Solomon lived in Tel Aviv as part of their journey trying to conceive a child. Amy and I first met when she worked at The Jerusalem Post in 1995-1999. Having myself gone through fertility treatment for some of those years (albeit nothing as intense as she endured), I could sympathize.
Although in Amy and Solomon’s case there is a happy ending – or beginning – a beautiful daughter, it’s not a foregone conclusion. In fact, the challenge is not only to get through fertility treatments without losing your mind, but to get pregnant and not lose the baby. Amy went through nine rounds of IVF and four miscarriages. That is a lot of pain, both emotional and physical.
Amy, a New Yorker, does not gloss over the ugly details, including the bleeding “in the many, many months I wasn’t pregnant,” the well-meant advice that stabs just as painfully as the injections that scarred her stomach, and the baby envy:
“I was not happy for them. I was so very, very sad for myself and my non-family, and therefore, I was sad about their pregnancies. To be honest, I was mad about their pregnancies. Their easy, no-charting, no-doctor, no shots, no-house-down-payment, ‘oops, we were barely trying’ pregnancies.
“When you’re trying to conceive, when you’re $30,000 in the hole with no end in sight, let me tell you: It’s going to seem like every single person in the universe is with child but you.”
In an email interview I conducted with her she admits that of the many lows, the nadir was probably after her fourth miscarriage “when we came back from Israel and I found out my younger sister was pregnant with her first and my brother and his wife were pregnant with their FIFTH. I did not know how I would cope with those births.”
The idea for the book, albeit in a different form, came to her as Amy recorded her journey real time in her “Fertility Diary” for The New York Times’s Motherlode blog. How innocent she and her editor were, she notes: Both of them thought she would write for three to six months about trying to get pregnant and then move over to “regular pregnancy issues.” Instead, she wrote the blog for three years.
This is not a “How to” book. “There are so many ways to be Not Pregnant,” as she notes, and there’s no one way to go through fertility treatments. The book doesn’t tell women what they should do. It combines her own story with interviews with doctors, experts and patients and offers the sort of advice she wished she herself had received. Hence, the tone is chatty and down to earth, despite her background in health and science writing.
“It was interesting to hear how many people’s stories were similar to mine. I also learned how many mistakes I’d made along the way. I wanted to make the process a little less overwhelming, giving people – women, men, married, single, straight, gay – the tools to cope, whether it’s how to find a doctor or what to ask that doctor or how to deal with your boss while you’re doing this or how to tell your intrusive mother-in-law not to ask when you’re going to have a baby.”
Amy navigated the annoying world of acronym-prone women who were TTC (trying to conceive) with cute emoticons but no real advice and the scientific world, full of jargon, but with no answers – and certainly no magic solutions. She also learned to avoid those who were selling something: a product, a system, a false hope.
Her journey includes three countries, 10 doctors, three acupuncturists, a Reiki healer, five insurance companies, two egg donors, one “amazing specialist” on repeat pregnancy loss, and two rabbis. Although she’s the first to admit that she is not part of the Orthodox fold of her childhood and upbringing, there’s a whole chapter devoted to Judaism and religion in general.
She had not always been desperate for a child, it was only after she got married at age 41 and became pregnant the week later that she realized how much she longed to become a mother.
Even with a very supportive husband, Amy admits there’s a lot of loneliness in undergoing fertility treatments. She lost some friends on the way although she did find another community that backed her.
“My main message – if I had to choose one – is that this is a really tough process. It’s hard on your body, it’s hard on your relationships, it’s hard on your emotions and can be hard on your pocketbook too, if you don’t have coverage. So you need to acknowledge that and take care of yourself, and make space in your life for getting through this however you can.”
When I ask her about what she thinks women are going through during the COVID-19 lockdown and temporary halt in treatments (fortunately now resumed in Israel), she answers:
“I think the hardest thing about stay-at-home orders while having to stop fertility treatments is being stuck on social media and watching parents complain about their kids (guilty). In normal times, you can just avoid social media and pregnancy announcements and everything else that might cause envy, but when there’s nowhere to go it feels like a double punishment of stopping treatment and watching everyone else with families.”
Amy is now the Ambassador for reConceiving Infertility, Hadassah’s new initiative to destigmatize infertility and advocate for change. She has a message to women trying to get pregnant, and to the general public: Does she have a message for her own daughter?
“I tell her often about how Mommy and Abba really wanted a baby and worked really hard to get her. I want her to know how loved she is and how lucky we feel to have her.”
By Amy Klein
Penguin Random House
432 pages; $17