Zibby Owens: Amy Klein is the author of The Trying Game: Get Through Fertility Treatment and Get Pregnant without Losing Your Mind. Amy wrote The Fertility Diary column for The New York Times Motherlode blog for three years. She writes frequently about health and fertility for publications such as Newsweek, Slate, The Washington Post, and others. She currently lives in New York.

Amy Klein: Hi.

Zibby: Hi, how are you?

Amy: How are you?

Zibby: Good.

Amy: I love your background. It looks so warm and homey.

Zibby: Thank you. You know, we actually bought this house furnished, so I didn’t really do much. When we came inside, they had all these trinkets out in places. I’m like, leave the trinkets. Don’t move anything because I wouldn’t know how to do it that way. But thank you.

Amy: You like my nice white background over here? It’s good-for-Zoom background.

Zibby: I like it. I like it. Thanks for coming on. The name of your, I have it right here, Fertility Diary column you had in The New York Times where you shared all of your experiences which culminated in your daughter Lily who’s probably five-ish, something like that?

Amy: Four and a half.

Zibby: Four and a half. I have a five-year-old too. I know you started writing your book as a memoir. That was your first go at it. It became more of a prescriptive book. I want to hear your thoughts, particularly now, on what’s going on with everybody who might be going through this now. My heart is going out for everybody. I don’t know. Just talk about everything.

Amy: It’s such a hard time right now. I didn’t think my fertility journey could get any harder, but this is a hundred times harder because basically, most clinics have closed. They’re not letting people get pregnant. I know everybody’s talking about a baby boom, a baby boom, but if you’re going through fertility treatment, even if you can do an egg freezing or an embryo freezing, they don’t want to transfer. They don’t want you to get pregnant because if you’re going to have complications or if you’re going to just have all the things that — in fertility treatment, pregnancy’s only the first step. You still have to go through a lot of testing. You still have to go through a lot of doctors appointments, and they don’t want that. I have a very good friend right now who just had an IUI before quarantine, and she can’t get her blood test. She’s just going to have to wing it and hope it works. My heart really goes out for anyone who’s trying right now because you can’t only get pregnant, and then you have to be online watching everybody either talk about this baby boom that’s not going to be for them or just people complaining about being home with their kids. One person said to me — I was doing a story on it. She said, “I just had a miscarriage. I would do anything to be stuck at home with my baby right now.” That’s really sad.

I complain even though I used to say I would never complain. Obviously, I complain about being stuck at home with a four-year-old and trying to homeschool. I have to keep that in mind that I’m lucky to be home with a four-year-old right now. We’re all lucky. Obviously, just complaining about, oh, children in China were starving, that’s what they used to tell us when we didn’t want to eat our food when we were little, that doesn’t help. It’s just nice to keep in mind that there are women on the fertility boards that are saying that they are just not happy right now. They would give anything to be stuck at home with their kids. Obviously, we’re going to complain about our kids. Just keep in mind that not everybody has the family situation that they want. If you’re thirty-nine or forty-one and you have a six-month hiatus, that’s freaking-out time. I have another friend who was freezing her eggs. She’s forty-one. She was planning to do three, and she’s stopped. She’s like, “This might very well be the end of my journey.” No matter what I thought I went through — I went through four years and four miscarriages with ten doctors in three countries. That was really hard, but I can’t imagine having to stop right now in the middle of everything.

Zibby: That’s such a good reminder too. I remember before I had kids, I would look at people. I could barely walk down the street after a while. It was all these people pushing strollers and all of this. Now my oldest kids are almost thirteen. I’ve been in it for so long that I forget — I don’t forget because I remember it very clearly. In my current, oh, woe is me, I’m trying to homeschool four kids —

Amy: — That’s hard too, though. It can have an “and” and a “but.” That’s hard too, and that’s also hard.

Zibby: I know, but it’s true. Before I had kids, that feeling of uncertainty was so much worse because you just didn’t know. Everybody keeps saying, “If I had just been able to go back and know…” If I had known that life would take this crazy path and I would end up somehow with four kids when I wasn’t sure I’d end up with any kids, I would’ve felt so much better. But you can’t know that, and especially now. I don’t know about you, but to the women out there, if there are any who are listening to this who are feeling like I’m at the age and this is going to be tough and this is going to ruin my whole chances, I feel like things happen. There’s still hope. I feel like the freaking out about it is just going to make it harder. You just don’t know. You don’t know. Life is crazy.

Amy: There are some clinics that are still doing treatment. They’re just doing the egg freezing and the embryo freezing, if you’re in a place where you could go outside. There are some clinics that are still operating because they’re mindful of the time. Before we start treatment, I have a whole chapter on the emotional journey. I have to address the, oops, miracle pregnancies. They’re so annoying when you’re going through it. Oh, my god, that person, oops, accidentally got pregnant. There’s so many stories like that that you never know. You’ve got to be open to just seeing what happens.

Zibby: That’s so true. Can you maybe move back just a smidge? Someone’s writing such a nice, long comment, but I can’t see your face. That’s better. “Someone’s sharing the ridiculous stuff my son is doing, but my sister-in-law is TTC and I’m trying to be mindful of her and her feelings.” I feel like other people are going through the same thing. Hard to read. There we go. That’s better. Thank you.

Amy: It’s hard right now. It’s hard to be mindful because everyone’s struggling right now, whether you’re single and you’re stuck at home alone or you’re living in a tiny New York City apartment like myself and can’t really go anywhere. That’s a struggle. Everyone has their own struggles.

Zibby: Part of it, though, I also feel like once you start saying I shouldn’t have the right to feel this, it just feels worse.

Amy: Of course. I said I was never going to complain after I had a kid. That lasted about, I’d say five or six months. I wasn’t sleeping. I was breastfeeding. I said, am I going to let infertility rob me of the one thing that moms everywhere get to do, which is complain? I have a right to complain too.

Zibby: For sure. Wait, so tell me, you tried to write this a memoir. You said people were not interested. Then all of a sudden you had this revelation that people didn’t care about you, they just wanted to know what they could do and how it could help them, right?

Amy: When I first started writing this, I was just sending in columns to The New York Times. She called me — on Motherlode. She said, “Why don’t you make this into a weekly column? Then in three to four months, we’ll transition it into a pregnancy column.” We were both super naïve. Then I had more than thirty columns spanning thirty years because at a certain point we moved it to monthly. Then I just was too depressed to even write any more until I got pregnant with my daughter. I always thought if I did have a baby, because I didn’t know, that I would turn it into a memoir. Interestingly, I know you were talking about on your last session how you’re old, which you’re not. When I started, there was not a lot of information out there on everything. I was one of the first people to write about it in a public way, in a normal, accessible way. In between the time I started doing treatment in 2012 and writing about it for The Times and then after I sat back and looked have a baby by 2016, ’17, the information had exploded. It went from not enough information out there to, oh, my god, there’s so much information. I don’t know where to begin.

I did write a memoir. I shopped it around. One agent said to me, “I’m not so interested in your fertility journey. I’m interested in your bigger story, your longer memoir story about leaving religion and what it meant.” I grew up religious, Modern Orthodox Jewish. Now I’m secular. She was interested in the larger picture with fertility as a point in the book. Then another agent said to me, “I need more prescriptive. I need more help.” It was interesting because the agent who needed more help was going through fertility stuff. The agent who wanted a bigger memoir had three kids and no fertility issues. That was interesting. Then I just realized every week I was answering, either for my Times column or my other writing, I was just answering the same questions. All these Facebook groups started popping up, which I didn’t have when I was doing fertility. All these Facebook groups, the science changed, but the emotional journey doesn’t change. It was still the same questions. Oh, my god, my best friend’s pregnant. She wants me to throw her a baby shower, and I can’t. My mother-in-law won’t get off my case. What do I tell my boss? I realized it’s the same thing. My story was important, but my story is only part of it.

I decided I wanted to help — I’m a writer and an essayist. I never thought I’d be writing a prescriptive book, but it has a lot of my story when it’s relevant in there. I am a health journalist, so I’ve interviewed a lot of doctors and a lot of patients because I want to help people not make the same mistakes I did. I want to give them answers to the questions. Because there’s so much information out there, I want to help them get through the journey. Even if it’s something that they show their mother, “Read this book,” or show their best friend, “Read this chapter on baby envy. This is why I’m having trouble being happy for you. It’s not that I’m not happy for you. It’s just that I’m not happy right now, and I want what you have,” if that could just make people feel less alone. I say if you think going to all these events is going to make you a better person, like going to a bris, where I had a cry myself in the bathroom stall, if you think going there is going to make you a better person, then go. If you can, try to take care of yourself. I have an article coming out soon about what I learned about infertility is helping me during quarantine.

Zibby: That’s interesting. I like that.

Amy: Keep your eye on the big picture. If you just thought this was going to be over April 15th and now they’re saying it’s not going to be over April 15th and that sends you into a tailspin — during my infertility, I was trying to think, I’m going to have a baby one day. This is going to be over at some point. I will have a family soon. I don’t know how. I don’t know which way it’s going to take, whether it’s going to be adoption or donor eggs or a surrogate. I don’t know, but I have to just keep my picture on that baby. Now I’m like, I have to remember this quarantine is going to be over. I don’t know when. I can’t predict the exact date. I just have to remember that it will change us in some way, but just remember the end point.

Zibby: Totally. I love that advice. That’s really great. There’s so much applicable. Where’s your essay going to come out?

Amy: I shouldn’t say. I’m just waiting on announcing. I’ll send it to you when it’s out.

Zibby: Okay, send me the link when it’s out. That’s awesome. Thank you, Amy. Thank you for all this advice. I love having the perspective of people going through the treatments now and just being able to be thankful for the things that we have in a new way and maybe what we can do to reach out to people who we know are going through things like this and how .

Amy: Give them a call. Even if you’re drowning under homeschooling, just send them a text or an Amazon chocolate. Say, I’m thinking of you. It’s always nice to be thought of.

Zibby: Totally. That’s a good guiding principle for everybody about everything, so yes.

Amy: Thank you so much. Thanks for everything.

Zibby: Thank you, Amy. Buh-bye.

Amy: Take care. Bye.