How to Talk About Infertility

Amy Klein is the author of The Trying Game: Get Through Fertility Treatment and Get Pregnant without Losing Your Mind

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September Burton: [00:00:00] Hello everyone. And welcome to another episode of the Colorado Fertility Conference Podcast, where we interview the best fertility practitioners and authors, bringing you the best resources under one roof so that your fertility journey can be shortened as much as possible. Today I have with me, Amy Klein. Amy is the author of a book called The Trying Game. Get Through Fertility Treatment and Get Pregnant Without Losing Your Mind.

And it’s published by random house. Hi Amy, how are you today?

[00:00:28] Amy Klein: Hi, thanks for having me.

[00:00:30]September Burton: It’s an honor and a privilege to have you on this podcast with us. Thank you. to start out, do you want to give us a little bit of background on you and tell us who you are and how you came to write this book?

[00:00:41] Amy Klein: Sure. I started, trying get pregnant in about 2011, 2012. And back then, there was no information really out there, except on these secret private boards, there was no Instagram, there were no Facebook groups and as I’m a journalist and I’ve been a health journalist and also writing about a lot of things that I go through, whether it’s dating or sky diving. When I stumbled into this world, it felt like I stumbled into the secret world of fertility, like going through a clinic at seven in the morning, there’s a little room where your husband has to watch porn, the collection room. And I just seen it as a writer. It just seemed like how does no one talk about this? And then as someone going through it, I really needed information. And as a health journalist, I can read all the scientific studies, but I just said, why isn’t anyone talking about this? So I started writing about it and the New York times asked me to do a column for them. And we were both kind of naive cause she said, okay, you’ll do it for three to four months. And then we’ll turn it into a pregnancy column because of course we just thought, Oh, you do IVF and then it works. And then you get pregnant. No, but it took me, three more years, 30, more columns. And the time to finally have a baby. And, during that time I was running, it’s hard to believe now when it seems like everybody talks about fertility, but during that time, I was one of the first people to write about it in a mainstream way and follow my journey. And I always thought that I would write, like a personal memoir about my experience, but by the time I had our daughter in 2016. And then by the time I climbed out of early motherhood, breastfeeding and everything. By 2016, the landscape had really changed. There were now Facebook groups, there was Instagram, celebrities were talking about infertility and it went from being like, how do I find out any information to, Oh my God, I feel so overwhelmed. There’s too much information out there. And I just realized that the story was bigger than my own personal journey that I really just wanted to help people get through the whole process. And. I haven’t gone through everything, just about me, I had, till I had my daughter, it was four years, four miscarriages, 10 doctors, nine rounds of IVF. So I’ve been through a lot of things but I’m not single, I’m not gay. I don’t have PCOS or endometriosis. So I wanted to just take, this whole thing through what to expect when you’re not expecting. And so I include my story when it’s relevant. But I also include other people’s stories and I’m not a doctor. So I interview a doctor for every single chapter to make sure that the medical stuff is right. And one thing that I’ve learned like through the whole thing is, the science changes. Every day there’s a new acronym or a new treatment, but the emotional journey is largely the same for what people are going through, whether you’re gay or straight or single or married.

[00:03:44]September Burton: I liked the way you just said that, Science changes, but the emotions stay the same. I think that’s so true. No matter when you’ve gone through it. so reading through, just the table of contents of your book, I picked out a couple of things, a couple of different topics for us to talk about. So one of the first sections of your book, you, ask the question, am I in fertile? And I know a lot of people, they’re at that phase of their journey, where they’re starting to wonder, am I infertile? How do you answer that question for them?

[00:04:11]Amy Klein: It’s funny, someone asked me the other day, they said, Oh, was it hard when you got your infertility diagnosis? And I laugh because I’m like, what diagnosis? You don’t really often get a diagnosis, it’s just like, you’re not getting pregnant. So I think in the beginning, what’s really hard is to. Wonder if this thing that you thought was going to be super easy is not that easy after all. And then you might fall down this panic hole of, Oh my God, do I have to know everything about infertility? Maybe I have to learn everything, and the first thing I want to say to someone is, just cause you’re not getting caught in the first three, three to four or five months, doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. It might happen. so on the emotional level is, just don’t panic yet. like there are people who buy my book and then they say, Oh, I got her into the right after. And I said, great. use it, give it to a friend, use it as a doorstopper. So it might not happen right away. so the first thing is don’t panic and you don’t have to know every single thing about fertility in the first minute. Some people feel like, Oh my God, I have to read up on everything and know what IVF is. let’s take it one step at a time. And the first step for everyone, whether you’re trying to have a baby or not, especially for every woman that I always say is just get your whole system checked out. I wish that every woman on her 30th birthday or something would just get it checked out, find out your hormone level, make sure you don’t have any fibroids, is your period regular? Do skip periods? You not have a period at all. we in this, I don’t know in this world, basically, we learn how not to get pregnant, but we don’t really learn, there’s an old book called take charge of your fertility. And it’s not about your fertility, but take charge of your health. And I only say this as just someone who’s been through it spoken to so many people like this one woman told me, Oh, when she was 33, this gynecologist told her, Oh, you have a fibroid, but don’t worry. Got it. And then, at 39 she needed surgery to remove the fibroid. And that was, at 33, it wouldn’t have been such a big deal, 39 it’s like her, three to six months to recover from that. So just want people to understand their menstrual cycle and, maybe know their parents, their moms reproductive history. Like I didn’t find out until after two miscarriages my mom mentioned that she wore compression stockings, which meant she did have some circulation issues which could affect miscarriage. And I just wish I had all that information, just know about my menstrual cycle of like, and then for, if you have a partner of, there is a man involved, same thing, you can get your sperm tested, you can just get all your ducks lined up in order. Cause this is information that if you have to go to a fertility clinic, you’re going to need, they’re going to ask you, like how long is your period? Are you regular? Do you have painful periods? Cause maybe, I met this woman, who’s in her sixties now and she told me that when she was in high school, she has such painful periods, that she had to stay home every weekend. People would say to her, Oh, your periods are supposed to be painful, but it wasn’t, she didn’t find out until after, after her childbearing years that she had endometriosis. So you just want to find like a gynecologist who understands fertility and who has, just like if you were getting ready for a marathon, which could be, you’d get everything checked out. And there’s no reason not to.

[00:07:36]September Burton: Yeah, for sure. I like that. That’s I think that’s a good idea. Everyone just have it be, right. When you turn 30, go get everything, checked out. Get your thyroid checked gate, get all of your hormone levels. Check. I think that’s great. so the mission of the Colorado Fertility Conference is really about bringing all sorts of different practitioners together under one roof So couples can get any questions answered as quickly as possible to help them speed up the fertility journey. one of the questions that you ask in your book and answer is, if the alternative route, right, for me, how do you answer that question?

[00:08:09]Amy Klein: The first thing I say is if you’re like my husband who wants 1400 different studies for everything. And wants then this might not be for you. If you’re not the alternative person. Then, just skip on to conventional medicine. I’m kind of on the, but I’m not on the fence. I think that if you have, if you’re young and time and let’s say, you say, okay, I’m going to take a year to work on my diet and my, my health and my weight and my cleaning up my house. Then if you’re 30, you can do that and just go straight forward. What I recommend for a lot of people is if you are intolerant of. Health, complementary medicine, let’s call it, fertility, Reiki, herbs, of course, acupuncture. Then you can investigate that concurrently with treatment. A couple of people that I interviewed in the book, the dowel Walnut, he works concurrently with practitioner. he’ll try to get your hormone level set. And if he’s not, if it’s not working, he might send you to him fertility doctor. I think no. When you’re picking someone in complementary medicine, cause I’ve had like varying. All over the map kind of experiences. I went to someone, not for fertility before that who helped me with a lot of stomach issues in Los Angeles. But then I went to someone in New York who just used to put pins in me in the same exact place. So I think if you’re gonna go, today, what one of the differences today than 10 years ago is there are a lot of great people who specialize in fertility. So fertility acupuncture, and one of the things that I think fertility acupuncture is good for is regulating that cycle. getting your hormones in balance and even dashing me who wrote the Toa of Wellness says that can only help you, even if you’re going through fertility treatments to get your hormones in balance and to get you pregnant faster. But I don’t want anyone to feel guilty. If they can’t do these things, there’s a great book called It Starts With the Egg and she recommends improving egg health. And she talks about supplements that a lot with doctors are recommending today, but she also talks about, cleaning up your environment and that it just stresses me out personally. And she has a good point. She says, clean up your environment cause that’s good for the baby anyway, but you have to do what you can do. One of my doctors told me to go gluten free and organic. And I’m like, I can’t go organic I’ll just do, so I’ll just do gluten free and you have to do what, it’s so stressful, that whole process. So if these are things that are going to help you, if it’s going to help you feel better to clean up your diet, if it’s going to help you clean out, environmental products, BPA from your house, you should totally do it. But if you can’t, I don’t think you should stress out about it.

[00:11:08] September Burton: I love that. I think that’s great advice in that book. It Starts With the Egg is a fantastic book. but yeah, don’t overwhelm yourself if it’s too much, it’s too much and that’s fine. Just take it in bite size pieces and do what you can. I completely agree with that. So I think that’s great advice. so another section that you talked about tips before starting treatment, you touched on this a little bit. Before with getting your hormones checked and getting your family history and your mom’s, history and all of that kind of stuff. So can you, are there any other tips that you would add to that?

[00:11:36]Amy Klein: Mmm, I also talk, there’s a whole, I talk about getting your emotional health in order too. And there’s a lot of feelings that we talked about, like when you first, not even get hit with this diagnosis that finds out, you might have fertility issues and there’s a lot of feelings, of kind of blame or regret, what did I do wrong? maybe I should have gotten married, married to that guy when I was 30, for me, it was like, Oh my God, why didn’t my husband? Why didn’t he propose earlier? we were dating for three months and he said, let’s get pregnant. And I was kind of like, no, I think I’d rather just do the traditional route first, like make sure our relationship is solid. So it took us about another year and change before we got married. And, when I first started having miscarriages, I was so upset and I thought, Oh, I should have just gotten pregnant. Then in three months, it’s his fault. It’s my fault. There’s all these feelings that you go through. And I spoke to a therapist and she said, regret, you think that you could do things differently when you have regrets. But whenever I take patients back into that time, they realized that they wouldn’t have done anything differently. And so for me, when I go back into that time, it was like, Oh, maybe I should have gotten pregnant a year and a half earlier. What would it be? What happens if I would have miscarried? And I would have had a few miscarriages and we’d only known each other for three months.  he might’ve just been like, okay, I’m out of here. By the time I started having miscarriages, we were already together for longer and we were married. So I joke that he was stuck, but meaning our relationship was solid but she says, the only thing that regret can do is if it can change something about the future. you know, if that regret, if I’m saying now, Oh, I want another kid and I can do something about that then if it helps for the future, but there’s nothing that you could first of all, you can’t go back in time, but second of all, you probably would make the same choices that you made at the time. And it would probably turn out the same way. So. I, this plenty of, right. So you can check your body and your husband’s body or partners, and you can get that in order, but you can also get your emotional health in order, like maybe okay. Get your focus on, okay. You know what. We want to have a baby. It’s not going to be as easy as we thought it was right this second. It’s not working out this way as it might seem for everyone else. let’s focus on the future and let’s focus on, the fastest way we can get this baby.

[00:14:09] September Burton: Yeah, I like that. And I appreciate that you’re talking about the mental health piece, one of the things that I’ve noticed in recent years with the world of infertility is a greater emphasis on mental health. There’s a lot more practitioners who are coming out and, and really focusing all of their treatment on mental health for people who are going through infertility. So I think that’s really incredibly helpful. so what about your relationship with your spouse? what do you recommend people do to maintain that relationship and that intimacy with their spouse while they’re going through such a troubling time?  I see these questions on Facebook every day. Cause I belong to 10 different fertility, Facebook groups, and people are complaining about their partner that, like someone will say. He wants the baby, but he’s not interested in hearing anything about fertility. And I think it’s just important to realize who your partner is. and that’s something that you might have, you might, it’s kind of everything and infertility kind of fast track the relationship. So this is something you might, we only have known later on once you have a kid, Oh, my partner is not good at getting ready or dealing with the little, like he doesn’t make the school lunches. So this is something that you would find out later on down the line, but unfortunately have to find it out now. It’s Who is your partner and what are they capable of? And I’ll just, I don’t want to throw my partner under the bus, but he wasn’t, the I’m going to do all the research type of person. He is the, tell me what to do and I’ll do it person. And when I was interviewing people for the book, I met this one, couple who does an amazing podcast called Matt, enjoy excellent adventure. They have a Facebook group and he came with her to every single appointment, every appointment, Maybe it’s cause they were doing a podcast or maybe he’s just like an amazing person. I was jealous, that they went to every appointment together. He was really in it and he told me that there’s ways for you know, even same sex couples to do it together. For us, my husband has a full time job. So he couldn’t and I interviewed another couple whose husband did all the research picked all the doctors and forget knowing your partner, know you probably know yourself. I would not be happy if my husband did all the research and pick all the partners because I’m controlling like that. So this was my partner and this was my relationship. I did most of the research. I presented it to him and he came to most of the important appointments, but he had a full time job and I was basically writing full time about fertility. So that was my full time job. So it’s important to know who your partner is and also know like what you can ask of them. Like maybe they won’t come with you to every appointment and maybe they don’t want to hear about every folicle count and every disappointment along the way, but maybe you could put them in charge of, okay, you do all the insurance. I’m not spending my day fighting with the insurance. You deal with the insurance, you deal with the money side. And that works for a lot of other people, just to, you know, it’s what called emotional labor. Like who’s going to do the emotional labor for it. The sad thing is, a lot of times it falls on the woman, even when it’s male factor infertility, which could be, 30% of the time, even if it’s the sperm that’s not working, the woman has to often put. Her body through the ringer. and a lot of times women are doing more of the work, but we have to remember that it is hitting our partners emotionally, too. They’re in this cause they want a kid to, they want to be father. So it’s hard when you’re both going through your own thing and then you have to try to have something together. So I think my advice is to find out what your partner can take and maybe outsource something to other people. Like I had some other people that I would complain about to every second, instead of my husband.

[00:18:13]September Burton: I like that. I think knowing your partner, knowing yourself and knowing your relationship and understanding where you come from is really important. So yeah. Thank you for that. do you have any final words of wisdom before we close this interview up? anything else that you would like to offer?

[00:18:31] Amy Klein: I think it’s really important. That I know. I don’t love this word, but self care. I think it’s really, yeah. Important, no matter how long you’re going through this is to really put yourself first and put yourself first can mean so many things it could mean. Closing down your bubble a little bit right now, of course during Corona, it’s a little lot easier. It also could mean going off social media. Going off Facebook on Instagram. because people are seem like they’re just getting pregnant everywhere or complaining about their kids on social media. It could mean either getting rid of people in your life who just don’t know, understand or not helpful just for this time. And it could, it could mean pedicures, manicures, that kind of thing. But it really means like infertility can be a trauma for a lot of people. And, for someone like myself who had repeat miscarriage, even early pregnancy was traumatic for me. So you have to just bring in the people that are gonna help you and kind of distance yourself. From the people who are not going to help you. And I guess I want to say that it seems like it’s going to last forever, but thankfully, yeah, it’s going to only be one chapter in your life.

[00:19:53] September Burton: Great wisdom. I love that. Thank you so much. So if people want to get your book, get in touch with you, how can they reach out to you?

[00:20:00] Amy Klein: Sure. my website is TheTryingGamebook.com. It’s available on Amazon. If you prefer to listen to it, I’m the one who, if you like my voice, I’m the one who’s speaking on the audible book. And, yeah, they can reach out to me through my website and I’m happy to help people with questions, especially that repeat miscarriage, which I seem to be an expert on even donor egg. I’m happy to talk to anybody.

[00:20:27] September Burton: Thank you. We really appreciate that. once again, Amy Klein, the author of The Trying Game Get Through Fertility Treatment and Get Pregnant Without Losing Your Mind published by Random House. thank you Amy, for being on. Thank you for your wisdom and thank you for your support.

[00:20:41]Amy Klein: Thank you.

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