Baby Rollercoaster

8 December 2021

Baby Rollercoaster: The Unspoken Secret Sorrow of Infertility
by Janice Colven
Published by Wood Dragon Books
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$19.99 ISBN 9-781989-078587

I’ve just had the pleasure of reading the well-written, beautifully designed, highly personal and informative book by teacher/ranch wife/writer Janice Colven about her lifelong yearning to be a mother and her seven-year journey on the rollercoaster that is infertility. Throughout the candid, 207-page story, Colven uses the extended metaphor of a rollercoaster to parallel the ups and downs she and her husband experienced during this painful time, and the book’s title—Baby Rollercoaster: The Unspoken Secret Sorrow of Infertility—reflects their hopeful highs and heart-breaking lows.

Colven writes that she’s always dreamed of becoming a mother. As a child she “loved baby dolls and everything that went with them,” and her “loving and nurturing spirit” even extended to the prairie girl wrapping a dead gopher “in a soft, pink blanket” and strolling it as one would a baby. Later she practised her maternal skills on younger siblings. “We buy the map to motherhood and have the trip planned down to the smallest detail,” she writes.

In her introduction Colven shares that she wrote this “for the women who are walking the same infertility path,” and “to provide insight” for those women who “love and support us through infertility”. Infertility’s a prevalent problem: “one in six women” struggle with it.

The story includes anecdotes about Colven’s first teaching job—“in a one-tumbleweed town”—and it details how she met her husband; her initial suspicions about infertility (“After one year of spinach eating, laying with my legs in the air, ovulation tracking, and college-level trying”); and her preposterous interactions with a local doctor (“Dr. Mustache”). (Colven gives her medical professionals funny, fictitious names, including Dr. Straight Shooter and Dr. Lucky Strike.) We learn about her diagnosis of endometriosis and a seven-hour surgery to remove uterine tumours, and later her unfruitful and expensive dance with in vitro fertilization (IVF), but the medically-themed chapters are interspersed with chapters about growing up on a farm, where the author and her brother had to rogue (walk “arm length to arm length through a field of flowering mustard plants” to uncover “defective or inferior plants”); teaching; and the writer’s relationship with her much more adventurous younger sister, Rhonda, who becomes her egg donor.

The book is seamlessly organized, and includes many sentences that are zingers, ie: “My marriage was in trouble” and “Fertility is a business, and it preys on childless women when we are most vulnerable” .

When grasping at hope, signs like a single apple on a previously “barren” tree carried huge meaning for the writer. She writes about her tremendous guilt at not being able to conceive, and frequently offers support to others. A section on what not to say to a woman or couple without children is most helpful, and readers will appreciate the nod toward other empowering books.

American psychologist Carl Roger’s said “the most personal is the most universal,” and that’s why we need books like Baby Rollercoaster. They connect us with humanity. They let us know we’re not alone.


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