On January 25, Toronto would see the start of a snowstorm that would last for days, blanketing the city in white. But for Alyssa Garrison, the "summer" of her dreams had just begun.
Garrison lay on a bed at St. Joseph's Hospital cradling her newborn baby girl, Summer Honey Rose Garrison.The new mom had just undergone a C-section after an attempt to spin her breech baby's head down from outside of her belly failed.
While it was a difficult experience for Garrison, who desperately wanted to give birth naturally, how her baby came to be will likely top any other story or experience the new mom ever has.
This time last year, the 28-year-old full-time blogger decided to pursue becoming a single mother by choice. She told HuffPost Canada that she had been dating pretty much nonstop since she got her period, but no matter how hard she tried, her love life never seemed to lead to her number one goal: having a baby.
"I was obsessed with becoming a mother, and for a long time I thought marriage, buying a house and all that needed to come first," said Garrison.
"But after a while, it clicked — if what I really wanted was a baby, why was I waiting around for all of the other stuff? My intense drive to settle down and start my motherhood journey sabotaged most of my relationships (a.k.a. scared most people, especially the men I dated). Becoming a mom on my own seemed like a logical way to fulfill my dreams and take the pressure off of dating."
And so she ditched the birth control methods, hoping sex would lead to a positive union of sperm meets egg. But alas, no go. So she turned to the internet, Googling the "best way to self-inseminate." One of the most popular search results? The DivaCup.
For those unfamiliar with the enviro-friendly period product, also known as a menstrual cup, it's inserted into the vagina during periods to collect menstrual fluid. Unlike tampons or pads, these cups are reusable and can be worn for up to 12 hours.
How does the menstrual cup route work?
Dr. Sherry Ross, an obstetrician-gynecologist and women's health specialist, previously told Parents magazine that a DivaCup or menstrual cups can definitely help someone's efforts to conceive, explaining that a menstrual cup filled with sperm allows it to move in only one direction towards the egg.
"Sperm has to get to the egg, one way or another," Toronto-based Dr. Sarah Cook told HuffPost Canada. "The DivaCup method seems to work because of the fewer container transfers compared to other methods and the quicker sperm gets to an egg, the less margin for error (ie. sperm slowing down or dying)."
She added that this procedure could work in two ways.
"The male can pull out and ejaculate into the DivaCup and the woman can insert it directly — this gives the sperm only one way to travel — up into the cervix and uterus, rather than most of the ejaculate leaking out. The other way is for the woman to insert the DivaCup immediately after intercourse, for the same reason."
However, Dr. Sonya Kashyap, who works at the Genesis Fertility Clinic in Vancouver, cautions against trying this method with donor sperm, saying that sperm used during inseminations has to be washed onsite at a fertility clinic to clear any bacteria.
"And, you want to make sure the sperm donor is appropriately screened for infectious or medical diseases. Only a sperm bank has authority to do this," Kashyap told HuffPost Canada.
"I'm not saying it's a terrible idea but I think it requires thoughtful counselling to get perspective of all the things that can potentially happen with the donor as well."
Garrison didn't consult with a doctor for this particular method but felt fairly confident in the tools she had at her disposal: a DivaCup, doggedness and hope, and a sperm-donating friend who signed a contract giving up all parental rights.
"I like to think of it as borrowing a missing ingredient from a neighbour to bake a cake," she said.
While she'd like to keep the details of the actual process private, she felt fairly comfortable executing the insemination because "it all just made sense" to her.
"I'm definitely not a fertility expert by any means, it's just sex ed common sense! It's basically a different take on the classic turkey baster method."
But Garrison said that her first two attempts to get pregnant via the cup didn't take so she stepped up her efforts. She asked her donor to commit to daily drop-offs for an entire week when she was ovulating. And every day thereafter, she laid for hours with her feet up in the air, wishing, hoping and praying.
And then serendipitously she discovered that she conceived summer on Mother's Day last year — giving her the news every hopeful mother dreams of. Her three pregnancy tests indicated positive results, leaving her positively overjoyed.
"I screamed and cried and probably cursed a bit. I was also unintentionally on my own. It was strange to get such big news alone in my house, but sort of fitting considering how I decided to get pregnant in the first place. It was just me and this baby from day one!"
And this single mother by choice couldn't be happier about that.
"Becoming a choice mom has been a more positive, fulfilling and magical experience than even I had hoped, I definitely expected to feel a lot more lonely or compare myself to families with two parents, but I feel like grabbing hold of this dream on my own terms has really helped me become my best self, and I'm so full of love there isn't really any room for emptiness or self-doubt," said Garrison.
"I think being on my own and not having to worry about maintaining a romantic relationship has made me a better, more focused parent with more stability. Having so many magical little moments every day is such a special experience that I wouldn't trade for anything. It feels like it's the two of us against the world."
More from HuffPost Canada:
Check out the new Faces of Fertility Podcast by Knix to hear more from Garrison, and other women seeking unconventional ways to conceive.
Also on HuffPost: