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A week after I walked the Camino, my beloved Grandmother died. Her passing at 94 years old wasn’t tragic, but she had co-parented me, and so the blow was very much like losing a parent. We had Skyped two nights before she died – it was the first time she saw me since I started the Camino.

I am convinced she waited to know that I was okay, post-pilgrimage, before she passed.

Her leaving put me in a funny place for baby plans. Despite achy grief, I went to my fertility clinic appointment. The technicians took vials of blood to test FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and AMH (anti-mullerian hormone) levels to get a sense of my egg reserve and an ultrasound to see how many egg pouches were along my ovaries.

Interestingly, that same day I reconnected with an old flame from high school. We started going to movies, dining out and staying up late, mostly chatting. It was fun — a lot of fun — which helped me forget my grief, and the baby I was supposed to start making.

A few weeks later I met with my fertility doctor, who said my tests revealed a very low egg reserve and follicle stimulating hormones that were mediocre at best. His final analysis: he couldn’t guarantee fertilization success beyond six months.

I wept. “What should I do?”

I thought that maybe I had time to explore this new/old burgeoning relationship. “I just started dating someone,” I sobbed on the top floor of his Bay Street office.

The doctor really did seem to care. “Far be it from me to give you dating advice,” he began, “But let’s say your new guy wants to wait a year to have a child…” My ears perked up: I was deeply familiar with this sort of baby making/relationship calculation.

He leaned forward. “And fair enough, a year is a reasonable time to get to know someone. But in the meantime what you could do is go through IVF with donor sperm and harvest some embryos and freeze them. That way, if things work out with your guy: great. And if not, you’ve got your insurance in the freezer and are ready to have a baby.”

What world was I living in? I don’t even remember saying “Thank you” or even “Goodbye” to the doctor.

I didn’t need to fret long.  My dating dilemma was soon solved. The next day the old flame and I hiked along the Bruce Trail. He was distant through the walk and right until we had a few glasses of wine over dinner; only then did he perk up momentarily. The winds had turned, literally. Yellowed maple leaves scattered over his windshield when we drove home. Later that night he admitted he just didn’t feel the magic, and I was too gutted to argue.

My life would not be a Hollywood film, I resolved the next day over a sad latté. I would have to go through with this having-a-child-on-my-own business. No one was going to “save” me from the task. No Prince Charming, though my Grandmother often suggested he would arrive.

Mary and Mamie in Stanley Park

Instead, I read and reread a quote from American author Joseph Campbell: “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

And so, surrendering to this life and this child who was determined to come to me in this particular way, I started investigating sperm donors.

Mary B. Valencia is a Toronto writer and comedian. Her son Milo a/k/a Sharkey is seven weeks old.

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