Real Life

From Mexico with love: Kiwi mum’s sweet souvenir

By holiday’s end, she had a baby on board

Most tourists go to the exotic Mexican seaside town of Acapulco for the sunshine and cocktails, but Auckland woman Janine McCarron went to become a mum.

The result is her adorable six-month-old son Ryder, his big brown eyes full of cheeky promise. “It’s not very run-of-the-mill to go to Mexico and come back pregnant – and no, I didn’t just have too much fun on holiday!” jokes Janine, who gave birth in Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital, 10,000km from where Ryder’s life began as an embryo in a Mexican fertility clinic.

“He’s a really laid-back, smiley baby. I’m so lucky. He’s a joy to be around.” The early childhood teacher describes herself as “a bit of a traditionalist”. All she ever wanted was to get married and have a family, but when Mr Right failed to come along, Janine, 39, had to change her dream.

“I definitely think the right person is out there for me, but I didn’t want to miss out on the chance to become a mum waiting for him,” she says. “I was so desperate to have a baby. I didn’t care that it wouldn’t look like me.”

Inspired by her older sister Melissa – a solo mum whose children, Nate, five, and Tilly, 17 months, were conceived through IVF – Janine’s fertility journey began at a New Zealand clinic using donor sperm. “Seeing how positive Melissa has been about parenting on her own eased my panic about finding the perfect man to have children with,” she says.

But in 2012, doctors discovered Janine had an infection in a fallopian tube. They told her that even with IVF, it wouldn’t be easy to conceive. She tried anyway, but with no luck. Two years and $35,000

later, she was desperate for another option. Janine admits, “It was devastating. I had to get a loan to pay for it all and I was just looking at my growing repayments, thinking, ‘I’m still not pregnant!’”

The clinic suggested adopting an embryo from overseas. When IVF results in excess embryos that couples don’t need, they may choose to offer these embryos up for adoption, rather than discard them. While it’s possible to adopt embryos in NZ, Janine was told it was unlikely a couple would choose a single woman to gift them to.

Undeterred, she discovered that a lot of Americans were going to Mexico for embryos because it was cheaper. She looked into it and found that a two-week trip for fertility treatment would cost just $8000. It wasn’t only the price that appealed, though – Janine figured that even if she didn’t conceive, at least she’d have an interesting holiday!

So in 2015, Janine – with her younger sister Rowena, 37, along for support – arrived in Acapulco, ready to become a mum. En route to the clinic, though, the nerves really kicked in.

She admits, “We were driving through these dodgy-looking neighbourhoods and I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, what have I done?!’” However, Janine’s fears were alleviated when she arrived at the clinic, situated at a beautiful resort. She was shown a photo of the couple who had donated their spare embryos and she was able to choose the sex she wanted, which is something NZ doesn’t allow.

Janine chose female and two embryos were implanted via a fine catheter into her womb. She says the whole procedure was very professional, though the specialist’s advice was a little unorthodox. He told her, “Now you need to go home and have a shot of tequila to relax!”

Janine skipped the booze but felt confident enough to go out to buy girls’ clothes and a little Mexican doll. Two weeks later, back home in Auckland, the happy news was confirmed. She smiles, “It was amazing. I burst into tears and my sisters burst into tears as well. We couldn’t believe it.”

Big sister Melissa, 42, was with Janine at her 20-week scan, where they were surprised to hear the sonographer announce she was having a boy. It seems the sex of the embryo was lost in translation! But after the initial shock, Janine felt thrilled to be having a son.

“Oh, he’s mine!” she says, bouncing her happy boy Ryder in her arms. “I just love being a mum. We bonded instantly. When he sees or hears me, he just lights up. I don’t know if my mind’s playing tricks on me, but I feel like I can see me in him. I fed him in the womb for nine months, so I do feel like he is a part of me.”

Both she and Melissa feel glad to be born in a country and an era where women have choices. Instead of Father’s Day, the tight-knit sisters celebrate Auntie’s Day. Looking at Ryder, with her eyes welling up with tears, Melissa concludes, “He is part of our family. It’s amazing for my kids to have a cousin they love so much. They’re like siblings, really. Our family is complete now.”

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