Why I will become an incubator for Lisa
By Miranda Wood, Health reporter,
August 24, 2003 The Sun-Herald
Krisy Prelewicz is hoping
to give a Sydney couple the ultimate gift.
The speech therapist, who
lives 1 hours from Los Angeles, has wanted to be a surrogate
mother since she was 20 after she heard an advertisement on
"It struck me immediately
that this was something I could do," she said. "At 20, I was
thinking, 'What if I don't want children, but I would really
like to experience birth.' "
Ms Prelewicz, now 36, will
be impregnated with John and Lisa Banfield's embryos at a
fertility clinic in LA this week.
Mr Banfield, a senior
executive, escorted the embryos to the US after he received
a special permit from Customs Minister Chris Ellison.
The Federal Government has
banned exporting embryos overseas for commercial
arrangements with surrogate mothers but the Banfields were
given permission after persistent lobbying by Mrs Banfield
altered the regulations earlier this year.
A married mother of
two young children, Ms Prelewicz said: "I want to do
something grand. To have somebody else's kid would be a
little bit above and beyond the norm.
"I call myself the
incubator or the oven. I always think, 'Well, your oven's
broke and you're trying to bake a cake. Come over and use my
oven and when your cake's done, I'll give you your cake."'
Ms Prelewicz came into the
Banfields' life last year when she chose the vivacious
couple from the program at the Centre for Surrogate
Parenting (CSP) in LA.
"When I first saw them,
they were so astounding looking," she said. "To me, he
looked like a professional athlete and she looked like an
actress. That's what struck me and that sounds kind of
shallow, I know."
Ms Prelewicz joined the
surrogacy program about two years ago, shortly after her
last child was born.
Although she would never
donate her own eggs, Ms Prelewicz is able to disconnect
emotionally from carrying another couple's embryos.
The Banfields will pay her
$27,600 when she has the baby, a small amount when compared
with the $180,000 they have outlaid to the surrogacy program
"She only gets the money
when she gets pregnant," Mrs Banfield said.
"It's paid in instalments.
They don't do it for the money."
Ms Prelewicz said: "[Money]
is not the reason to do it," she said. "There are so many
other ways, a lot of easier ways, to make a lot more money."
On Thursday, fertility
specialists at Huntington Reproductive Centre will start the
process using the Banfields' four embryos.
Mrs Banfield, 37, said:
"I'm very excited - and relieved because it's now completely
out of my hands.
"I have no control. It was
pretty much down to me to form embryos and how many eggs I
could get. That was part of what I had to do.
"I can't put my head in the
space of deciding what to do if it doesn't work because I
can't cope with knowing that it might not work this time."
In 1995, a New Zealand
gynaecologist twice failed to perform procedures to prevent
abnormal cells detected in a routine Pap smear from turning
cancerous. She complained to authorities and he was later
Mrs Banfield was later
diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1996 and underwent a
radical hysterectomy. After a scar site recurrence in 1998,
she couldn't produce eggs because of the effects of
chemotherapy and radiation but in 2002 she began ovulating
And, throughout her cancer
treatment, the tenacious sales executive continued her
mission to start a family.
She used her sister's eggs,
husband's sperm and girlfriend's womb but after six failed
attempts, the Banfields turned to the surrogacy agency in
Mrs Banfield's sister's
remaining five embryos were transferred to Ms Prelewicz in
November last year but with no success.
specialists at Sydney's Royal Hospital for Women were able
to perform a special operation to remove Mrs Banfield's eggs
and, in March this year, Ms Prelewicz became pregnant using
John and Lisa Banfield's embryos. But the amazing news was
short-lived. Seven weeks into the pregnancy, the foetus
died. Almost four months later, Mrs Banfield is still trying
to come to terms with the loss.
"It was my turn to get a
successful pregnancy," she said. "To get that pregnancy
first off was pretty damn cool and we just lost it."
US fertility doctor
Bradford Kolb said he felt very disappointed for Mrs
Banfield but was optimistic about the next attempt.
"You're not only dealing
with the loss of your embryos, you're now dealing with the
loss of a pregnancy," he said. "Her only bonding experience
was with phone conversations and ultrasound pictures that we
had sent to her.
"On the other hand, the
other positive light you could take from this is that it has
restored hope for her.
"There was a pregnancy and
it did rechargeher batteries, per se, where she was eager to
proceed with another cycle."
Ms Prelewicz said she was
considering leaving the surrogacy program if she did not
become pregnant this time. Despite being "exhausted" from
raising two young children and working, she also wanted to
spend more time with her family.
"I didn't want to get
pregnant past 37 years old and I didn't want my kids to be
old enough to even know what's going on," she said.
"He [my husband] doesn't
really view it from the point of view that this is selfless.
He thinks I'm just getting to do what I want to do.
"I'm doing everything I can
to not involve him."
Mrs Banfield said she hoped
to persuade Ms Prelewicz to keep going.
"I don't want to have to
ever plead for her to be in it for the long haul. It's too
hard on my soul also but it's also awful to beg somebody,"
And, by Mrs Banfield's side
the entire time, will be her devoted husband.
Mr Banfield said: "I think
the rationale that Lisa and I have been using is one step at
a time . . . and it's not necessarily the expense, it's more
the constant factor of it not working and how much you can
"I say to Lisa all the
time, 'I love you, I married you for who you are and not for
us, necessarily, to have children'.
"I would love to have
children but it's not the be-all and end-all for me. I could
live for the rest of my life without having a family."
But Mrs Banfield can't
imagine a life without a child.
"I want to have that baby
when it's one minute old and give it a really, shit-hot life
and give it a great start to life," she said.
"I want that. I need that."