Kevin and Nicole Barattini dreamed of having a family but after their attempts at getting pregnant failed, they knew something was wrong. After receiving the doctor’s prognosis, their lives were changed forever. Read on to find out why.
Going to have an ultrasound at the obstetrician’s office was becoming routine for Lianna Fives who had her husband Shaun right by her side for every step of the way. But this time, the baby they were looking at was different.
A Large Brood
Lianna and Shaun of East Moriches, New York State were aged 37 and 40 respectively and in their young years, they already had five children together. The couple always knew they wanted a big family with lots of children running around the house, they felt they were made to be parents. However, this pregnancy was a little different for Lianna and as it turns out, the baby in her stomach was not hers and she wouldn’t be adding a fifth to their family.
A Good Deed
In this pregnancy, Lianna had volunteered to act as the surrogate for her friends, Nicole and Kevin Barattini. The couple were informed that they were not able to have children and once Lianna found out, she knew she had to step up and help them fulfill their dream of having a family. Due to the couples maintaining a close friendship, they would keep each other informed of everything, something that was different to a surrogate found through a third party.
Due to their regular correspondence, the couples would all attend the doctor visits that would check on the status on the pregnancy and the development of the fetus. The obstetrician, Dr. Richard Klein, described the check ups as “so much fun” as both couples would attend and feed of each other’s excitement and joy, hoping and praying for a healthy baby. In July 2016, the couples arrived at the all important appointment to confirm whether the embryo had been planted successfully.
An Awful Suspense
While waiting to hear the results of the ultrasound, both couples were certainly nervous to hear the outcome but the process was much more nerve-wracking for Barattini’s, being their first baby. On the other hand, the Fives were more than used to the doctors visits, due to having five children. However, their desire for their friends to be rewarded with a child after all their struggles made them empathize with Nicole and Kevin and pray for a positive outcome.
A Long Struggle
Nicole and Kevin were married back in 2010 and decided to settle in Smithton, New York in the hope of starting a family there. For years thereafter, the couple were desperately trying to fall pregnant with no luck. After visiting numerous specialists, Nicole was told that her health was the main catalyst in preventing her from carrying a child. Although they had hoped it wouldn’t affect her, the results came back with a devastating prognosis that shattered their hopes of becoming a family.
A Lifelong Illness
When Nicole was just 16-years-old she started to panic after noticing small bumps covering her skin, on every part of her body. Her other symptoms included her eyes turning jaundiced, she had fatigue and suffered from a fever. Her symptoms were not promising and she quickly realized something was wrong and she needed medical attention. After her pediatrician took blood, the results showed she had only 8,000 platelets for every microliter of blood when the average adult is expected to have between 140,000 to 150,000.
After analyzing the results, the pediatricians at the children’s hospitals were able to diagnose Nicole with thrombotic thrombocytopenia purpura (TTP) which is an autoimmune disease, causing fatal blood clots all around the body. The doctors then explained to Nicole the severity of the disease and how it was potentially life threatening if they did not do something fast. The teenager then spent the next couple of days in hospital having her plasma changed in order to prevent her condition worsening.
Rare Blood Disorder
TTP is a rare blood disorder and the blood clots called thrombi have the ability to severely damage to kidneys, heart, brain, and nervous system leading the mortality rate to stand at 95% if left untreated. The majority of cases of TTP arise from autoantibody-mediated inhibition of the enzyme ADAMTS13, whose catalytic mechanism includes a metal. It increases blood glycoprotein in hemostasis which multiplies platelet adhesion to different areas of endothelial injury, specifically where arterioles and capillaries conjoin which result in the formation of the thrombi.
One Step Forward Two Steps Back
Nicole’s condition became stable after doctors managed to find a suitable medication that considerably improved the disease and for the next few years, she was able to live normally. However, things became difficult in later years when Nicole met her husband and started trying for a baby. The doctors then informed Nicole of a devastating reality that her TTP medication would harm her baby if she was to fall pregnant but coming off the medication would harm her own health.
Breaking The News
Upon Nicole receiving the news which threw all her future hopes and plans hanging by a thread, she had to break the news to her adoring husband. Kevin recalled the exact moment, explaining ” I got home from work and Nicole had that look on her face like something was wrong and I’m never going to forget it, I said, ‘What’s wrong?’ and she said, ‘The doctor doesn’t think we can have children.’ And, you know, nobody wants to hear that.”
Making A Decision
After sitting down and processing the heartbreaking news together, Nicole and Kevin had to come up with a plan. Nicole was hysterical and was incredibly frustrated with her body, feeling so let down but she couldn’t get her head around the fact that she must not carry her baby. When reasoning with her husband and questioning whether maybe she could handle it, Kevin completely abolished the idea and did not want his wife putting her entire life at risk, just so she could have a baby.
Following much deliberation, Nicole and Kevin finally agreed to stop trying to conceive a baby naturally and look into other potential options to have a child. After meeting with fertility specialists, doctors gave positive news that Nicole’s condition was not genetic and she could produce a healthy baby. From this, she decided to freeze her eggs and after researching surrogacy, the Barattini’s felt this was the way to go but when they thought progress was being made, another roadblock hit them.
The couple found out that the average cost to hire one is upwards of $75,000 and Nicole and Kevin knew they could not afford this method, even at a push. Instead, they began thinking about who they could ask to carry their child but they had no one. Nicole recalled “We had heard stories that sisters carried and mothers carried [eggs for women who could not carry], but I don’t have a sister, and my mother is over the age [to be able to be a carrier]”
Stopped By Law
Due to the Barattini’s living in New York, even if they wanted to hire a surrogate from a large cost, they couldn’t. The local law prohibits paying someone to act as a surrogate within New York. They could, however, pay for someone out of state but this would cost more than originally imagined so that went out of the equation too. Nicole and Kevin knew that their only option was to ask someone to carry their baby without compensation, but this was not an easy task.
Surrogacy is a method whereby a woman agrees to carry another persons baby with gestational surrogacy being the most common. In this method, the embryo is created by IVF and implanted into the surrogate. The embryo is created using the mothers egg and the father’s sperm so the baby is biologically theirs and has not genetics from the carrier. Women use surrogates for a number of reasons including if they can’t carry a baby, they don’t want to be pregnant, or for their mental and physical health.
Nicole’s Friends Step In
When Nicole and Kevin’s news spread amongst their friends and family, they unexpectedly received an outpouring of support and people offering to help in any way, some even said they would carry their embryo. Nicole said it was “crazy to see how many people stepped up to the plate.” However their initial excitement was soon faded as after undergoing the specific tests by doctors to see whether one can carry a baby, all friends were deemed unfit.
The specific medical exams that potential gestational carriers have to go through are incredibly thorough and intensive as the examiners need to see that the woman is in absolute peak health and fitness. This is part of the reason why finding a suitable surrogate is so expensive, since so many women are turned away from the process. Carriers also need to be assessed mentally to check they are stable and in the right state of mind to carry a child that is not theirs.
A Hopeful Conversation
When Kevin and Nicole were so down, they used their close friends to keep their spirits high. On one evening in December 2015, they went out for dinner with their friends Lianna and Shaun Fives. They had known each other for around 20 years and the Fives’ sympathized over Kevin and Nicole’s baby struggles, especially because they had been so fortunate in being able to have a big family of five children without having fertility issues. They wanted to help.
After Lianna listened to Nicole almost giving up on her dream of having a child, she came up with an incredible idea to carry her friends baby. Kevin described how she put it, explaining “Lianna goes, ‘You know I have five children, Shawn, and I want to have maybe one or two more. And [Nicole and I] looked at each other with a puzzled look, like, ‘You have five kids, why would you want any more?’
Greatest Gift Of All
Kevin continued in recalling Lianna’s words saying “And she goes, ‘No, not for me, for you guys – I’d like to carry a child” After hearing her loud and clear, Kevin stated “The two of us, just forget about it. We just, we all started crying.” After knowing Lianna for so long, they knew her personality and did not even question if she was being sincere. That is when it struck a cord with them and they knew this could be the answer to everything.
A Mother’s Love
When asked about her decision to give her friends such a huge proposition, Lianna said “I was blessed to have five kids and they are all amazing, and I couldn’t picture my life without them. And to see this family so deserving, it broke my heart.” After knowing the love she felt for her own children and how they fulfilled her in every way, she wanted one of her closest friends to have that same, incredible feeling.
The Road Ahead
Nicole and Kevin did not even hesitate in accepting their friends amazing and selfless offer but they promised to be with her every step of the way. Leanna started going through the procedure with her doctors and going through all of the medical tests-passing each and every one. After a long time going through legal procedures and correct examinations, it was time to plant the embryos. Everyone was excited, nervous and they all prayed that it took.
The weeks long wait to find out whether Lianna was pregnant felt like years to Nicole and Kevin. They felt optimistic but also incredibly nervous that this was really their only chance to have a baby that was biologically theirs and if it failed, they would have to accept the reality and go back to the drawing board, looking into other ways of having a family. Weeks later, the results came back and Lianna was not pregnant.
When they found out the negative result of the pregnancy test, everyone was down but the doctors told them that they would plant more embryos because they did have a real chance of taking. These words from the doctors kept everyone feeling optimistic and Nicole and Kevin prayed that this time, the final time it would work. All of the correct procedures were redone and they waited another couple of weeks. The tests came back and the impossible happened.
With the doctors about to read the results of the pregnancy test, everyone was praying and it was music to everyone’s ears to hear that it was a success and Lianna was pregnant! The Barattinis were overcome with emotion, they were finally having a baby of their own. But there was more news. There was not one embryo developing, there were two and months later, Nicole and Kevin were due to welcome two of their own babies into the world.
It’s A Boy And Girl
On February 10th, 2017, Kevin and Nicole Barattini became parents for the first time to two beautiful babies. They had one boy and one girl named Dominic and Luciana, everyone was crying when Lianna brought their babies into the world and the parents were bursting with pride. Kevin said “It’s probably the most amazing thing because you think it’s the end of the road, now here we are with two beautiful children.” It was a miracle.
The Barattini’s and the Fives will always share this special bond and knew they would be friends forever. Lianna and Shaun were named the twins’ godparents “I don’t have a sister but I’d consider her like that. We don’t hold back, we are open, honest, and I am constantly turning to her for guidance.” Nicole’s condition with TTP was now stable with her on the right medication, she was able to give full attention to her newborn twins.
After having so many struggles of their own, Nicole and Kevin wanted to help others in a similar situation and make surrogacy legal after it changed their lives. In a Facebook post, Kevin said “We have been working with local legislators and [infertility specialists] Reproductive Specialists of New York to make surrogacy recognized in New York State. That being said we are happy that our story went public to help others in the time of need.”
A Happy Ending
Nicole reinforced her husband’s statements and credited Lianna for all she had done to give her the family she had always dreamed of. Giving hope to other hopeful women, longing to have children, she said “There are people out there, like Lianna, that will do it out of kindness – and it’s easier to find them than it seems. It’s never the end of the road.” Nicole and Kevin continue to petition to make surrogacy legal and give other parents the joy of having children.