Married couple Kevin and Nicole Barattini dreamed of starting a family together, but after many failed attempts at trying to have a baby, they knew something was wrong. Everything changed after a visit to their doctor.
Struggling To Conceive
After years of trying to conceive, Kevin and Nicole struggled to get pregnant. With no positive results, it looked as though their dream of starting a family was never to be a reality. That was until something completely unexpected happened and their lives were to change forever.
A Large Brood
Lianna and Shaun live with their five children in East Moriches, New York State. Aged just 37 and 40 respectively, the couple started growing their family at a young age, and always knew they were destined to be parents to a big brood. When Lianna became pregnant once again, it was not because she was looking to add to her family with their sixth child. In fact, this was to be a completely different pregnancy since the child she was now carrying was not hers at all.
A Good Deed
When Lianna heard that her friends, Nicole and Kevin Barattini, were unable to conceive, she volunteered to act as their surrogate. Lianna decided to do this selfless act to help the couple fulfill their dreams of starting a family. This would be very different to finding a surrogate through a third party, since that would require being away from one another until the birth. In this case, with the couples maintaining a close friendship, they could be informed of everything and be there for every step of the way.
With regular contact, it allowed the couples to attend all doctor visits together and check on the developments of the pregnancy. Dr. Richard Klein, the obstetrician, even enjoyed the check-ups, describing them as “so much fun.” Rather than just having two parents excited for the newborn, there were four people in the room sharing all their joy and prayers for a healthy baby. In July 2016, both couples arrived at the most important appointment, which would confirm if the embryo had been planted successfully.
An Awful Suspense
Upon going to hear the news, it was most certainly a nerve-wracking experience for both couples, but mostly for the Barattinis, who were praying for their first baby. As for the Fives, they were used to regular doctor visits, having gone through this process five times already with their own pregnancies. Nevertheless, they were still praying for a positive outcome for their friends and wanted nothing more than to be able to help out during this time in their lives.
A Long Struggle
The Barattinis married in 2010 and settled in Smithton, New York, where they hoped they could raise a family together. After marrying, the couple desperately tried for years to fall pregnant but were failing to have much luck. After visiting specialists to discover the issue, they were told it was issues with Nicole’s health that were preventing her from becoming pregnant. With the hope that this would not affect their chances, they were later given a prognosis that would shatter all their dreams of starting a family.
A Lifelong Illness
Nicole’s health concerns began when she was 16-years-old, and she started to discover small bumps covering her skin. While this covered her whole body, her eyes also turned jaundice, and she suffered from fatigue and fever. Realizing she needed medical attention, she visited the doctor who took blood from Nicole and found that she had only 8,000 platelets for every microliter of blood. The average adult is found to have between 140,000 and 150,000, meaning this was a cause for concern.
Pediatricians diagnosed Nicole with thrombotic thrombocytopenia purpura (TTP), which is an autoimmune disease and causes fatal blood clots all around the body. At the time, the teenager was told the severity of her condition was a potentially life-threatening disease and that doctors needed to act on it fast. Nicole had to spend the next couple of days in the children’s hospital following her prognosis, where she was to have her plasma changed to prevent her condition from worsening.
Rare Blood Disorder
The severity of dealing with TTP is extremely important since it is a rare blood disorder that can damage the kidneys, heart, brain, and nervous system. The blood clots, called thrombi, can cause this damage leads the mortality rate to stand at 95% if untreated. The majority of TTP cases are a result of an autoantibody-mediated inhibition of the enzyme ADAMTS13. This enzyme’s catalytic mechanism includes a metal which increases blood glycoprotein in hemostasis, and this multiplies platelet adhesion to different areas of endothelial injury.
One Step Forward Two Steps Back
Fortunately, doctors were able to find a suitable medication to allow Nicole’s condition to become stable and improve the disease which allowed the teen to live normally for the next few years. It was when she met her husband, and the couple was trying to have a baby, that the doctors explained to the Barattinis that the TTP medication that Nicole was on would harm her baby should she fall pregnant, but harm her own health if she chose to come off the medication.
Breaking The News
While the news was obviously devastating for Nicole to hear, the heartbreaking moment came when she had to tell her husband the results. Her adoring husband recalled the 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.”
Although doctors told Nicole she could fall pregnant, they also gave her the breakdown of what the reality would be should she choose to do so. She told reporters, “I was able to conceive,” Nicole said. “But I wouldn’t be able to have a healthy pregnancy, and it would result in death of myself or the baby.” Although the outcome was not completely clear, it was still too big a risk to take, and Nicole was left devastated by the news.
Making A Decision
The news was, of course, heartbreaking for the couple and Nicole was left devastated by the fact she would not be able to carry her own baby. Feeling let down by her own body, and incredibly frustrated, she proposed the idea to her husband that maybe they should risk it. Her husband, however, was not into the idea and shut down the very notion of it. Kevin was not willing to put Nicole’s life at risk for the sake of growing their family.
The couple finally decided that they would stop trying to conceive and look into other available options at having a child. Fertility specialists gave the couple good news that Nicole’s condition was not genetic and she could produce a healthy baby. Hoping to produce their own baby, Nicole decided she would freeze her eggs and began researching surrogacy options. Just as the Barattinis decided this would be their best option, and they were finally making progress, yet another hurdle got in their way.
Nicole and Kevin were open to many ideas when it came to growing their family, including adoption. However, this too seemed to hold a concern for the couple due to the significant expense. After calculating the sums, and hoping they could home a child, it soon became apparent that the asking price would be too costly for the couple and it was to no avail. This then ruled out the option of adoption altogether, and the couple focused their sights primarily on surrogacy.
Why It’s So Expensive
Despite many children worldwide in need of finding a home, there are many reasons why it is so expensive to adopt. In 2016, an article revealed that the high price tag is due to the legal fees involved in adopting. While private domestic adoptions can cost a parent in hope to adopt a few thousand dollars, international adoptions rake up a much higher fee. This is because the adoption process also includes legal and travel expenses, as well as agency fees.
Deciding to go with surrogacy as the final option, the couple discovered that it would cost upwards of $75,000. Nicole and Kevin knew they could not afford this, and had to begin thinking about who could perhaps carry their child, but were having little luck. 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
The next hurdle came in the couple’s way was their location. Due to the Barattinis living in New York, the cost of surrogacy was not their primary problem. It is prohibited by law to pay someone within New York to act as a surrogate. They did have the option of paying someone out of state, but this would, once again, pose more problems and cost way more than imagined. The only option Nicole and Kevin had was to pay someone they knew without compensation.
Gestational surrogacy proves to be the most common method chosen when a woman decides to carry another person’s baby. Here, the embryo is created by IVF and implanted into the surrogate, meaning the mother’s egg and fathers sperm creates the embryo and makes the baby biologically theirs. Many choose surrogacy as their best option to have a child for many reasons, including if they cannot carry the baby themselves for health reasons, which was the case for Nicole.
Nicole’s Friends Step In
When Nicole and Kevin announced to their friends and family that they were on the hunt to find a surrogate, they were overwhelmed by the outpour of support and the number of people who offered to carry their embryo. Nicole expressed, it was “crazy to see how many people stepped up to the plate.” However, after such hope, the initial excitement soon wore off when tests found that none of the couple’s friends were fit enough to carry their baby.
The Timing Was Wrong
During this time, Lianna, who had recently just given birth to her second child, had heard about the Barratini’s struggles through a mutual friend. At the time, Lianna knew she was not done expanding her own family, but the idea of helping someone else have a baby did cross her mind. While she privately decided she would not be a child carrier for another woman until she had finished having her own children, Lianna was not completely opposed to the idea.
The whole process of gestational carriers is incredibly thorough, and all hopefuls have to go through specific medical exams to test if the woman is at her absolute best health and fitness to be able to carry a child. The intensive process is what makes choosing surrogacy so expensive, and a lot of women are turned away. In addition to having their health checked, carriers are also mentally assessed to see if they are in the right state of mind to carry a child that is not theirs.
A Hopeful Conversation
While feeling down, Nicole and Kevin did all they could to keep their spirits high. One evening in December 2015, the Barattinis went out for dinner with their close friends, as they found that spending time with their friends helped lift their spirits. They met with Lianna and Shaun Fives, who they had known for over 20 years. The Fives already had five children of their own and sympathized with their friends who were going through fertility struggles. Having been so fortunate with their big family, they wanted to help.
When Nicole was at the point of giving up, Lianna listened to her friend’s concerns and came up with the idea that would help her friend out. It was at this time that Lianna would do something incredible. Kevin recalls this moment, 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, “And she goes, ‘No, not for me, for you guys – I’d like to carry a child.” At this moment, Nicole and Kevin were speechless. Kevin stated: “The two of us, just forget about it. We just, we all started crying.” Having had such a long friendship with Lianna over the years, they knew she meant every word. It was at this moment that the Barattinis realized that their dreams of having their own family could finally become a reality.
A Mother’s Love
Speaking of her generous decision to help her friends out, 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.” Realizing how important having her own children are, and the impact they had on her life, Lianna wanted her friends to experience the same joy in their lives. Lianna was hoping for her closest friends to have that same fulfillment that she has.
An Early Decision
Lianna had been secretly thinking of acting as a surrogate for some time and, after giving birth to her fifth child in 2015, she was ready to help another couple. Having five children demanded a lot of Lianna’s time, but she was determined to help Nicole and Kevin. When she brought up the idea to Shawn, she also ensured one condition would be fulfilled. She was going to make sure Shawn was ready to help out more with caring for their five children before committing to becoming pregnant once more.
The Road Ahead
Having hoped for this moment for so long, Nicole and Kevin did not waste a second with accepting their friend’s selfless offer. When agreeing to go ahead with this idea, the couple also agreed to be there every step of the way with Lianna. Fortunately, Lianna passed all her medical tests, and after several visits to the doctor, it was time to plant the embryos and pray they took. At this point, all anyone could do was pray for the best.
It would only take a week to find out if the embryo took, but this time felt like forever in the eyes of Nicole and Kevin. After all they went through, they were incredibly optimistic but nervous knowing how many setbacks they have already had. This would be the only chance to have a baby that was biologically theirs, so they were counting their lucky stars that everything would work in their favor. When the results arrived a week later, it was found that Lianna was not pregnant.
The news came as a downer to all, but the doctors provided more hope when they said they would plant more embryos knowing the high chance of them taking. This kept everyone feeling optimistic once more, and the couple continued to pray that the next time would work. After Lianna went through all the correct procedures again, the couple waited for the results once again to see the outcome. This time, when the tests came back, it revealed the impossible.
The moment of truth came when the two couples made their visit to the doctor’s office to hear the results. When the doctor revealed that the embryo successfully took, the couple were made aware of the good news that Lianna had fallen pregnant. The Barattinis were overwhelmed with emotion but, just as they were taking in the good news, they were informed with even more news. Not only did one embryo take, but two! Nicole and Kevin were soon to be welcoming twins into the world.
Telling The Families
The couples decided to announce the good news to their families on Labor Day Weekend. They planned a joint party with over 60 guests in attendance, and it was definitely to be a cause for celebration beyond what everyone was expecting. In front of the Fives’ children, their friends, and their family, the couples gathered to make the big announcement. After asking the guests to be quiet for a moment, they stood in front of everyone and shared the news that Lianna was carrying Kevin and Nicole’s twins.
It’s A Boy And Girl
The big day arrived on February 10th, 2017, when Kevin and Nicole welcomed their beautiful twins into the world. On this day, Dominic and Luciana were born. The Barattinis were bursting with love and pride, and speaking of their miracle, 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.” This was truly a magical moment for the first time parents.
The Fives did one of the best things possible for the Barattinis, and this will keep them in each others lives forever. To show their gratitude, Nicole and Kevin named Lianna and Shaun the twins’ godparents. Speaking of Lianna, Nicole said, “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 managed to stay on her TTP medication while also becoming mother to her newborn twins.
Having been fortunate enough to experience something so amazing when they were almost ready to give up, Nicole and Kevin wished for the same fortune for other parents facing similar struggles to theirs. Hoping to make surrogacy legal, Kevin wrote in a Facebook post, “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 followed suit with her husband’s wishes and credited Lianna for all her help. 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 hoped to reassure women that there is hope and their lucky day is yet to arrive. Nicole and Kevin continue to fight for surrogacy to become legal so other hopeful parents are given the same opportunity they had.