Kevin and Nicole Barattini were married in 2010 and settled in the city of Smithton, New York. They had two dogs and dreamed of having a baby to start growing their family. But when Nicole visited her doctors and told them they wanted to start trying, she received some unexpected news that shattered their dreams of becoming parents.
The couple tried to fulfill their dreams of starting a family, but years went by without success. Something was wrong. It was time to face facts and seek the help of a professional. But neither of them could ever imagine how difficult things were about to get.
Since they didn’t know if one or both of them was the reason they couldn’t conceive, the doctor at the fertility clinic tested both Nicole and Kevin for possible issues. But nothing could have prepared them for the news they were about to receive. An illness that Nicole had suffered in her teenage years was to blame.
When Nicole was 16 years old, she started noticing small red dots on her skin, which soon covered her whole body. At first she didn’t think it was too serious, but soon her symptoms worsened. She experienced jaundiced eyes, fatigue and fever. She went to the doctor, who drew her blood to find the problem. The diagnosis was not good.
Nicole was diagnosed with thrombotic thrombocytopenia purpura (TTP). This is an autoimmune disease that causes blood clots around the body which can become fatal. Nicole was hospitalized and spent several days getting plasma transfusions. She was also prescribed a medication that kept the disease under control. Nicole’s life went back to normal, until she decided to become pregnant.
Doctors told Nicole that the medication she took for TTP would be harmful to her baby, and advised her against getting pregnant. When she suggested coming off her medication, they told her it could be fatal for her. TTP has a 95% mortality rate if left untreated. Nicole was left with a difficult decision. Would she risk it?
Nicole was known for being headstrong and even a little stubborn. And Kevin knew his wife. She thought carefully about going off her medication. She wanted a child so badly… but was it worth the risk? When she broke the news to her husband, he was understandably concerned. And he was right to be.
Kevin stepped in and insisted that it was just not worth putting her life at risk. He wouldn’t — couldn’t — let his wife go through with it. Despondent and growing desperate, the unlucky couple started to look at their other options. But Kevin knew in the back of his mind that Nicole was ready to take extreme measures.
But the couple hadn’t given up hope yet. They knew that there were a few other options available that wouldn’t involve Nicole risking her life. First, they decided to look into adoption. But after doing some research, they were faced with yet another obstacle between them and growing their family.
The legal fees for adoption were just too high for Kevin and Nicole to afford. With the idea of adopting abandoned, they were still determined not to let go of their dream. They began thinking about IVF and surrogacy, but if adoption was already too expensive, this route be unfeasible, too? And what about Nicole’s condition?
The doctors assured Nicole that surrogacy would be safe, her eggs were healthy despite her illness and TTP was not genetic. But when they found out that the cost of hiring a surrogate was upwards of $75,000, and especially because it was not legal in New York so they would have to find someone from out of state, this option was not possible, either. There was only one thing left to do.
They told friends and family about their plight, and many of them offered to carry their baby without compensation. Sadly, after undergoing several tests, none of them were deemed fit for the task. Nicole’s last hope that she would be a mother was quickly fading. That was until the Fives came along.
The Barattinis had known Lianna and Shawn Fives for 20 years. The couple always wanted a big family, and had achieved their goal – having had five children by the time Lianna was 37 and Shawn 40. Six months after the birth of their fifth baby, the Fives invited Kevin and Nicole to dinner, where Lianna made an announcement that changed their lives.
“You know I have five children, Shawn, and I want to have maybe one or two more,” began Lianna. Kevin and Nicole looked at each other, puzzled, wondering why she would want any more children. But she continued. “No, not for me, for you guys – I’d like to carry a child.” It then hit them: Lianna was offering to be their surrogate. The couple, overwhelmed, started crying.
After Nicole had some time to recover from her friends’ offer, she began to grow concerned. It seemed too good to be true… but was it? She worried that Lianna would grow attached to the beings she would carry inside her for nine months. What if she couldn’t give them up? But she also knew that this was her last hope. After thinking it through carefully, she gracefully accepted the Fives’ offer.
Lianna still had to undergo medical and mental tests, but she passed with flying colors. Finally, the embryos were implanted, and the Barattinis promised to be with Lianna every step of the way. Nicole’s hopes and dreams were riding on the test results. Would she finally be a mother?
Sadly, the embryos did not take – but doctors encouraged them to try again. Nicole agreed to try one last time. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be? Lianna was implanted for a second time, and the two couples waited nervously for weeks. Finally, the results came back.
Lianna was pregnant. Kevin and Nicole were closer to being parents than ever before. Surprisingly, there was more good news. Two of the implanted embryos had taken, and she was now carrying twins. The Barattinis could not believe their good fortune and shared their happiness with Lianna and Shawn.
The two couples decided to celebrate. The Fives and the Barattinis planned a party to announce the impending arrival of Kevin and Nicole’s twin babies. They invited friends and family of both couples, ending up with over 60 guests. Knowing that the Barattinis had been wanting to start a family for many years, everyone was pleasantly surprised. Soon, the big day arrived.
After a healthy pregnancy, Lianna gave birth to Nicole and Kevin’s babies on February 10th, 2017. They had a boy and a girl, whom they named Dominic and Luciana. Now, Nicole was a mother to not one, but two babies of her very own!
The Barattinis burst out crying as soon as they saw their newborn children for the first time. Their lifelong dream had finally come true – and it was all thanks to the selflessness of their best friends. It was an act they were determined to honor.
“I have never been pregnant, but have heard that there is a major bond that takes place over 9 months [of gestation],” Nicole said tearfully. “That after 9 months to hand off the babies — even if they are not biologically yours — is too difficult for some people.” Shawn and Lianna were named Luciana and Dominic’s godparents, making their friendship even stronger.
“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,” said Nicole of Lianna. She knew just how lucky she had been to have someone willing to do that for her — and she knew she had to pay it forward.
Wanting to help other couples in a similar situation, Kevin and Nicole started campaigning to make surrogacy legal in New York state. “We have been working with local legislators and Reproductive Specialists of New York to make surrogacy recognized,” wrote Kevin on his Facebook page. Their story soon went public, and they started receiving lots of media attention.
The Barattinis hoped that the publicity surrounding their case could help give hope to other women who longed to have children. “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,” stated Nicole. The couple continues their activism while enjoying the gift of parenthood.