At age 16, Nicole Barattini experienced strange symptoms. Her eyes became jaundiced and she had bumps all over her body. After some intense blood work, doctors diagnosed her with thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (or TTP), an autoimmune disease that can cause dangerous blood clots to form in the body. When her TPP flares up, Barattini has to receive a plasma exchange, which can sometimes involve 10 days in the hospital. But there was a more unexpected consequence of her TPP: doctors told Barattini that the immunotherapy medications that she uses could harm a baby — and if she stopped the medication to carry a baby to term, she could harm herself.
Instead of adopting, which Barattini and her husband found to be too cost-prohibitive, she decided to freeze her eggs. Doctors told her that the TPP wasn't genetic, but that still left the couple with a problem: Who could carry their child?
"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]," Barattini told Redbook. "We just did it [froze my eggs] for precautionary reasons and hoped for the best."
That's when Barattini's squad really stepped up. Many of her friends volunteered to act as a gestational carrier and carry Barattini's child for her. Many of them were unable to volunteer, however, because doctors deemed them "unfit" to carry the embryo. One of Barattini's best friends, Lianna Five, who had five children of her own, was a great match — and she was more than happy to help out.
In June 2016, Five carried two of Barattini's embryos, but she was unsuccessful. Then, in July of 2017, Five finally became pregnant. It was the sixth pregnancy for her, but it was Barattini's first.
On February 10, Five gave birth to twins Dominic and Luciana. Barattini hopes that her situation can show other moms, with or without autoimmune diseases, that there are plenty of options available, even some unorthodox ones involving best friends.
"It's never the end of the road," Barattini told Redbook. "There are people out there like Liana that will do it out of kindness — and it's easier to find them than it seems."