Michelle Reaves, the California surrogate mother who died giving birth last week, died helping others achieve their dreams, and her brother-in-law tells PEOPLE that she was known in her life as the person others could turn to at times of need.
Jeff Romero, Michelle’s brother-in-law, tells PEOPLE of her strong will, honesty, and “very direct” personality, but also described the mother of two as “really compassionate.”
“She’s kind of like the matriarch of her whole friend group and certainly of her family, so she’s always kind of the person that people turn to,” Romero says of his brother Chris Reaves’ wife. “A lot of people turned to her, so she was kind of that to her friends and family — the rock that everyone would kind of lean on. She was an amazing mother and a real light in her family’s life.”
Romero tells PEOPLE that Michelle “always wanted to help people,” and that drive to care for others led to her decision to act as a surrogate.
“She wanted to do something that could be helpful to some people, she felt like this was a way that she could contribute,” he says of the 36-year-old, who was on her second surrogacy for the same family.
Michelle, already the mother of two young children — Gage, 7, and Monroe, 3 — was feeling “great” heading into labor, “other than being profoundly uncomfortable and pregnant,” Romero says.
RELATED: Calif. Mother of 2 Who Was on Her Second Surrogacy for Another Family Dies Giving Birth
She had been prescribed bed rest after doctors labeled her a high-risk pregnancy, Romero tells PEOPLE.
“She started the pregnancy fine and there was no trouble or anything, and then a couple months in, she got labeled a high-risk pregnancy in which they said you need to be on bed rest and everything,” he says. “So there was some indication going into it that it might not be as seamless.”
Romero adds, “She felt great and everybody was kind of like ‘Okay, let’s do this,’ and then, you know, it didn’t go that way.”
RELATED VIDEO: Granger Smith’s Son, River, 3, Died in a Drowning Accident at Home, Singer’s Rep Confirms
Once at the hospital, complications caused Michelle to lose a lot of blood, and doctors had to perform an emergency C-section to del