When Whitney Bliesner's twin sister Jill Noe told her she would be jealous if anyone else got to be her surrogate, she was incredibly moved.
"It still gives me goosebumps to this day," said Bliesner, who has a rare genetic disorder that would make pregnancy too risky.
Noe, a former women's basketball player for Arizona State University, is now 29 weeks pregnant with Bliesner's twins .
The sisters, who live near each other not far from Portland, Oregon, have always been close. Bliesner, 34, has NF2 (Neurofibromatosis type 2), a rare hereditary disease that makes a person susceptible to benign tumors that form along the nerves of the brain, spinal cord and other areas of the body.
The disease has resulted in her losing sight in her left eye, hearing in her right ear and partial hearing loss in her left ear. She underwent a partial hysterectomy for fibroids, knowing that carrying her own children could worsen her condition and that there was a chance of passing the disorder on to her offspring.
"I was trying to convince myself that I was OK with not having kids because there was no way I was going to afford adoption ," she told TODAY. "I got married to a wonderful man almost three years ago, and once I got married the feeling of wanting a family came back strong; so I decided to look at all my options and figure out how I could go about it."
Plan not-so-random acts of kindness. Kids need to know that helping others is an everyday practice, not a visit-a-soup-kitchen-at-the-holidays grand gesture. Challenge yours to complete small tasks every week, like throwing away another kid's trash at lunch or raking a neighbor's lawn. Training your children to focus on others helps curb entitlement. "Gratitude becomes woven into who they are," says Jeffrey J. Froh, a coauthor of Making Grateful Kids.
A doctor told Bliesner she could use a donor egg with her husband's sperm, but there was still no way she could afford the cost of a surrogate. That was when her twin sister stepped up.
It happened during a life-changing conversation in December of 2017. "I was talking to my sister while we did our annual stocking stuffers and she told me she would carry for me," Bliesner recalled.
Noe told TODAY that the decision to be a surrogate for her sister was a no-brainer.
"She’s always wanted to be a mom and her disease has already taken so much from her. I wasn’t going to allow (NF2) to take this opportunity from her, too. She’s my best friend and I know she would have done the same for me. I really didn’t put much thought into becoming a surrogate at all. It just felt like the right thing to do. Our family is so strong and so supportive of one another, especially since Whit’s diagnosis in 8th grade."
After one failed round of IVF, the pregnancy took. Since they transferred two embryos , Bliesner wasn't totally shocked to find out her sister was carrying twins , but she was extremely happy.
Make warm memories. Your children will probably not remember anything that you say to them, but they will recall the family rituals - like bedtimes and game night - that you do together.
"I am excited about having twins because I am a twin and I know what kind of bond my sister and I have so I wanted my kids to have that and go through life with a best friend they came into the world with just like me and Jill," she said.
The twins are due to make their arrival on June 6 via C-section and Bliesner and her husband, Pete, already have the names picked out for their boy and girl: Rhett and Rhenley.
Noe says since she's not ready to have a family of her own just yet, she'll be looking into having her eggs frozen for when the time comes. "My ultimate goal is to have kids in two to three years so that my children can grow up with Whit's," she said.
Bliesner says that the pregnancy has brought her and her sister even closer.
"Jill has been amazing during this whole process. She lets me ask her all these weird questions, lets me touch her stomach; and its just amazing because this is the closest I could get to actually having the babies inside me."