Born 13 months apart, Morgan Williams and her sister Maggie Paxton grew up very close.
They became closer after Paxton got a diagnosis of an aggressive breast cancer two years ago, and closer still as Williams prepares to give birth to Paxton's twin girls.
Big sister volunteered to serve as a gestational surrogate after Paxton's oncologist advised her that her hormone-fueled invasive ductal carcinoma could return if she became pregnant.
"That was way worse than finding out that I had cancer," said Paxton, who was 30 at the time and had been trying to conceive. "It was that unknown of 'are we going to adopt, am I ever going to be a mom?' With the cancer, I knew I'm going to do chemo, I'm going to have surgery."
Williams, 33, a single mum to a 9-year-old daughter, immediately offered to carry a child for her sister.
"I just said to her, 'I'll do it. Don't worry about it. Let's just focus on getting you healthy,'" Williams said. "All my life I've always been the older sister, the protector, looking out for her."
Paxton, 32, saw a fertility doctor and underwent egg retrieval four days before starting six rounds of chemotherapy. A double mastectomy then followed.
The following summer, in June 2016, two embryos created from Paxton's eggs and sperm from her husband, Danny, were transferred into Williams. Money from family and fundraisers by friends helped pay for the fertility and surrogacy costs.
When the twins arrive, they will be named Emery Layne and Deeanna Nicole.
Paxton said she has recovered from her treatment and is in remission.
"I feel fine," she said. "I have mild side effects from the hormone blockers that I'm on.
"Or sympathy pains for me," Williams said.
As the sisters, both of whom live in Whittier, sat next to each other recently, Williams pulled Paxton's hand to her belly once she felt the babies move.
"It's kind of become a joke. Sometimes I tell her, 'Your kids are driving me crazy,'" Williams said. "They're going to be in a time out when they come out because they're keeping me up all night."
Paxton said she's worried about seeing her sister go through the pain of labor, recalling her experience in the delivery room when her niece was born.
Williams said she's excited to carry the babies. She said she's not worried about the postnatal emotions of giving birth to babies that she won't take home.
"I'm excited to see my sister become a mum and to watch her in this adventure," she said. "I don't think I'm going to have that big of an issue because I'm going to see them and I'm going to be pumping and they need their milk."
The sisters have decorated the babies' nursery together, shopped for maternity clothes and attended four baby showers, including one where Paxton surprised Williams by asking guests to bring gifts for her instead of the twins.
"I wanted her to feel special in that moment," Paxton said.
Williams said she feels fulfilled knowing her sister and brother-in-law will have a family. She even volunteered to do it again.
"We've always been close," Paxton said. "I didn't think it would be possible to be closer, and then this happened."
The Orange County Register