Whitney Bliesner and her twin sister, Jill Noe, have been teammates their entire lives. So it’s only fitting that Jill, a former Arizona State University basketball player, served as a surrogate for Whitney, who suffers from a rare disorder that makes pregnancy too risky.
Whitney, a medical coder, was born with neurofibromatosis type 2, which left her blind in one eye and partially deaf. Knowing there was a chance of passing the condition on to her offspring, Whitney felt she had two options: adoption or surrogacy but she and Pete couldn’t afford either. That’s when Jill, who is unmarried and hasn’t had children, stepped in. Donor eggs were combined with Pete’s sperm and the rest is history.
“When Jill said she wanted to carry a baby for me, I was in shock,” Whitney said. “I’m not a crier, but I was really emotional.”
After one failed round of IVF, Jill became pregnant with twins, and on June 7, Whitney, 34, and her husband, Pete, welcomed her son, Rhett, and daughter, Rhenley.
Early in the pregnancy, Whitney worried she might not feel a connection with her babies because she isn’t biologically related to them. But Whitney’s fears quickly disappeared. “Going through the process with my twin and being able to touch her growing belly helped,” Whitney explained to TODAY Parents. “During that final doctor’s appointment, it just came full force. I was like, ‘These are my babies.’”
“I got to sit right next to Jill’s head so I saw everything,” Whitney said. “When Rhett and Rhenley were finally out, I just felt this overwhelming sense of happiness and relief.”
Before Jill was wheeled into the operating room, Whitney asked if she was scared. “She kept saying, ‘Nope, I’m all good,’” Whitney said. “I think she was just focused on making me a mom. She knew how badly I wanted it.”
In a sweet twist, people have been commenting that Rhenley resembles Whitney. “The other day, my mom said, ‘You know, she looks a little bit like you. She has some of your attributes,’” Whitney added. “It’s strange, but guess I see it a little bit!’
Whitney was in the delivery room the entire time cheering Jill on as she underwent a C-section at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Oregon.
Whitney and Jill will celebrate their 35th birthday on Saturday. Whitney plans to keep it low-key this year. As she says: “I have everything I ever wanted.”