ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. - A California woman who dreamed of having children but was told she would be unable to carry a child following a cancer diagnosis is a new mother of twins thanks to her sister, who served as a surrogate.
Maggie Paxton, now 32, received the life-changing news that she had breast cancer two years ago.
"I was 30 when I was diagnosed, and that's very young. And so if I can share my story and help somebody, then that's maybe why I was put through this in my life in the first place," she told KTLA in an interview.
But for Paxton, who very much wanted to become a mother, the news that she would be unable to carry a child without putting her own life at risk was even worse than the diagnosis.
"That was more devastating to me" Paxton recalled. "I feel like I'm put on this planet to be a mom."
At the time she was diagnosed with cancer, Paxton had been married to her husband Danny for just a year and a half. The two wanted to start a family, and refused to let the diagnosis end their dreams of parenthood.
Initially, the couple discussed adopting a baby before realizing surrogacy was an option. They successfully created several embryos prior to Paxton starting chemotherapy.
Paxton's sister, 33-year-old Morgan Williams, said she wanted to be the couple's surrogate.
"I wanted it to be me, selfishly," Williams said. "As an older sister, I want to protect her, but I can't protect her from cancer. So I kind of just stepped up and was like, 'OK, if this is what I can do, then I will do it.'"
And Williams did, becoming pregnant with twins.
The sisters are just 13 months apart. While they spent a lot of time together as children, Paxton and Williams say they got much closer as adults.
Their story caught the attention of Stevie Cruz, a local newborn photographer who wanted to capture their intense bond on camera and give the women memories to last a lifetime.
"It was almost like Maggie was a bit giddy. Like, it was just so exciting, and her dream of having a family is coming to fruition," Cruz said of the photo shoot.
The sisters know their situation is rare. Williams told KTLA she was often asked why she decided to become a surrogate for her sister.
"We've run into many sisters who have said I wouldn't do this for my sister," she said, explaining, "I know what it feels like to be pregnant, but I don't know what it feels like to be told I can't get pregnant."
"Knowing that once they're here -- not that it's not going to matter where they were -- but I will feel like they were with me the whole time. So, I think that gives me a little bit of closures of knowing that I'll never know what it's like ... to be pregnant," Paxton added.
Paxton's dream of motherhood came true last week when Williams gave birth to twin girls. The sisters say everyone is healthy.
Paxton is also now cancer free. She and Williams have discussed possibly doing this again in the future, they said.