"Finding out I was finally pregnant was something we'll never forget" – meet same-sex parents Zoe and Casey Evans
They were only teenagers when they first met in secondary school in their hometown of Waterford – and little did Zoe and Casey Evans know back then that one day they would be married and the proud parents of a beautiful little girl.
"We first knew each other from school, but Casey was two years ahead of me, and it wasn't until she was finished and had left school that we actually realised we had feelings for each other and got together," says Zoe about her wife.
"We are together for seven years now. We actually got engaged after just nine months together, but ended up having a four-year engagement and only got married back in 2019. It was the most amazing day. The atmosphere was just something else, I'll never forget it!"
Today, two years after their dream wedding and with the help of ReproMed, the couple are the proud parents of 11-month-olf Ivy, and have another baby on the way, as Zoe is currently pregnant again.
In honour of Pride Month, we recently caught up with Zoe to hear all about the highs, lows and surprising revelations on her and Casey's road to parenthood – and just how the heck you go about picking the perfect sperm donor from a database filled with thousands of them.
HF: Did you always know you wanted a family?
The strange part is that I personally never wanted to get married or have kids, because I just thought it would be too complicated. But when I met Casey, that all changed fairly quickly!
HF: How long were you married before you decided to start a family together?
We actually decided to start trying for our family six months before we got married, and did one cycle of IUI – which failed. And so after the wedding and our honeymoon, we said we'd try again. We had to wait three months after our honeymoon to try again, actually, because we had been to the Dominican Republic, and it's recommended to wait this long because of the risk regarding Zika virus when visiting certain countries, including the Dominican Republic.
HF: What was the process of getting pregnant like?
The ReproMed clinic was great to deal with, the nurses are amazing, and you build up a nice relationship with these people, that are there to help you to do something amazing.
However, the process was definitely longer than expected, and it can be draining both physically and mentally. We didn't really know what to expect as we didn't know of anyone who had gone through this before, but we learned quickly and we got through it. The extra hormones from the injections was definitely a lot harder than we both expected.
HF: How did you select and sperm donor and what was this whole process like?
We were given the name of two websites to choose from. Once you're set up on these, you basically refine your search to what you are looking for.
For example, you can pick blonde hair, blue eyes and refine to this and you will get lots of options to choose from. You don't actually get to see the donors as adults, or know their real names, but you get to see three pictures of them as children – a newborn photo, a photo from around then they are a year old, and, lastly, a toddler photo.
Once you narrow these people down to five in order of whom you would like the most, the clinic narrows it down to who would suit you best. And then you go ahead and order your sperm and simply wait for the call that it has arrived in the lab.
HF: Can the donor be traced and contacted later if any of you – or your child – so wish, or was the donor anonymous?
We used an open donor. This means that when our child is old enough, if she wants to find out who he is, she can. By choosing an open donor, it also meant that both myself and Casey could go on our daughter's birth certificate and be equally recognized as her parents.
HF: What was going through assisted reproduction like?
The process we went through was called Intrauterine Insemination – or for short, an IUI.
And while eventually successful, the whole process was definitely longer and tougher than we expected. We had thought because I was young it would happen straight away and it was as easy as that. Unfortunately, it's not always that straightforward, and we had to learn that quickly.
HF: Anything you wish you had known prior to starting the treatment?
I would have loved to have known of someone who went through a similar situation to us but unfortunately, we didn't so we hadn't a clue what to expect. I didn't think it would be such a hard journey to go through mentally and emotionally.
HF: How was it to find out you were expecting?
Finding out I was finally pregnant was something we'll never forget. It was our 3rd cycle of IUI and after it failing twice already, we didn't have high hopes.
After the third attempt, I was convinced I wasn't pregnant again. The clinic uses a patient portal to send messages back and forth, and so I asked the nurse to just message me my results this time because it was another fail I knew I'd be even more devastated than the last time. But when I signed in, the first thing I saw was 'Congratulations!'
I don't think I ever cried so much in my life. Casey was at work, so I had to call her to tell her, but I would have loved to see her face. Our families knew we had been trying for a while and were all patiently waiting for updates. And so it was amazing to finally be able to share our happy news – and some happy tears.
Casey absolutely couldn't wait to find out if we were having a boy or a girl, so we went for a gender scan at 16 weeks. She was hoping for a boy and I was dying for a little girl – not that it would have mattered anyway once the baby was healthy. At the scan, we were both delighted to find out it was a girl– the shopping for little girls is endless!
HF: How was your pregnancy?
I loved every bit of my pregnancy. The first trimester was definitely hard, between the nausea and the tiredness, but once that passed I just embraced every minute of it. I just appreciated it so much, every kick and every movement, they meant the world to me.
I did have gestational diabetes but it was managed well so I couldn't complain. And Casey was the best help to me when I was pregnant.
HF: Deciding to grow your family – how soon did you know you wanted another one?
I think Ivy was three months old when we started talking about it. We knew we wanted them close together, and no more than 2 years apart, so we decided if I was pregnant around the time she was one, or a little bit after, that would be perfect. However, we definitely didn't think the second time around would happen so quickly for us, simply because it took a bit of trying the first time around – but we were so lucky that our first cycle of IUI this time worked.
HF: Why did you go for the same sperm donor again?
The donor we picked had a lot of characteristics similar to Casey, and in baby pictures, him and Casey were the image of each other, so to us, he was the perfect choice. And we also wanted all our children to have the same DNA – no matter which one of us gets pregnant.
HF: Were there any differences to the process of getting pregnant the second time around?
There were a few differences, but nothing massive. Because it was so soon after having Ivy, we got to skip a few steps. We just had to have a quick meeting with the doctor, had a scan and some blood tests done, and we could start.
However, because of Covid restrictions, I had to attend all my appointments alone, which was definitely different, but we managed. And also, paperwork was a bit different this time too, as everything was updated to suit new laws with regards to same-sex couples.
HF: How are you feeling now?
I'm grand, just a bit tired, I'm just at the end of the first trimester now, which is definitely harder with an 11-month-old to run around after. But other than tiredness I can't complain.
HF: When are you due?
I'm due at the start of January next year, so hopefully it'll fly in!