On one of their first dates, Dr. Deidre Downs — who is the first openly gay Miss America and a fertility specialist — made a bold proclamation to her now-wife, Abbott Jones.
Downs “sort of joked that she was the only woman in Alabama who could get me pregnant,” Jones, 37, told The Post. “Because of what [she] does for a living.”
Downs, Miss America 2005, followed through with her promise. In late December, Jones learned she was pregnant with the couple’s first child, a girl who is due, appropriately, on Labor Day.
The Alabama native went to the University of Virginia on a full volleyball scholarship, but she quit the team to focus on her studies. Without her athletic funding, she entered the Miss Alabama pageant in hopes of earning scholarship money. She won in 2004, and unexpectedly found herself in the national spotlight when she was crowned Miss America that September.
The former beauty queen, now 40, recounted their successful IVF journey on this week’s episode of the “Pregnantish” podcast with Andrea Syrtash, revealing how they decided which of them would carry their first child and why she decided to come out publicly in 2018.
“If you went back and asked people who knew me as a child, I think they would have been shocked if you told them I was going to be Miss America,” Downs told The Post. “I wasn’t into the girly pageant stuff.”
But life had a few surprises in store for Downs, who married her college sweetheart, a man, with whom she has an 11-year-old son. During her OB-GYN residency, she started to feel distant from her spouse and went to counseling, where she realized she’s gay. The pair divorced and remain friends.
“It took a while for me to come to that realization of who I am and have the courage to be that person,” said Downs.
She described coming out to her family, friends and colleagues as “overwhelmingly positive,” and that her brother’s reaction was particularly funny.
Over dinner one night, she said she had to tell him something. “He was like, ‘You’re being all serious. What are you going to tell me? Are you a lesbian or something?’ I was like, ‘Well, actually yes.’ And he was like ‘OK, cool.’ He’s quite dry, so it was classic.”
Downs met Jones, an attorney, on Match.com, but she wasn’t out publicly yet, so she created a profile without photos under an alias. Jones, who was an online-dating novice on a seven-day free trial, was intrigued by their shared interests of music, restaurants and travel. She messaged Downs.
The couple, based in Birmingham, Ala., chatted online, and then Downs texted her future wife, coming clean about her real name and identity.
Jones didn’t respond right away. “I was freaking out with my girlfriends and couldn’t believe my luck, and neither could my friends, especially the ones who were online dating,” Jones recalled. “They were like, ‘I can’t believe you went on for seven days and met Miss America.’”
The pair immediately bonded over their love of Harry Potter and the Oxford comma. A year later, Downs proposed, and they were married in 2018, which served as Downs’ public coming out, with a story in People magazine.
“I was very nervous … But I got a lot of messages of encouragement and people saying ‘Thank you for doing this.’ It was really cool,” said Downs, adding that the Miss America organization was also supportive.
She and Jones also wanted a family. Initially they looked at reciprocal IVF, which means both partners go through egg retrieval. However, testing showed that Downs’ eggs weren’t in great shape. “Fortunately, Abbott’s were, so I have been on the sidelines,” she said.
Choosing a sperm donor took a few months.
“It becomes overwhelming, but it is entertaining. Some of the banks will give you a [donor who’s a] celebrity look-alike, which was amusing,” said Downs.
But Jones was after only one doppelganger: her wife.
“I will say when we were looking at donors,” Jones said, “my goal was to find someone as close to Deidre as possible. But when you marry Miss America who is a doctor, there’s not really anyone like her. So it was tough.”
Eventually, they found the right person. As an obstetrician and reproductive endocrinologist, Downs regularly performs the whole IVF process from start to finish. But her medical partner stepped in for Jones’ egg retrieval, because performing such an invasive procedure on a loved one isn’t considered appropriate in the medical community.
Downs, however, did transfer the embryo into Jones’ uterus, which is less invasive, on Dec. 18. And it appears she had the magic touch.
“We got our first, very faint, pink line on the at-home pregnancy test on Dec. 23,” said Jones. The couple told their families the good news on Christmas morning over Zoom. “Everyone was just jumping up and down and excited,” added Jones.
“I feel very fortunate. [Abbott] was fully prepared that it might take several tries,” said Downs, who added that it’s been strange to be on the patient side of IVF.
Now their families are awaiting the name reveal.
“Southern grandmothers need to monogram,” said Jones.
Downs added that her son is very excited to be a big brother.
Will she encourage her daughter to do pageants? “Since I was totally not into it [as a young girl], she will probably be so into it and everything will be pink. I will be fine if she wants to do it. It was a great experience for me.”
She hopes that sharing their pregnancy journey resonates just as much as her coming out.
“I hope people see there are many ways to build a family — if you are gay, straight, in a relationship or not in one,” said Downs. “There are many ways to make that happen.”