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 / Updated  / Source: TODAY
By Lisa Flam

To create their family of four, Mel and Vanessa Roy each became pregnant and gave birth about a year apart. When taking their keepsake photos, the couple had the sweet idea to stage them as almost mirror images of each other, posing for the same kiss on the beach and swapping outfits from the first to second pregnancy.

After their second child was born earlier this year, they put the photos side-by-side and posted them online to share with close family and friends. But after the pictures made their way to a Brazilian group’s Facebook page last week, the women were surprised to find themselves an Internet sensation.

Lesbian couple share being pregnant
This side-by-side split of the Roy family has gone viral. On the left, Mel and Vanessa (pregnant with Jax), while on the right, Mel (pregnant with Ero), Jax and Vanessa.Elizabeth Kern

The couple, who live in Charlotte, North Carolina, have now received messages and comments from near and far, from people gay and straight, who expressed support for gay parenthood. Some told the women the photos inspired them to come out as gay to their families or to decide to carry a child.

“It’s crazy to think such a small photo that’s special to us can be special to everybody else,” Vanessa told TODAY.

Lesbian couple share being pregnant
Mel (pregnant with Ero), Jax and Vanessa.Elizabeth Kern

The photos were taken in January of this year and in January, 2014, in Miami, where they used to live.

The photo on the left shows Vanessa pregnant with their son, Jax, who was born in March 2014, with Mel holding blue blooms. On the right is Mel pregnant with their daughter, Ero, who arrived in February, as Vanessa clutches pink flowers and Jax sits at their feet.

“We wanted to document our only pregnancy that we’re going to have,” Vanessa says.

They created reverse-image photos, wearing the same bikini top and black bottoms, with the goal of displaying the images together. “I thought it would be cute for us to put our pictures side-by-side,” Vanessa says.

Lesbian couple share being pregnant
Mel, Ero, Jax and Vanessa at Jax's 1st birthday party.Courtesy of Mel and Vanessa Roy

Mel, 25, and Vanessa, 28, who married in 2014, were passionate about each carrying a child, and Mel said having both been through pregnancy and childbirth drew them closer.

“It was amazing for us both to have gone through the same thing because we can share another part of our relationship that way,” she said. “We both were able to know what the other felt.”

Lesbian couple share being pregnant
Vanessa, Jax, Ero and Mel at Freedom Park in North Carolina.Courtesy of Mel and Vanessa Roy

Although they don’t know how their photos ended up the Brazilian Facebook page, they are happy they did.

Mel says she hopes they encourage gay people to consider becoming parents.

“Just because you’re in a relationship with someone of the same gender doesn’t mean you can’t have kids,” Mel said, adding that when she told her parents she was a lesbian, her mother said: “I still want grandkids.”

“I’ve always said I wanted to have kids,” she added. “To be able to continue a generation like that is amazing.”

She hopes their experience also will inspire lesbian women who might need encouragement to become mothers.

Lesbian couple share being pregnant
The Roy family on a trip in North Carolina.Courtesy of Mel and Vanessa Roy

“Specifically the more boyish of the women in the lesbian relationship,” Mel said, describing herself. “It’s rare to see a woman in that state want to carry a child. Usually it’s the more feminine one.”

Vanessa conceived first because she’s older. When Mel told her friends “I’m next,” she said, “they’re just in shock.”

For the couple, the photos of their pregnant bellies are “a symbol of us being comfortable in our skin and being who we are,” Vanessa says.

“Hopefully out of all of this, we get awareness and love for one another and to be yourself,” she says. “Hopefully it can give people that sort of confidence to be who they are regardless of what other people think.”

Lisa A. Flam, a regular contributor to TODAY.com, is a news and lifestyles reporter in New York. Follow her on Twitter.