By Natalie Stone
December 17, 2018 at 11:54 PM EST

Gretchen Rossi is going to be a mom!

The Real Housewives of Orange County alum is pregnant and expecting her first child with longtime partner Slade Smiley, they announced on The Doctors Monday.

“It’s pretty exciting that we have our little Christmas miracle,” Rossi, 41, tells PEOPLE.

“It’s been a little bit harder than I definitely anticipated,” Rossi says of her pregnancy symptoms. “I think they lie to you when they tell you you’re gonna get morning sickness. They lie to you — it’s all day sickness! But the good news is that my doctor told me that’s actually a good sign.”

While the engaged couple is over the moon to welcome a baby into the world — they’re due in July 2019 — it’s been a long road to motherhood for the former Bravo personality and Smiley, who will be celebrating 10 years together in February.

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The couple first decided to purse in vitro fertilization (IVF) about four years ago, years after Smiley’s vasectomy.

“We knew that we had to go through IVF in order to get pregnant,” Rossi says. “We went through a round of IVF and in that round we had 14 embryos that came out of that. We were so excited and just beyond ecstatic about the results.”

But about six hours before they were going to implant, the pair received a phone call from the doctor “saying that all of the embryos had arrested and basically died.”

“We were just beyond devastated. I couldn’t even get out of bed because you just go from such a high thinking within the next 24 hours you were going to be pregnant to losing everything and losing 14 embryos. That was really, really hard for me and Slade to come out of that,” Rossi says.

“I was in a deep depression after that. I’ve never really suffered through that or been in that circumstance before. We all get sad at times, but I really went into a depression and I couldn’t even think about or talk about IVF or trying to get pregnant again because physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, spiritually, it just breaks you.”

For Rossi’s 38th birthday, Smiley had scheduled a vasectomy reversal, which he underwent at the end of 2016. “It was so sweet, it was so kind. He had already done one surgery for us, but now he’s going in for a second surgery,” says Rossi.

The “doctor was very excited about the results,” Rossi shares, but after 18 months of trying to get pregnant, “unfortunately, that didn’t work for us.”

“It is very challenging for them to be able to go in and actually find success in the reversals. That’s ultimately why we decided to go forward with IVF first because the success rate on the reversal was a lot lower,” says Smiley, who has two sons — Gavin and Grayson — from previous relationships.

“Gretchen was allergic to some of the injections and we had a really hard time with the round, I didn’t think it was fair that she was having to go through everything on her own.”

Not losing hope, Rossi and Smiley “decided to go back to IVF and we decided to try a different doctor and a different facility,” says Rossi.

Admits Rossi, “I was scared. I was a 40-year-old woman going back in to try IVF. We went through two more rounds of IVF and we did not have the same amount of eggs and the same amount of embryos as we did the first round four years earlier. It was scary to sit there and think, ‘Oh my gosh, I retrieved 10 eggs.’ But out of 10 eggs, you only got one good embryo — one genetically sound embryo. And then the second round, the same thing happened. We only got two genetically sound embryos out of all of our rounds, so it was very nerve-racking going into this implantation because it was like, you only get two shots at this.”

Around the time of Smiley’s 50th birthday, Rossi underwent the implantation, and in November, the two learned the happy news that they’re expecting.

While the road to pregnancy hasn’t been easy for the duo, the journey has strengthened their bond.

“There’s been a roller coaster of emotions through this and I don’t want to pretend, especially for all the couples out there going through this, it’s not an easy journey — it really is not. Yes, we have definitely grown through this, thank goodness,” says Rossi, who is 10 weeks along.

She adds, “Now we have realized how much closer we’ve come through this process. When you’re having your partner having to shoot you in the ass every morning with the needle and when you’re going through as many shots as you’re going through and mood swings and the ups and the downs and just everything, it definitely bonds you together and brings you back together.”

They’re also grateful for the community that has been created as a result of sharing the ins and outs of their IVF journey with their fans.

“I have to commend Gretchen and I try to as often as possible because this is not an easy topic to discuss or share. She’s been very open and honest about that journey since the very beginning,” says Smiley.

He shares, “We’re hoping that this conversation begins a means of helping other people educate themselves and find the support system that they need to find their own success in IVF.”

Adds mom-to-be Rossi: “I’ve decided just to be really raw and real with my videos and just show the true emotions that one goes through on this journey. I’m so glad I decided to do that even though it was nerve-racking at the beginning because I’ve had so many people reach out and say, ‘You’ve helped me so much with my journey.’ It’s been great to be able to do that for people.”

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