'I Couldn't See the Light': Gretchen Rossi's Long Road to Motherhood
"The Real Housewives of Orange County" alum Gretchen Rossi, 42, sat down with Giddy's Marisa Sullivan in Laguna Beach, California, to share her incredible—and painful—journey to motherhood.
It started with a round of IVF, resulting in the loss of 14 embryos. With IVF not working, Rossi and her partner, Slade Smiley, 47, decided it was time for a vasectomy reversal.
Rossi, who now has a 2-year-old girl with Smiley, had learned about his vasectomy before they decided to have a child together.
"So I actually knew about Slade's vasectomy very early on, because, obviously, we started having sex—unprotected sex—and I was like, 'I need to know what's going on here,' because we weren't married…and I was like, 'What's the situation?'" Rossi said.
In this exclusive interview, the former reality-TV star outlines her struggles with infertility and the steps she and her partner took to finally conceive, including a vasectomy reversal and IVF.
Smiley's former partner had suffered multiple miscarriages, and when his son, Grayson, 21, was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer at age 6, they thought the vasectomy was "the responsible thing to do," fearing that they were not producing healthy children together.
Then Slade met Gretchen, who didn't have any children of her own at the time and had dreamed of becoming a mother. When the couple's first round of IVF was unfruitful, he scheduled the vasectomy reversal.
"It was a five-and-a-half-hour surgery, 12-week recovery," Rossi said of the "painful" process. She urges men to really be sure they do not want to have another child before having a vasectomy, since having the reversal can be excruciating. Smiley had two "massive" scars on either side of his pelvis and had to abstain from sex for weeks following the operation.
"Thank god it all healed okay," Rossi said, admitting that she felt horrible about what he had to go through. "It's a complicated surgery."
They had to go for checkups every few months to see if the surgery was a success, but no sperm were showing up.
After 14 lost embryos, a vasectomy reversal and three more rounds of IVF, Rossi and Smiley finally held Skylar Gray in their arms.
Doctors weren't so hopeful, telling the couple, "At this point, if the sperm is not showing up, it's just never going to show up." Rossi said she started "bawling crying" when she heard those words, trying to come to terms with the fact that she might never have a biological child.
"It was a really sad realization," Rossi—who was 39 at the time—expressed. "I just cried and cried and cried and cried…. I just couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel."
Rossi, however, was not giving up. The couple went through three more rounds of IVF before their long-awaited baby girl arrived on July 10, 2019. After 14 lost embryos, a vasectomy reversal and three more rounds of IVF, Rossi and Smiley finally held Skylar Gray in their arms.
Because of this traumatic experience, Rossi—a supporter of the LifeVac first-aid device for children —urges women to freeze their eggs when they're in their 20s, well before they may be doing any sort of family planning.
It's also important to know that there are many resources out there, Rossi said, and many organizations that can help educate women about the physical, emotional and financial aspects of the process. Talking to a doctor is a good first step.