“We tried to get pregnant for a good six months without luck. When it’s not working, you think, ‘Is there something wrong with me?’ ” the former Nashville star, 28, tells Fit Pregnancy and Baby for their December/January issue.
“I struggled with an eating disorder when I was younger. It was a big part of my life, and I was worried that I wasn’t getting pregnant because of some long-term damage from what I’d put my body through,” PenaVega admits. “Even though my doctor said I was healthy, I felt so guilty about it.”
Luckily, the mama-to-be came to terms with the feelings she was having, and is in a much better place as a result.
“It’s such an emotional ride, and you blame yourself for everything,” she says. “What brought me peace was my faith in knowing that it would happen when it was supposed to happen.”
Want all the latest pregnancy and birth announcements, plus celebrity mom blogs? Click here to get those and more in the PEOPLE Babies newsletter.
“I found there’s such a difference between having sex when you’re trying for a kid and when you aren’t,” the Spy Kids alum says. “For us, sex became so much more intimate, beautiful and passionate when we were trying. Suddenly the realization hits you: ‘Oh my God, we could be starting another life!’ That brought us so much closer.”
Of her husband, PenaVega says that even though she had a rough first trimester, she felt for him in other ways.
“I felt so bad for him because between the puking and exhaustion, I was just done,” she explains. “Carlos kept saying, ‘I can’t wait for that horny state to kick in.’ He hasn’t read any of the books, but he knew about the horny state!”
Fortunately for the former Big Time Rush member, 27, his wife’s libido is a little more back to normal now. “Now, in my third trimester, I’m finally getting riled up again,” she admits.
The moment PenaVega got a positive pregnancy test, she says, wasn’t the most romantic — but it was overwhelmingly exciting nonetheless.
“After a vacation, I took a pregnancy test and then tried not to look at it because I’d seen so many negative ones already. But this time it said ‘Pregnant,’ ” she recalls. “I just stared at myself in the mirror, and then I started pacing back and forth. Even though we wanted it for so long, I thought, ‘Oh my God, are we ready?’ ”
She continues, “Carlos was getting bags out of our car, and I ran outside and called him — not like ‘Babe!’ but more [guttural] like ‘Carlooooos!’ He looked up, and I blurted out, ‘I’m pregnant!’ There was nothing sweet or romantic about it. And he did not believe me. He literally started looking around for cameras.”
RELATED VIDEO: Carlos and Alexa PenaVega Are Having a Boy and Reveal the Name of Their Son!
“We were so convinced that we were having a girl that we picked out a name and called the baby that. Big mistake,” she confesses. “I’d focused on what I thought was a little girl in my tummy, and when the doctor told us it was a boy, I felt a little crushed, like she just disappeared.”
She continues, “Of course, now I’m so in love with my son that I’d feel robbed if it were a girl. But I wish I would’ve held off on allowing myself to get attached in the first place.”
PenaVega admits that feeling the connection to her little guy wasn’t instant, and that having that expectation led to a bit of a let-down that she was eventually able to get past.
“Women told me how connected they felt to their baby. I wanted to feel that way too, but I didn’t at first, and it was really getting me down,” she says. “We’d get the ultrasound pictures, and they just didn’t feel real. I even thought, ‘Could I have prenatal depression?’ ”
“But now, at 29 weeks, I finally get it,” she adds. “It wasn’t until I could really feel my son move that I understood what everyone else was talking about.”
The actress knows that having a rough idea in mind for Ocean’s birth is a good thing, but that being flexible depending on her baby’s — and her own body’s — plans is also important.
“I’d like to have a natural birth, but I don’t know how I’m going to feel on the actual day,” she says. “I might get an epidural after five minutes. That’s why I don’t want to have any birth plan set in stone. You never know how your body will react to labor.”
And although bonding with her unborn son took some time, PenaVega says having him as a part of her is a joy unlike anything she’s ever experienced.
“My baby is moving all the time; I wonder when he actually sleeps,” she muses. “I discovered I can play little games with him. He chases my hand around my belly: I push my hand on it, and he kicks it off. I wish I could explain how my heart feels when we play that.”