“Even when I was very young, I always saw myself with my own family, and having many kids,” he tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “As a little boy, I always felt that.”
So when he wed painter Derek Kaplan in 2013, the pair made plans to start a family. In 2015, the couple hired a surrogate, who became pregnant with twins, but she suffered a miscarriage during her first trimester.
The loss devastated Eklund. “I’m used to being able to pick up myself,” says the Swedish-born real-estate broker and Bravo star, 40. “But this time I just couldn’t. I was a mess.”
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A year later, they tried again — and that same surrogate became pregnant for a second time, but sadly miscarried once more.
“It was like the more I reached for it the less I seemed to be able to get there,” Eklund explains. “I built an entire career by being very pushy going after what I want, but I couldn’t control this.”
- Watch People Features: Fredrik Eklund– My Long Road to Fatherhood, available now, on PeopleTV. Go to PeopleTV.com, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite mobile or connected TV device.
After trying one final time with a new doctor and new surrogate, they got the news they were expecting twins. (Fredrik Jr. is Kaplan’s biological son and Milla is Eklund’s biological daughter.)
Still, nothing truly prepared the new dad for their birth on Nov. 28. “The first time I held Milla I blacked out,” he recalls. “It was so surreal and beautiful, to hear her little breaths and see her open her eyes, it was the happiest moment of my life.”
FROM PEOPLETV: Watch Jennifer Lopez Tear Up Remembering Her Twins Being Born
Now settling into life as a family of four, Eklund is cherishing every moment with his children.
“So many years and so many difficulties getting here,” he says. “We feel so lucky to have our little angels. It’s more than I could have ever wanted.”
Eklund stars in the new home renovation series Bethenny and Fredrik, which premieres Feb. 6 at 10 p.m. ET on Bravo.
For more from Fredrik Eklund, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.