October 11, 2010 12:00 PM

Giuliana and Bill Rancic have long had a personal credo: “We really believe that whatever we put our minds to, we can achieve,” says Giuliana. And between her job with E! News, his motivational speaking gigs, appearances on The Apprentice (which he won in 2004) and their Style Network reality show, Giuliana & Bill, all signs indicated that their theory held true. Yet when the pair decided to try for a baby two years ago, “it seemed like the one thing we couldn’t do,” says Giuliana, 36. “But we weren’t going to give up.”

In March, the couple turned to in vitro fertilization (IVF). Their first try was a success, and the ecstatic couple, who wed in 2007, let cameras for their reality show follow while Giuliana went to checkups and Bill, 39, purchased a large house in a Chicago suburb, “in case it was twins,” he says, and painted rooms yellow “to work for a boy or a girl.”

But just nine weeks later, their plans came to a halt. At a routine ultrasound, “we went in and I could just tell something was wrong,” says Giuliana. “There was no flutter where the heartbeat should be. The nurse was looking and looking. She said, ‘Um, I’ll be right back,’ and I just burst into tears.” After an agonizing wait, their worst fears were confirmed: Giuliana had miscarried. “Both of us were in shock. Failure wasn’t an option!” Bill says. His wife crumbled. “I was done,” she says, breaking down into sobs. “I said, ‘I’m not doing it again, I can’t.’ I was angry at life and angry at God. Our dreams were coming true, and then we’re supposed to start all over again?”

After the fetus was tested, they learned that their miscarriage was one of more than 75 percent caused by a certain chromosomal abnormality. “You can’t see abnormalities when you implant the embryos, but the body knows, and it miscarries naturally,” says their fertility specialist, Dr. Brian Kaplan. “While more mature eggs can be particularly susceptible to this, it’s a random event and it’s not preventable.”

With that in mind, the pair made the decision to speak out about the ordeal-and air footage of their experience when their reality show returns on Oct. 11. The first episode will show their joy at learning Giuliana is pregnant-“We’re not sure yet if we can watch that; it might be too painful,” says Bill-while the next will detail their sorrow. “It’s such a taboo subject, but this is a very common problem,” Giuliana says, noting that miscarriage rates climb from 10 to 20 percent by age 35. “Hopefully we can help people understand that there’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

Keeping quiet was never really an option for the pair, who documented their desire to get pregnant on-air last season. Still, Giuliana admits, it was difficult to feel judged by viewers, especially after she revealed she had gained 7 lbs. on doctor’s orders so that she could menstruate more regularly. “People were saying, ‘You can’t get pregnant? Eat a sandwich,'” Giuliana recalls. “That really oversimplifies it.” Ultimately, the primary issue turned out to be age. “At 35, I was considered an older woman. At 28, I don’t think I’d have had a problem,” she says.

When the couple learned that IVF had worked, “we were thrilled,” says Bill. “We went full-throttle. We never thought anything would happen.” The notion of keeping the news to themselves “lasted about an hour,” he laughs. “We were on the phone with everyone under the sun.”

But after their loss, Giuliana had to hide her pain, putting on a brave face while reporting stories that were often about pregnant stars. Grateful that she at least hadn’t told her coworkers she was expecting, Giuliana recalls, “We’d do hair and makeup an hour before shooting, and I would tell myself, ‘Just don’t cry. If you smear your makeup, they’ll know something’s wrong.'” After takes, she’d lock the door of her office and sob to Bill on the phone.

Ultimately, Giuliana voiced a fear that had been weighing heavily on her. “I thought, ‘Does Bill wish he’d married a 25-year-old girl with younger eggs? Is he disappointed in me?'” she says, blotting tears. Bill is quick to cut her off. “That was ludicrous,” he says heatedly. “We’re in this together.” Clenching his jaw to hold back tears, he adds, “We’re either going to win together or lose together, but we’re together.”

Sharing the news with family helped relieve the pain. Both Giuliana’s mother and Bill’s sister confessed that they’d each had miscarriages. “It’s amazing how much people hide it,” says Giuliana. “They feel like, ‘What did I do wrong?’ But in so many cases, you didn’t do anything at all.”

Reassured by their doctor that Giuliana could get pregnant with no greater chance of miscarrying a second time, the couple have tried IVF again. This time they’re taking a cautious, but optimistic, approach. “Mentally, it’s a little easier now. You know what you have to go through,” says Giuliana. “We should know by Thanksgiving.”

And if it doesn’t work? They’ll try IVF again, grateful they can afford the $15,000 price tag, and consider surrogacy or adoption. “How you have a child doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, you have a baby,” says Giuliana. “We know God has a plan for us.”

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