Brigitte Nielsen says that becoming a new mom again at age 54 makes her feel “young” inside, but the reality is that motherhood for the fifth time was more than a little more difficult due to her advanced maternal age.
Now 55, the actress opens up in this week’s issue of PEOPLE about her grueling journey toward welcoming her daughter Frida, whom she gave birth to on June 22 after more than 10 years of undergoing in vitro fertilization treatment.
“It is such a long road,” says Nielsen, who announced her pregnancy via her Twitter and Instagram accounts in May. “What I want women to know is that everything is possible, but you have to be realistic.”
Nielsen says that soon after meeting her husband Mattia Dessi, she started planning for their future together by freezing her eggs at age 40. “If you don’t want to use [donor] eggs, you have to preserve your own eggs at a reasonable age for there to be a possibility,” she says. “I wouldn’t even bother trying after age 42.”
Still, that’s no guarantee it will work. Doctors gave Nielsen an incredibly slim chance of conceiving with her own eggs — around three to four percent.
“There is a huge disappointment,” says Nielsen of undergoing the IVF process. “If you do IVF, 80 percent of the time, it doesn’t work. It’s that phone call going, ‘It’s negative.’ It’s the waiting. It’s a lot. It’s a big, big journey.”
Nielsen adds, “Another thing is it is expensive. It doesn’t come easy or cheap if you do it my way. I want people to know that.””
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But the former actress and model, who is now sober, says she learned everything she could about the process and became an expert along the way, which helped ease her disappointment each time it didn’t work.
“You want to be in good hands,” she adds. “You don’t want to just go with some doctor. Be careful with who you choose and [make sure you have] a good relationship there, someone you can talk to. Do you feel protected? … Study what you’re doing with your own body. I read so much. I could probably work in an IVF clinic right now.”
The Beverly Hills Cop II star adds that it was often times an isolating journey.
“I think at times you can feel lonely, because a lot of women don’t talk to each other about it. We should hold hands because there’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a baby whether you’re 20, you’re 30, you’re 40 or, in my case, 50,” Nielsen says.
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Nielsen — also mom to sons Raoul Meyer Jr., 23, Douglas Meyer, 25, Killian Gastineau, 28, and Julian Winding, 34 — has one other big message for women: “Never give up” if motherhood is something they really want.
“Some women think, ‘Oh my God, I’m too old.’ Well, yeah, I can understand people saying, ‘How dare she?'” Nielsen says of her critics. “But how many men have their first kids in their 60s and 70s and they never doubt it?”
“Do I understand that [people] are a bit skeptical? Yes, I understand. I also totally respect the fact that not everybody likes it and agrees with it, but it is my life,” Nielsen continues of she and her husband Dessi, 15 years her junior.
“It [is] his first baby and we are very much in love. We are very happy,” she adds of her 12-year marriage to Dessi. “We have a solid relationship. We are celebrating, or we have already — 14 years together.”
As a mother of four grown boys, Nielsen also admits she “always wanted that girl,” and that the difficult hurdles she had to overcome to get there were “all so worth it.” She says, “She’s healthy, she’s beautiful.”
“I totally, totally beat the odds. There’s a 3 to 4 percent chance of these things happening,” the new mom tells PEOPLE. “Well, of course, this 3 to 4 percent does happen with somebody — and I was [that person].”
For exclusive photos and more on Brigitte Nielsen’s story, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.