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By peoplestaff225
Updated January 16, 2009 07:00 PM
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It was 2 a.m. as Niki Taylor squinted under the dim light in her bathroom, hoping yet again for the two pink lines indicating “positive” on her latest pregnancy test.

For almost 18 months, the 33-year-old model and her new husband, race car driver Burney Lamar, 28, had been trying to conceive, only to be met with brutal disappointment. “Every month it wasn’t happening,” she recalls. “I was feeling more frantic. I needed to stop thinking about it — everybody was telling me this, including my doctor. I was so frustrated and worried.”

She and Burney each underwent testing — including having dye shot through her fallopian tubes to ensure that they were clear. Niki’s ob/gyn assured the couple that both were fine, and asked them to continue to try for another year.

“I just decided, ‘Whatever,'” the model says. “Clomid was going to be the next thing we tried, in a year. I talked about it with [my manager] and she said, ‘Women were made to have babies. You are still producing eggs. You need to relax. Everything has checked out.'”

Taking her advice, Niki tried her best to re-focus. She began eating and sleeping better, working out and lowering her stress level. Then, she realized “something just felt different” and the model reached for that early morning pregnancy test.

Read Niki’s story and see more photos below.

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Against all odds, Niki and Burney are now readying themselves for their first baby, a daughter due the first week of March. It’s only the latest example of Niki — who found fame at 17 as a Cover Girl model and last year hosted the Bravo reality show Make Me a Supermodel — defying medical expectations: In 2001, she spent six weeks in a coma after a near-fatal car accident that required more than 50 surgeries and procedures to rebuild her shattered body. “It is truly a miracle that pregnancy is possible for a woman who has been through so much,” says her Nashville-based ob/gyn, Roseann Maikis.

A baby is something Niki — who had identical twin sons Jake and Hunter, 14, with her ex-husband, Arena football player Matt Martinez — has longed for since marrying Burney in December 2006.

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By the end of the first date, “we knew we wanted to be together forever,” Niki says; a few days later they tattooed the date (8-15-06) on their ankles. Even that wasn’t permanent enough. “I wanted to put a ring on that finger,” Burney says with a laugh. Adds Niki: “I wanted to be pregnant on my honeymoon!”

Yet Niki knew that given her complicated health background, conceiving a child might be difficult. Having delivered her twins vaginally in December 1994 after being induced, Niki received the prescription painkiller Percocet to aid in her recovery. “I was 19. I was like, ‘I am woman, hear me roar. I can pop them out.’ I went past my due date, and it took a long time. I was in labor until the next day. They did not want to come out,” she recalls.

Although her body healed, Niki was still struggling emotionally. “I tried to breastfeed, but that was a whole other obstacle. I was trying to feed two. They didn’t have electric pumps back then, and I was pumping manually. My biceps got really strong,” she jokes.

More seriously, “I [nursed] for two or three months and then I couldn’t anymore.” With the help of her parents and a nanny, teenage Niki attempted to balance parenting with a return to modeling. “You are supposed to support the family, pay the bills. It was a lot of work,” Niki remembers. “It was emotionally draining, it was physically draining.”

Following the 1995 death of her beloved younger sister Krissy, then 17, from an undiagnosed heart condition and the subsequent break up of her marriage after only two years, Niki began abusing Percocet, first given to her after her boys’ birth. “Everything had started to hit me,” she explains, “and I found someone who would give me Percocet whenever I wanted. I couldn’t do anything without it.”

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A two-month stint in rehab left Niki feeling “good and clean” for the next two years or so. Then, in 2001, she was a passenger in a car that collided with a utility pole on a rainy Atlanta street.

The accident left Niki in a coma, with a lacerated liver and massive internal bleeding; doctors had to rebuild her back by implanting two steel rods to hold her spine together. But Niki says the years of physical trauma had a silver lining: “Now when something difficult comes my way, I can handle it.”

She will need that confidence in the delivery room: Because multiple surgeries left layers of scar tissue across her abdomen, if it becomes necessary to deliver via c-section, doctors may have trouble getting the baby out. (Dr. Maikis has been running tests to evaluate how best to perform such a procedure, including if a vertical or horizontal incision would be best.) “If the baby is breech and I have to have a c-section, I will need to be completely under,” Niki explains.

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In addition, because her spine’s steel rods “are right in the area you would go in for an epidural,” Niki will have to deliver her daughter totally naturally — something she didn’t do the first time around.

Still, she remains optimistic. “You know what? I had the worst pain I could imagine after the accident and surgeries,” she says. “I can do natural childbirth! So many people have been encouraging me … and I’m feeling really strong and optimistic about it. ”

Besides, Niki prefers to focus on the more fun aspects of expecting, like turning an office in her and Burney’s four-bedroom French colonial home in Brentwood, Tenn., into a nursery. And every night, Niki attaches a little drum-beat machine around her waist, then sits back and giggles as her daughter kicks.

“I am just really enjoying getting ready for the baby we have wanted so much,” she says. “I am a very blessed girl.”

Source: PEOPLE, January 19th issue, with excerpts exclusive to CBB

— Alicia Dennis