Pregnant in Potomac! 'RHOP' 's Ashley Darby Expecting Baby After Miscarriage

"I never imagined I'd feel this much love," Ashley Darby says

Ashley Darby is going to be a mom!

The Real Housewives of Potomac star, 30, is pregnant, PEOPLE can exclusively reveal.

“I’m so excited,” Ashley tells PEOPLE of her pregnancy. “When I used to hear people talk about having a child and the miracle of life inside you, I know that sounds great, but then to actually experience it? It’s the most all-encompassing feeling ever. I never imagined I’d feel this much love … it’s the pinnacle!”

Her happy news comes after a tough few years for her and her husband Michael Darby, 59, who have been married since May 2014 and dated for two years before walking down the aisle.

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Ashley Darby. Michael Darby

As RHOP fans know, they separated for six months between the show’s second and third season, amid a handful of arguments surrounding the running of their restaurant, Oz. Then, after a season of fighting over whether they wanted to have kids, she conceived — but lost the pregnancy in a miscarriage.

“It was such a traumatic experience,” Ashley says of the loss, which she first revealed at the season 3 reunion. “At the time, I didn’t fully understand the magnitude of how it would affect us as a couple and as individuals because we kind of thought it would be a given that we would just be able to have children. But it was challenging.”

Michael, who has two adult children from a previous marriage (ages 27 and 24), was a strong source of support for Ashley. “It was very impactful for him because he understands the feelings of being a dad,” Ashley says. “It was so new to me, but he could help me through that.”

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Though they each found their own ways to grieve — she turning to yoga and he to long bike rides — the experience brought them closer, Ashley says. “It did take a toll, but it really did bond us on another level, thankfully,” she revealed.

The couple wasn’t “actively or consciously trying” when Ashley conceived., though she says she had stopped drinking “to help my body prepare.”

“It was a surprise,” she recalls. “We found out in the beginning of November and I had just been healing out of it and I thought I was getting sick because of the change of season. I wasn’t feeling too well. Something just told me to take the test, really not expecting a positive result. And then lo and behold, there were two solid lines.”

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Of course, it didn’t take long for both to start crying when they learned the news.

“I’m not the most emotional person, but I shed some tears,” Ashley says. “And then Michael started crying. And Michael, who is a very stoic person, when he cries, I start balling. It was like a share of waterworks between the two of us!”

“It just was a blessing that was bestowed upon us,” Ashley adds. “And the way it happened was just a miracle.”

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So far, Ashley’s pregnancy has been smooth sailing, with a few cravings here and there (including fruit and McDonald’s french fries).

And five months in, the couple is still keeping the baby’s sex a mystery, even if that may change.

“We have the results in Michael’s desk drawer at work, but we might do a sex reveal, that’s still a toss up in the air,” Ashley says. “But for now, it’s just really hypothesizing if it’s going to be a boy or a girl based on the heartbeat, the shape of the belly, the condition of my skin — all those things that are supposed to be predictors of the baby’s sex.”

The two are also “going back and forth with names.”

“With an Australian man who tends to lean more towards the English side with his name choices, it’s very interesting,” Ashley jokes of Michael. “He wants it to be a Phillip or an Elizabeth or something very regal. It needs a little bit of culture in there!”

One thing they haven’t done? Told all of Ashley’s RHOP castmates (surprise!) — though Monique Samuels, who welcomed baby boy Chase in November, might suspect it.

“I was at Monique’s son Chris’ 6th birthday party over the weekend, and I had this natural desire to hold baby Chase,” Ashley says. “I love babies anyway, but it was almost amplified where I held the baby basically the whole time I was there. And then when he went to sleep, I left.”

Andy Cohen — who just became a dad for the first time with the birth of his son, Benjamin Allen — does know. Ashley discussed parenthood with him at his Bravo baby shower in January.

“Being at Andy’s baby shower a couple weeks ago, he and I were talking about it and to feel that mutual excitement was like a common bond we shared with each other,” Ashley gushes. “Sharing my experiences of becoming a mom, there was like this synergy we have with each other. It was really nice.”

“It definitely is the year of the baby,” she says. “Must be something in the waters.”

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