Monique Samuels never anticipated the outpouring of support and kindness that would come her way when she revealed that she had suffered a miscarriage.
The Real Housewives of Potomac star and mother of two opened up about the painful loss on an April episode of the hit Bravo series, filmed the prior year.
“When I first shared my story, I didn’t even realize how many people had experienced miscarriages before,” she tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week’s issue. “It was amazing to have that support and to realize that I wasn’t alone. And to show so many of these women too that they can get through this.”
Monique has since dropped the news that she and husband Chris Samuels are expecting another baby — due Dec. 3. But although Monique says she feels “blessed” to add another member to her family (joining daughter Milani, 3, and son Christopher, 5), the experience of her miscarriage has changed how she feels about her pregnancy.
“It kind of haunts you,” she admits. “The first times I was pregnant, it came so easily. I took that for granted. Now that I’m pregnant again, it’s almost like I second guess everything that I’m doing. Even with movement. I’m making sure I’m not moving too fast so I stretch my stomach. It’s something I didn’t think about with my first two pregnancies.”
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Adding to her fears was the fact that in week eight, doctors found two tears in Monique’s placenta that were causing subchorionic hemorrhages — a complication that could lead to pregnancy loss.
“It was very scary,” she recalls. “They say it’s not uncommon, but if the placenta detaches completely from the wall, you could lose the pregnancy [even if] the baby is healthy. … It just put more stress on the table. I was a week further along than I was in my last pregnancy. I thought I was past all that. Like, ‘Oh God, I don’t want [this] to happen again.’ “
Her doctor prescribed Monique plenty of rest, meaning no workouts, no chores and no sex. “I could not do anything at all,” she says. “He told me, ‘You just need to lay around.’ And that was hard because I’m such a busybody, I like to stay active. But I did what I was told.”
Followup ultrasounds weeks later showed that the tears had healed, though not completely. To be safe, Monique waited until she she was well out of her first trimester to start telling people, even her family. She finally made the public announcement at 16 weeks.
“We just wanted to be sure,” she says, adding that she’s been focusing on the good things to put the fear of miscarriage out of her mind. “I’m staying positive, staying encouraged, and trying to take it easy. I’m not trying to stress and making sure I eat right … I feel great.”
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The mom-to-be describes her baby on the way as “definitely an active little fetus” and is “already feeling jabs on the inside.” She beams, “I love those little flutters. And they’ll be full-fledged kicks too. It’s pretty magical.”
And though she hasn’t experienced any morning sickness, Monique has been feeling exhaustion throughout. “I tell Chris, his babies are greedy from the time they’re conceived,” she jokes. “You know how when you’re really hungry, you feel almost famished? Like, ‘I got to eat or else I’m going to pass out’? Well when I’m pregnant, I have that feeling the entire pregnancy.”
She explains, “Even when I eat, I still feel like I haven’t ate all day. It’s almost like the baby takes everything from me. They literally leave nothing for me! That feeling of not being satisfied with my appetite makes it even worse.”
All in all, Monique says the experience has changed the way she looks at her pregnancy.
“I appreciate it way more because I realize some of the things that could happen down the road if you were going to lose or miscarry again,” she says. “It definitely taught me to value the experience of being pregnant even more than before.”
As for the possibility of baby No. 4, Monique says she and Chris will “cross that road after this one’s out of me.”
“This just happened — we weren’t really trying again,” Monique says. “I did acupuncture for hormonal balance and increased fertility after my miscarriage but my hormones were totally thrown off from losing the pregnancy, so it was a complete shock when I found out.”
She continues, “It’s a great surprise and Chris is like, ‘Well, I want more kids.’ But those 13 weeks of just having zero energy were torture. I felt, like, good for nothing. We’ll see if I can do it again.”
The Real Housewives of Potomac airs Sundays at 8 p.m. EST on Bravo.
For more from Monique Samuels, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.