The spouses, who are currently expecting a son, opened up to PEOPLE for this week’s issue about their long, difficult journey toward giving their 5½-year-old daughter Sebella Rose a sibling through the process of in vitro fertilization.
“We tried [to conceive naturally] for at least three years [before Sebi] and it was a shock,” says Devious Maids star Sanchez, 44. “I have four siblings … my mom is very fertile. I knew that I had endometriosis, but with me, it wasn’t an indication that I was going to have a problem with conceiving because my tubes were clean and my ovaries were clean. It was devastating.”
“All your life you avoid having children and when you want to have children, it’s so difficult when you leave it for late,” adds the second-time mom-to-be, who tells PEOPLE she and Winter, 41, didn’t start trying to have a baby until she was in her mid 30s.
Agrees the Witches of East End actor, “You spend your whole young part of your life going, ‘Okay, don’t get someone pregnant — don’t get someone pregnant.’ And then when it’s like, ‘All right, let’s get pregnant,’ you’re like, ‘Please get pregnant, please get pregnant.’ “
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Sanchez explains that the process toward conceiving Sebella and her soon-to-arrive brother was “pretty intense and pretty brutal,” beginning when she was about 38.
“We did artificial insemination. We’ve done the IVF,” she says. “[Sometimes], even though I did my whole cycle of shots and I got my eggs, my body would just go haywire. And we didn’t time it properly and I would ovulate, so the whole cycle was lost.”
“But out of six or seven, two took, which is Sebella and her twin. We lost [the other baby] very early on,” she continues. “Then this [pregnancy] we thought twins because my levels came back incredibly high. But to our surprise, it’s just one baby boy.”
“We put in multiple embryos and the doctor basically said, ‘Look, even with multiple embryos, you have less than 15 percent chance of getting pregnant,’ ” Winter adds. “If anyone told you you had a 15 percent chance at anything, you would never believe it.”
Says Sanchez, “It’s been up and down … the journey to conceive [our son] started two years ago, and I have been basically pumping my body with hormones for six years on and off.”
For the expectant mom, there was a lot riding on the IVF round that led to her current pregnancy. “I knew it was going to be my last attempt because [of] my age,” she says. “If it didn’t work, then it was over — we were going to have to consider either adoption or maybe just [Sebella was] going to be an only child.”
But there was a moment of clarity and hope for Sanchez — which came at the time of embryo transfer — that eventually gave her her soon-to-arrive son: “I remember the last thing the doctor said to me was, ‘Remember, it’s going to be 5 to 15 percent [chance].’ I remember for a second looking at him and I said, ‘Yeah, he doesn’t know that I have God’s favor.’ “
“Even though [I’m] 44, I don’t feel like I’m 44,” Sanchez says. “I take care of my body, I’m very clean, I’m very healthy. It’s brutal, mentally and emotionally, when you go, ‘Why is this happening to me when I take care of myself? What do you mean my eggs are not viable anymore?’ ”
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Though it’s been a long and challenging road for the couple, they can’t wait to welcome their little boy to the family. But if the actress and children’s book author could impart any wisdom on those around her from her experiences, she’d want to expand the educational resources available to women from a young age — and advise them not to wait too long to have kids.
“I just wish that [conversations about fertility were] more out in the open,” she says, “so you can make a more educated decision of when you want to be a mom.”
“[Fertility treatments are] super expensive — what you put your body through, it’s not easy, and it’s sad,” Sanchez continues. “Thank God that we have human beings that dedicate their lives to be fertility doctors. They’re making miracles happen and they’re [helping] women like me who want to be moms so badly. I think it’s a wonderful thing.”
“If I have any advice, it’s don’t wait until you’re 40-something. It’s not that easy. It’s possible — we’re doing it. I feel awesome because I’m going, ‘You know what? It happened at a point in my life that I’m very mature.’ I was ready, I’m fulfilled, I’m financially stable. All those things are great, but it’s not easy.”
For more about Roselyn Sanchez and Eric Winter’s journey toward expanding their family, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.