Peta Murgatroyd vividly remembers lying in the hospital bed, still reeling from the scene hours earlier at her Malibu home, where a team of medics had loaded her into an ambulance as her 5-year-old son watched.
Murgatroyd, 35, had placed the call when she found herself lying on her little boy’s bedroom floor, completely unable to move after testing positive for coronavirus days prior.
“I had no strength. I couldn’t open a dishwasher. I couldn’t open the fridge to feed Shai, to get him some toast,” the pro dancer says while opening up exclusively to PEOPLE in an in-depth interview. “It got so bad that my breath was starting to be affected. It was really dramatic.”
“I thought he was going to reveal some really bad news. I was like, ‘What’s wrong?’ His face dropped,” she recalls of that night in October 2021.” He said, ‘Did you know you were pregnant?’ “
On the other end of the phone, Chmerkovskiy, 42, began to celebrate. “He heard the doctor say, ‘You’re pregnant,’ ” she remembers. But through his excitement, he already misheard the news: Murgatroyd had lost the baby.
Amanda Friedman Peta Murgatroyd poses on the balcony of her Malibu home being held by supportive husband Maks Chmerkovskiy.
“I ultimately had no idea [I was pregnant], which in hindsight was better for my recovery because I didn’t have that super joyous moment of, ‘I’m pregnant again!’ ” says Murgatroyd, who had started bleeding two days earlier but attributed it to her period. “I just had the moment of, ‘You lost it.’ “
After years of trying to grow their familythe Peta Jane Beauty founder had recently traveled overseas to visit Chmerkovskiy in hopes of conceiving a baby. “I was like, ‘Screw it. I’m going to fly to you in Ukraine. I’m ovulating soon. Let’s make it happen,’ ‘ she recalls telling her husband, who was in the country serving as a judge on their version of Dancing with the Stars.
But after contracting COVID during her trip, Murgatroyd says her body was unable to both fight off the illness and sustain the very early stages of her pregnancy. “I felt like I was dying, but then I obviously knew what had happened,” she says. “It was just all too much for my body and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t believe that this was happening to me.”
“To not be there [with her]… it’s crazy. It makes you feel helpless,” Chmerkovskiy tells PEOPLE.
Amanda Friedman Peta Murgatroyd poses at her Malibu home after revealing exclusively to PEOPLE that she’s suffered three miscarriages.
Unfortunately, the heartbreaking feelings of loss were all too familiar to Murgatroyd, who suffered her first miscarriage in a Whole Foods bathroom stall in the fall of 2020, five weeks into pregnancy. “It was so shocking and so out of the blue [into the store] and it just all started happening,” she remembers. “I was petrified. I was trying to tell myself, ‘It’s going to be okay.’ Of course, deep down, I knew.”
“I was sitting in the bathroom sobbing. I’m surprised nobody walked in because I was crying so heavily and wailing, one of those deep cries,” Murgatroyd says. “That was something that will probably live with me for the rest of my life, being on that toilet by myself, knowing what was happening and not being able to stop it.”
For Chmerkovskiy, who wed his fellow Dancing with the Stars pro dancer in 2017, the first miscarriage was the lowest point in their relationship.
“I think the darkest part is when the person you are in love with calls you and she says that she had a miscarriage in the bathroom, that’s as dark as it can get,” he says.
“I was completely embarrassed, ultimately ashamed. I didn’t even know how to utter the words and have that sentence come out of my mouth: I had a miscarriage,” says an emotional Murgatroyd. “I’m somebody who prides herself on health and wellness. I exercise every single day. But as I came to realize, that doesn’t really go hand-in-hand with the reproductive system.”
Watch the full episode of People Features: Peta Murgatroyd & Maksim Chmerkovskiy below or on the PeopleTV app.
“With the trauma, I took a very long time to get over it,” she continues. “It was months and months of crying most nights in bed by myself, crying in the shower, it was a lot of denial. What had I done wrong?”
Nine months later, Murgatroyd was pregnant again and making plans to fly to New York to meet up with Chmerkovskiy and surprise him with the news. Days before she was scheduled to fly out, Murgatroyd miscarried.
“I had to call him and say, ‘It’s happened again,'” she says, instantly tearing up. “This was the first time that I heard him get really upset, which was hard to hear because I know how it affects him too.”
Now, Chmerkovskiy admits to PEOPLE, “I never thought that two healthy, athletic people could be in a predicament like this. It’s a lot to process.”
“I try to do my best in supporting Peta. I’m a changed man because of this experience,” he adds. “I think that if you look around, you will find that most of your friends have had issues [trying to conceive]. I realized that this is more common and this is not being talked about.”
Amanda Friedman Peta Murgatroyd poses at home with husband Maks Chmerkovskiy and son Shai.
As Murgatroyd worked through her emotions, she became determined to seek answers.
“When? Why me? Why can’t I have another child when it was so easy in the past?” she says. “All of these questions just really bothered me and that’s what brought me to finally see a specialist.”
The couple is now working with a team of fertility doctors and has started the process of in vitro fertilization. They’re hopeful their son Shai will soon have the sibling they have longed to give him
“For the first time in nearly two years, I feel excited,” says Murgatroyd, who doctors believe has polycystic ovary syndrome, a hormonal imbalance that can cause ovulation issues, leading to infertility. “I’m in a much happier place. I got answers.”
Adds Murgatroyd, “I don’t have any other words but hope and positivity. I’m crossing my fingers that this is going to work.”
Photographer: Amanda Friedman, Hair: Laura Rugetti/The Only Agency, Makeup: Denika Bedrossian/A-Frame Agency