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Peta Murgatroyd shares a special bond with her son Shai. The hands-on mom lights up when he walks into a room, always making sure his needs are met. During PEOPLE's photo shoot at her Malibu home, she'd take breaks to prepare his favorite lunch of toast and get him ready for tennis.
And just like many young children, her 5-year-old often asked about having a sibling. So when Murgatroyd, 35, was finally pregnant, she couldn't wait to share the happy news with her son.
"I've been wanting to give him that for so long now, for a year-and-a-half," Murgatroyd tells PEOPLE exclusively.
"Each time I've said, 'Oh, Mommy has a baby in her belly,' " says Murgatroyd, who would share the news with Shai after finding out she was pregnant.
But what her son didn't know is the Dancing with the Stars pro had tried expanding their family several times and was continuously met with heartbreaking loss.
Murgatroyd has been private about suffering three grueling miscarriages since the fall of 2020. The first time was in a bathroom at Whole Foods, the second while preparing to go to work in New York and the third was a surprise as she fought COVID in the hospital.
Despite her own emotional discomfort, she knew it was time to have the difficult conversation with her son, who was a toddler during those times, that the baby wasn't in her belly anymore. Admitting she didn't know how to face her only child, she did her best to find the right words to say.
"It was a lot some days," Murgatroyd says. "Very emotional because I didn't know what to tell him anymore. I told him the first two times, but I kept it vague. I didn't make it into this whole, 'Oh my God, we're having a baby,' thing. I just said, 'Be careful with Mummy's belly. She has a baby in there.' "
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Murgatroyd and her husband, Maks Chmerkovskiy spoke candidly about their struggles to conceive, revealing she's dealt with the miscarriages without her husband physically by her side.
While the 42-year-old was busy working in L.A., on tour with his brother, Val Chmerkovskiy, in New York and away in Ukraine judging Dancing with the Stars, the Peta Jane Beauty founder had to figure out ways to redirect her son's questions all on her own.
"I guess that's been another really hard part of it because he sees other kids with siblings," Murgatroyd shares. "And of course when [the pregnancy] goes, I kind of just stop saying it and he stops asking. I never told him I lost them or how. I just stopped saying it. And then for a while he stopped asking about it."
Another difficult part for Murgatroyd has been dealing with comments on social media asking why Shai is an only child.
"There was one comment in particular: How could you not [have another child]?" Murgatroyd recalls. "The 'how could you not' threw me off the ledge. It was like, if only you knew what was actually going on with my family, you would never say that."
As Shai's gotten older, he's started to ask more questions.
"In the past six months, it's been a constant, 'Mommy, when is the baby coming back?' " says Murgatroyd. "'Mommy, when is there a baby in there again? You got to tell me when it's in there.' Of course, he would never understand what's going on. As time went on, he has been asking me every day, 'When is my brother coming? I think you have twins, Mummy.' "
Murgatroyd admits to privately crying over the pregnancy losses "in the shower by myself behind closed doors" while doing her best to put on a happy front for her son.
Watch the full episode of People Features: Peta Murgatroyd & Maksim Chmerkovskiy below or on the PeopleTV app.
"I think when he looks at other kids and sees them with their siblings, that's hard," Murgatroyd says. "And that's hard on me when I see him feeling a type of way."
Doctors eventually diagnosed Murgatroyd with polycystic ovarian syndrome, a hormonal imbalance that can cause a woman not to ovulate regularly. The diagnosis has calmed the nerves of the reality star, who has started in vitro fertilization treatments.
For the first time in a while, Murgatroyd is feeling positive to have good news to share with Shai.
"I could be pregnant in like a month-and-a-half, I think," Murgatroyd says. "So [it] might be the happiest day. I honestly feel like I'm in such a better place just because I don't feel like I have anxiety right now. I feel like I have answers. I don't have any other words but hope and positivity and just crossing my fingers that this is going to work."
Photographer: Amanda Friedman, Hair: Laura Rugetti/The Only Agency, Makeup: Denika Bedrossian/A-Frame Agency