Exclusive: Lilliana Vazquez Is Expecting! All About Her IVF Journey
The E! News co-host and style expert talks to People CHICA about how she navigated a challenging in vitro fertilization process to achieve her dream of motherhood.
Finding out she was pregnant after six years of a challenging journey with in vitro fertilization felt like a miracle to Lilliana Vazquez. "At first I was in shock and disbelief. Then I was completely elated and ecstatic," the E! News co-host tells People CHICA. "As I hit the end of my first trimester I had a period when for the first time in six years I allowed myself to finally feel all the loss that I had gone through. I never miscarried, but every time an embryo is transferred and you don't end up pregnant there is a loss that you experience. That child is never going to come into the world."
The Mexican American style expert, 40, is now five months pregnant and wants other Latinas to learn from her experience. "There is so much shame around infertility in our community. There was pressure to get pregnant. I got married in 2007 and in 2006 my family was like, 'When are you going to have a baby?' I'm like, 'Chill, we're not even married yet.' I went into this with a lot of pressure and that's not unique. As Latinas and Latinos family is everything to us and we have really strong family values, but my mom also instilled in me a value in work. I prioritized my career and hustled so hard," says Vazquez, who previously worked at The Meredith Vieira Show and TODAY. "I knew I wanted a family, but I knew I wanted my career and my education to come first, and it did for many years."
At 35, when she finally felt ready to become a mom, she took an AMH (Anti-Müllerian hormone) test that revealed her fertility options "were extremely limited." That's when she and her husband, Patrick McGrath, turned to IVF. "I have never gone through something so physically and emotionally painful. Going through this has tested my faith, has tested me physically, emotionally. It has tested my marriage and you have to fight on another level," she says of the process. "I was devastated after each failed cycle. I felt every time it failed: 'I can't do this anymore.' But I would pray to God and because this baby wants to be here, I fought like a true warrior. That's the only way I was able to get to this point."
The support of her husband, mom, and aunt made all the difference. "My husband always put me first," she says. "My biggest fear was, 'What if we don't get to be parents?' We had to learn to communicate better as a couple. We went through some really dark times in our marriage when I didn't know if we were going to come out of it together, and I definitely didn't know if we were going to come out of it together with a child."
Vazquez says they considered looking into adoption and surrogacy before she became pregnant through IVF. "There are so many stereotypes about fertility and Latinas like, 'Girl, don't worry, you're gonna pop those babies out right away.' That's not accurate and that's a really hurtful stereotype to put on a generation of Latina women," she says. "I felt very alone in that because my cousins and everyone I knew was getting pregnant and I wasn't."
Even after becoming pregnant, she still had to process the loss and trauma of all the years of failed attempts. "I went from the highest high to feeling lows I had never felt before. Hormones play a huge role," she recalls. "I'm really fortunate to have a really beautiful relationship with my mom and an incredible supportive husband and an amazing doctor that helped me get through that. Luckily we are on the other side of that, and I feel incredible. Physically I feel great. I have a belly and I love it. I'm not tired anymore, I have energy."
The couple chose not to find out the baby's sex until the birth, scheduled for July 25. "It's important he or she has a Spanish name so our child understands they came into this world with two beautiful cultures to love, cherish, and learn," says the glowing mom-to-be. "I am so ready for this time in our lives. My journey feels completely in this pregnancy. I spent the last decade working my ass off to get to where I am professionally and in my marriage, and this baby is the missing piece for us."
Now Vazquez is focused on paying it forward and helping other Latinas who have had difficulty conceiving naturally. "In my six-year journey, one of things I realized is that as I looked around the doctor's office at different fertility clinics in New York, very rarely did the women in the room look like me or reflect my community. There were no Black women, there were very few Latinas — maybe one. That office and waiting room was filled with white women and Asian women," she says. "That to me was uncomfortable. I realized that's because not only is infertility shameful to talk about in our community and a lot of Latinas don't seek help for this, [but because] it's also inaccessible. Every woman should be given her right to understand her reproductive health and make decisions for herself with all of the options on the table. IVF and advanced reproductive technology is incredibly cost-prohibitive and expensive."
She partnered with the fertility clinic KindBody and the nonprofit organization 100 Hispanic Women to offer 12 Latinas fertility assessments at no cost. "The reason that I went to KindBody is that they are a fertility clinic that advocates for accessibility when it comes to reproductive health. They want to make it affordable and easy," she explains. "They want to reach women and [help them] make educated decisions about their reproductive health. Whether you want to freeze your eggs or know what's going on in your ovaries, that is what they are there to do. We're going to foster a dozen women and I hope that grows to even more."
In Vazquez's case, her miracle happened when she let go of all expectations. "You have to just surrender," she says. "Fertility and babies is not something you control, it is a miracle of God however it comes to you. It took this pandemic for me to throw my hands up and say, 'I don't care how this happens or when, we are going to be parents and we are going to bring a beautiful child into this world.' It was in that surrender that we found this blessing."