On "Desperate Housewives," Marcia Crosss Bree Van de Camp quickly finds Mr. Perfect, Dr. Orson Hodge, and the two build a family together. Cut to real life: For years, Marcia had searched for the right guy and battled infertility. But during the shows first season, the then-42-year-old met stockbroker Tom Mahoney. They married in June 2006 and, through in vitro treatments, had twin girls, Eden and Savannah, now 13 months old. Here, the Emmy-nominated actress opens up about her struggle to conceive, her pregnancy health scare, and what lifes like with twins (crazy, but shes not complaining!).
Q. How did you meet Tom?
A. I was walking behind him at a flower shop, and I loved his voice. I thought, Oh my God, youre stalking someone, get out of the store! I asked the sales woman, “Whos that guy?” She said, “Do you want to leave your number?” Its wildmy whole new life got created that day. If that woman hadnt said that, I wouldnt have left my number.
Q. Youve said that the years between Melrose Place and Desperate Housewives were a time of personal transformation for you. How so?
A. When I wasnt getting as much acting work, I went to school and got my masters in psychology. I kept growing and striving and changed a lot internally. Because I got healthy inside, I was able to love a man who was right for me.
Q. Youd struggled with infertility for years. Did you ever get to a point when you thought, Ill never have kids?
A. Before I hit 30, I was already longing for kids. But for years, love and marriage eluded me. In my early 40s, I considered adoption, and I tried getting pregnant on my own through a sperm donor, but neither worked out.
Q. Then you got pregnant soon after getting married.
A. We decided to skip our honeymoon and try in vitro after the wedding. I had already been through infertility treatments. Its very, very difficult to get pregnant in your 40s. Its costly and tough on your body and your relationship. Before Tom and I got married, I told him, “I dont know if this is gonna happen.” Tom said, “I want children, and if we cant have kids together, then well adopt.” I wept and thought, This is the man for me.
Q. What was your reaction when you discovered you were having twins?
A. Tom and I were deliriously happy when we found out I was pregnant. When we found out we were having twins, I was terrified. As a mother, being outnumbered is scary.
Q. Did you tell anyone on the Desperate Housewives set about your pregnancy?
A. You dont want to tell anyone at first. In my biz, news spreads like wildfire. I did tell my makeup artist, Stacy Halax, though. You have to have friends to support you.
Q. Was being pregnant what you thought it would be like?
A. I had really romanticized being pregnant. Then I realized, This is awful! I was so nauseated in the beginning.
Q. Did you change how you ate when you were pregnant?
A. I ate so much. You would think itd be fun, but it wasnt. I was up at 2 in the morning eating steak!
Q. You had to go on bed rest, and then you had preeclampsia. What was going through your mind?
A. I started having contractions at 28 weeks and had to go on bed rest for two months. I was constantly worried that the babies would be born premature. The Desperate Housewives crew had to come and shoot in my house. Then, in January, my eyesight started going, and I gained 12 pounds in one week. Both are symptoms of preeclampsia, a complication that is life-threatening for mother and baby. Obviously, that was scary! Within 12 hours of being diagnosedat 35 weeksI had a C-section.
Q. But the twins were born safe and healthy?
A. They were huge! Eden was 5 pounds and 11 ounces, and Savannah was 6 pounds and 7 ounces. Its amazing. Id go through it all again. I dont want to, but I would.
Q. Did it take time to get the hang of caring for them?
A. Eden had trouble latching on, but breastfeeding was the most wonderful thingso beautiful, so sweet and intimate. I had to stop when Eden and Savannah were 4 months old to go back to work, though. The challenge is with juggling two. When they both cry, I think, Who do I pick up?
Q. Did you find it hard to lose the baby weight?
A. I havent had any trouble, which is shocking to me. Your body doesnt spring back exactly the way it was, though.
Q. Youve suffered from migraines for years. How did you deal with them during your pregnancy?
A. I didnt have a single migraine while pregnant. In the first couple of weeks after my girls were born, I had a couple back-to-back because of the hormones shifting. Then they leveled out, and I havent had any since.
Q. How have you learned to manage your migraines?
A. One trick is I dont drink red wine, which has really reduced my migraines. In the past, it was a “go home, shut the blinds, and you lost the day” thing. But Ive found that if you dont eat that chocolate bar or have that red wine, you can really reduce them. I also use Imitrex, which is a prescription nasal spray. With that, I can recover within hours.
Q. How do you de-stress?
A. I used to do yoga and go hiking, but now Im too busy!
Q. Whats the trick to staying connected as a couple once you have kids?
A. If Tom and I are lucky, we try to have a date night. I cherish my time with himjust going to a movie is so dreamy and exciting.
Q. Any plans for more kids?
A. I dont think Ill have any more kids, but Im not 100 percent sure we wont adopt.
Q. How do you feel about having your kids later in life?
A. I wish that Id had my girls in my 30s: Then I could be around longer for them. But theyre an incentive for me to stay healthy, take care of myself, and live as long as possible.
Q. How has becoming a mom changed you?
A. How hasnt it changed me? Your heart just opens so wide. My life is centered around home now. Gone are the days of whittling my time away. I have to be very efficient because I dont want to miss much.
Q. Youve transformed your life. Whats the secret?
A. You have to work to make a fairy tale come true. Dont sit back and wait for it to come to you. Do everything you can to create the kind of life you want.