Maria Menounos welcomes baby after 10 years of infertility struggles

Maria Menounos welcomes baby after 10 years of infertility struggles

maria menounos you’ll never forget what it was like to hold your little girl for the first time.

“It was the most special moment of my life,” the 45-year-old star, who welcomed daughter Athena Alexandra on June 23 via surrogate alongside her husband, Kevin Undergaro, recalls exclusively in the new edition of us weekly. “The doctor literally grabbed her and put her on top of me. I sat with her on my chest, and Keven and I were looking at each other like, ‘Oh my God.’ It was pure joy.”

Adds Undergaro: “It was like Christmas morning times a million.”

Menounos’s 10-year journey to motherhood has been long and difficult. Infertility issues led to IVF treatments, which were halted when the host and former host of the “Heal Squad” podcast AND! News anchor was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2017; the tumor was removed and she was given a clean bill of health, but her neurosurgeon advised her not to become pregnant. When her first surrogacy fell through in 2020, Menounos nearly gave up hope — so she and 55-year-old Undergaro, founder of AfterBuzz TV, announced they were expecting in February. “Athena is our miracle baby,” she says. “I am very grateful for her.”

Congratulations! What is it like to be a mother?
Better than I could ever imagine. It’s euphoric. For so long, I felt like something was missing. I would go to children’s birthday parties and I would be a little sad because I wanted my own family. And now I feel so grounded, like I finally know where I belong.

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“We’re obsessed with her,” Menounos, with husband Keven Undergaro, gushes of baby Athena. Photograph by John Chapple/MEGA

How were the first weeks at home with Athena?
The whole house is happy! My dad, his abuelita, his nanny, all of us, it’s a lot of love. People say you won’t care about your dogs anymore, but if I’m not squeezing Athena, I’m squeezing them.

How did you choose the name Athena?
We knew we wanted a Greek name. We had a list, and everyone says when you see the baby you’ll know, but that was totally untrue to us. We thought, “What do we do?” Athena is the goddess of war and wisdom, and Keven loved the power of that name, so that was it!

You were in Wisconsin for the birth of your daughter. How were the days leading up to this?
Athena was born in Milwaukee, and we had been there a week earlier, taking the surrogate to doctor appointments and having dinner with her family. But when we approach the [due date], we booked her a room in the hotel with us so that she would be closer to the hospital. So we got to the hotel, and it happened that night!

Wow! This is an incredible moment.
She and I were in my room just talking, and I showed her all of Athena’s stuff and her clothes and started crying about how I was waiting for her. I was like, “My husband keeps saying I’m being impatient, wanting the baby to come soon.” I told her, “It’s not that I’m impatient. I’m so excited to meet you. Then she left the room and her contractions started at two in the morning.

USW-2331-cover_social2 Maria Menounos and Athena Menounos

To say Us about being in the delivery room.
surreal. We were walking down the halls with her, and then they gave her the epidural, and our room was next door, so I went to take a nap. Then her husband comes in and says, “It’s time!” I set up my iPad so I could film the birth from an appropriate angle, and my phone was on the surrogate’s husband because she had it on for the photos.

So everyone had a job.
Everyone had a job. My father didn’t want to stay in the room. He wasn’t there for [my] birth too. I say, “Dad, new behaviors, new patterns, new results. You have never experienced this. Why don’t you want to do this?” So the understudy made him do it. [Laughs.] She says, “You will stay. What if I need your help?” Suddenly, [she does] a few pushes, and I’m seeing [Athena’s] head. They were like, “Are you ready to grab it?” I kept saying, “What do I do?” [Laughs.]

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Menounos showed us around Athena’s “cozy and comfortable” nursery. Photograph by John Chapple/MEGA

Were you nervous?
I was so excited. But I was worried about dropping it because I thought it would be slippery.

Did you feel an instant bond?
It was amazing, but also very natural, as if we had been together for a long time. A medium said that she would be my mother from another life. Then I remembered it later, and I [thought] maybe that was the feeling.

To say Us about starting your fertility journey.
I’m pretty sure I did three rounds [of IVF]. I remember calling my doctor and telling her I wanted to drive my car into a brick wall. It was very, very painful, I remember [working at a music festival], and I forgot my needle. And they had to give me a horse needle from the arena. It’s so hard because you’re doing it between interviews and then you’re trying to get shots on a plane. It was a lot back then.

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“Athena really made our house a home,” says Undergaro. Photograph by John Chapple/MEGA

Have you ever felt like giving up?
I almost did [when my first surrogate fell through]. So my lawyer, Andrew Vorzimer – who kim kardashian connected me – put me in touch with Stephanie Levich of Family Match Consulting. Stephanie called me and said she had someone, and the next day we were on the phone with our surrogate. These angels – Andy and Stephanie and my doula, Lori Bregman – came together to help us.

So did Kim Kardashian help set that in motion?
Yes. I give her a lot of credit. She helped us get started and guided me through the fears and process. She was the first to know we were pregnant! We were at a gala [in November], and I couldn’t resist telling her. She is such a cool and calm person. Whenever I had questions or needed advice, her responses were instantaneous. I really leaned on her a lot.

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Menounos’ father, Constantinos, is thrilled to be a papou (the Greek word for grandpa). Photograph by John Chapple/MEGA

Did you have any hesitation before starting the surrogacy process?
I actually have a crazy story. Two days before we deployed, Keven and I were sitting outside and I told him, “It’s do or die; [the surrogate and her husband are] flying in [to L.A. from Wisconsin]. Let’s implant these embryos. If we don’t feel this is right for us, we have to make a decision now.” Suddenly I hear a rustle and a huge stork flies out of this tree across the road. I have the fucking video!

It was a sign! You also got closer to your replacement. To say Us about this.
It was a magical experience. Throughout her pregnancy, I sent her voice recordings to play for Athena. We love her and her family very much. They have given us the greatest gift of all. We still talk all the time and consider them family.

It’s great that you have such a wonderful bond.
I was also lucky with my surrogate because the first thing she said to me was, “I want to do everything you would do if you were pregnant.” I was like, “Well, with all the diabetes in our family, I wouldn’t eat sugar. But if you have desires, I don’t want you to feel like you can’t because I would give in at that point.” I said I would eat organic, so I provided her with Thrive Market for deliveries and sent her home and skin organic products. But I wasn’t obsessed with her for nothing. I knew she was responsible, I knew she wanted to do a great job, and I wanted to take care of this baby.

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“Maybe I kiss her too much,” Menounos admits. Photograph by John Chapple/MEGA

You were diagnosed with a pancreatic tumor in January. It must have been scary knowing the baby was coming.
I was looking at my church icons on the mantel, thinking, “How can you bless me with a baby and I won’t meet her?” I was crying gutturally, Keven was crying and he never cries. It was a nightmare.

They successfully removed the tumor. How are you feeling now?
Incredible, thank God. The fibroid was the size of a baby. I have a c-section scar basically despite never having a baby – I gave birth a different way! [Laughs.]

How do you manage to stay positive considering everything you’ve been through?
I had a lot of low moments, so I practiced a lot to overcome them. You have to get out of the victim mentality. Everyone asks, “Why me?” And my thing is, “Why not me?” It helps me get out of things faster. I just beat this tumor because I found it early, and other people didn’t, so I’m lucky. I try to focus on how I want to feel and not on other things. It takes a minute; it’s not easy.

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Menounos says the delivery room nurse called Athena “the most vocal baby.” Courtesy of Maria Menounos

You and Keven have been together for 25 years. How are you connecting with a baby in the mix?
We already did a date night!

Has your relationship changed?
I think the biggest change was getting into my feminine side. In the past, when I was flying millions of miles a year, Keven would say, “Maria, stop worrying; when we have a baby, you’ll just bring it to me, and I took it from there. So this is what we thought the journey would be like, but our roles have really changed.

You are really enjoying nesting.
Yes. I play every day, I love maternity leave. I called my boss and said, “Maybe I need a little more time.” The boss said, no problem. I’m the boss! [Laughs.] It’s so good that Keven is running my show so I get to enjoy this time.

Do you want more children?
Yes! I want 50 more. I have a good embryo left. We’ll see, it would have to be quick. The joy Athena brought to this house – I want more of that. This is so good. There were many difficult times, but I know that all of that is behind me and all the good things are yet to come.

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