Rebecca Zamolo can still remember the moment she realized she might just get everything she's ever wanted.
It had taken three rounds of IVF—her first resulting in a 2020 chemical pregnancy, the second, a heart-wrenching miscarriage at nine weeks—but she was finally far enough along in this pregnancy to find out the sex of her baby.
Though the YouTube personality and husband Matt Slays—they are the duo behind the Game Master and other popular series created for their 12 million subscribers—had implanted both a male and her final female embryo last summer, Zamolo was fully prepared to see blue confetti fall from that balloon.
"The boy egg was stronger—and the girl was kind of just our last egg," she explained in a recent interview with E! News. "I was very much at peace with whatever happens, like, I'm still going to be excited for a boy. I just knew what I would have to do to get a girl now would be very different. And so I started looking into adoption and different things."
Then as they gathered in front of friends and family last fall, they saw that flash of pink.
"She beat out all the odds," raved Zamolo. "She had the least chance of being successful out of anything and she was the one that came through. So we were just so shocked."
Not that the process was all pink smoke bombs and celebrations.
Enjoying a getaway to Big Bear, Calif., in December, Zamolo began experiencing contractions just 27 weeks into her pregnancy. Due to a years-long battle with ulcerative colitis, the 39-year-old had her colon and large intestine removed in 2014, "so hydration has always been a hard thing for me," she explained. "I didn't stay up enough on my fluids and I started having contractions. And so we thought she might come."
The scare—and the subsequent three bags of IV fluid she received—was one of just many "bumps along the way" that Zamolo experienced. "Cautiously happy" when they first discovered she was expecting last summer, she struggled to let go of the anxieties that something would go wrong.
"Once you go through a miscarriage, you just know how fragile this human is in you," Zamolo said. "Until I held her, I was like, 'I just don't know if this is going to happen.' And even now I'm like, 'Oh my gosh, I still can't believe it.'"
It's a phrase she's repeated a time or two since little Zadie Hope Zamolo arrived Feb. 23.
Used to life throwing up roadblocks, the content creator just assumed she wouldn't be able to breastfeed, she and Slays, 41, stocking their California home with all manners of formula. And yet not long after her C-section birth, "Zadie just latched on to me and I didn't even know what she was doing," Zamolo recalled. "I was like, 'What's going on?' And they were like, 'No, no, that's what babies do.' And so I was like, 'I guess I'm breastfeeding now.' She decided that."
Never mind that Zamolo has had to continue getting IVs once a week, a practice that had her taking in a liter of extra fluids every other day in the final weeks of pregnancy. Having to pump on a flight to Hawaii or dealing with the effects of a ruined spray tan ("I didn't pump before and it just started coming out," she recalled. "I was like, 'This is my life!'") are no sweat either.
"When you've been on a journey—this was a two-plus year journey—there's not a lot of light at the end of the tunnel, you just have hope," she explained of enjoying her rainbow baby. "So when that actually happens it's like, you can't complain about anything. You literally got what you wanted. If she cries, if you have little sleep, you can't be mad about it. You wanted this, you got it and I'm so happy, obviously."
Not even the most truncated of maternity leaves could dim her glow.
"We run a company and, unfortunately, if I'm not there, that company can't run and there's a lot of people that count on us," she said of taking just a week-and-a-half off to recuperate. Because just six days after Zadie's arrival, she and Slays released their second book, The Game Master: Mansion Mystery.
"I'm so proud of the book," she gushed. "But it's inauthentic to me to have a child and then be like, 'Here's my new book!' It just felt wrong. So we're late to the promotion." Not that it's dimmed fans' excitement, the New York Times bestselling authors drawing a sold-out crowd for a recent Barnes & Noble appearance that saw Zadie make a cameo.
Still, like so many other working parents, Zamolo has had to find a balance between her jam-packed career and spending time with Zadie. "I wake up a little earlier so that I can be there," she explained. "And I set aside times of the day that are just our time with her. I don't go on my phone, I don't check emails. I block off those times and just wing it the rest of the time."
Which is, truthfully, what most parents are doing, though Zamolo admits to struggling a bit as she navigates breastfeeding and the myriad other skills required to take care of a newborn.
"There's all these things that women are supposed to do and it's supposed to be easy and it's not," she said. "And you feel like a failure or you feel like you're not worthy. I always am questioning, 'Am I good enough mom?'"
The self doubts are difficult, but just like she did with her pregnancy loss, she intends to document it all.
"I don't want to paint a picture that isn't real," she said of sharing just how scary her pregnancy journey was, each strange twinge having her fearing the worst. "Because it has been so hard. I mean, I cry still talking about it. And a lot of women have gone through this and it's very hard to talk about. So I don't know any other way to be but honest, because I would never want someone to think it was super easy and then when they struggle, feel like they're all alone."
But she's also living for each tiny smile and milestone, like the fact that Zadie has started tracking her from across the room when she hears her voice.
"I was just not expecting loving someone so much," she gushed. "I'll go to a store and forget to get myself something, but buy her every outfit that I think is cute that will last her, like, a week because she's growing so much."
Zamolo is already eagerly anticipating that first laugh, the first time she crawls, the first "mama," she said, "Just watching her grow. It's really cool to live life again. And do things for the first time." (High up on the list: Taking Zadie to ocean during their Hawaiian getaway and singing allllll the Disney songs "because it's justified because I have a baby.")
But the best part of parenting, "is just having her," raved Zamolo. "It's like, we worked so hard and she's so worth it."