Platinum-selling country artist Julie Roberts knew she was in a constant race with her biological clock. Granted, while she had always wanted children, Roberts also had a career that kept her on the road most of the time. The time just never seemed right to bring a child into the picture.
That is, until Matt Baugher entered that picture.
"I was 39 when I got married," Roberts, 42, tells PEOPLE from her Franklin, Tennessee, home that she shares with her now-husband. "Matt already had two older girls, but he knew it was always a dream of mine to have a child. It wasn't long after we got married that we started the IVF journey because I knew that was the route we had to go instead of the traditional option. And, yes, it was a hard journey and a very emotional one."
In fact, after her second failed IVF cycle, the "Break Down Here" hitmaker was close to giving up.
"I was really down and really sad because you just really think that this is the time it's going to work," says Roberts, who traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina, to consult with her doctors there throughout her IVF process. "I was exhausted physically from making the trips back and forth, but deep down, I just knew that it would work."
Roberts' IVF journey was an even more precarious one due to the fact that the singer/songwriter had enjoyed several years of remission for multiple sclerosis and was praying she wouldn't come out of that remission because of the required IVF drugs.
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"It's stressful for your body, and I had a lot of family really worried about me," explains Roberts. "I just kept working out and taking care of me, both physically and mentally, which is a big part of how I manage my MS along with therapy."
Eventually, after three IVF cycles, Roberts heard the words she had been waiting a lifetime for: She was pregnant.
"Every noise he makes, I'm constantly looking over in his bassinet next to me," says Roberts of her new baby son Jackson, who was born in August. "I know the pediatrician thinks I'm a crazy new mom because I call him for everything."
Jackson's birth did not come without its challenges, as the little one made his way into the world five weeks early.
"I had not taken a breastfeeding class or one of those baby-basics classes where they show you how to change a diaper," she says with a laugh. "I'm telling you, I've not really been around babies. And I had all these classes lined up to go to right before he was supposed to be born. But after he was born, he was in the NICU for a few days, which actually helped so much because they taught us how to feed him and how to burp him and pretty much everything else."
Not only was Roberts dealing with the stress of first-time motherhood, but she was also dealing with the sudden loss of her father Bob, who died just one week before Jackson's birth.
"It wasn't expected, but he had been depressed and considering suicide," she says of her father, who she had a strained relationship with "her whole life." "I knew he had been sad for a while. But last year, when he found out I was having Jackson, we started to work on things and talk to each other and call each other."
"I knew he was excited because this was his first grandson," she explains. "I just wish that he had hung on one more week. I just wonder if he would still be here if he had just been able to at least see a picture of his first and only grandson."
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
And while the pain over her father's death was relentless, her son's birth ended up becoming an even bigger blessing for everyone who was hurting.
"It kind of brought us this happiness that we needed, because all of this was just so hard to understand," says Roberts. "I've never dealt with that sort of death in my life."
But luckily, Roberts has her faith to lean on.
"I wouldn't be here if it weren't for my faith life," concludes Roberts, who is currently working on new music being produced by Grammy-winning producer Shooter Jennings. "I think I'm pursuing everything I am both personally and professionally because faith is a huge part of my life."
And it's this faith she looks to now share with her son.
"I appreciate this beautiful gift that I have," says Roberts, who is also set to play the Biblical character Sarah in Kathie Lee Gifford's new film The Way, out in 2022.
"I am taking in every single smile, every little grunt, every missed hour of sleep, every single snuggle …and I am appreciating it all," she adds. "It's been such a journey to get to him, and I think I would have appreciated it if I was younger, but now that I am older, I appreciate every single minute and every single second I have with this child. I'm so grateful that God has trusted me with him."