Courtesy of Katie Hill Katie Hill and Alex Thomas
Former California Rep. Katie Hill is 22 weeks pregnant with her first child, a son, she tells PEOPLE.
Alex Thomas, a reporter and her partner of two years, is the father. (The pair first discussed the pregnancy in a Vanity Fair article.)
"I didn't think it was possible to get pregnant, and then found out in June that I was," says Hill, who has just one ovary following surgery for endometriosis.
"I have to see it as a miracle," she says, "and as a sign of hopefully a lot of good things to come."
It's all such improbably happy news after the scandals that derailed her career — including a workplace affair allegation, which Hill denies — amid what she said was a revenge campaign by her ex.
Hill's life unraveled two years ago. A rising Democratic star in Congress after winning her 2018 election, images of her naked with a female campaign staffer — taken without her consent, she says — were leaked in 2019 to a right-wing blog, which wrote that Hill and her now-ex-husband, Kenny Heslep, had been in a consensual relationship with the aide.
The Daily Mail, a British tabloid, also published the nude photos, which Hill says Heslep leaked.
Hill admitted to the relationship with the campaign worker and apologized, though she faced criticism from some advocates citing a power imbalance. But she denied a separate claim that she was having an affair with someone in her congressional office, which would violate rules changed in the wake of #MeToo.
An official investigation into that claim was opened in the House of Representatives. Hill resigned shortly after the allegations were made public.
Courtesy of Katie Hill Katie Hill and Alex Thomas
On Oct. 29, 2019, soon after she announced she was leaving Congress, Hill sat in the bathtub of her Washington, D.C., home and despaired. She considered killing herself.
"Thankfully," she told PEOPLE last year, "I was able to pull myself out of it. But it is not something that I would wish on anyone."
Other life difficulties followed: the overdose death of her brother, brain surgery on her mom, her stepfather's cancer diagnosis and the heart attack death of her 32-year-old step-sister. Hill also lost the "revenge porn" lawsuits she filed against the two media outlets and her ex over the distribution of the naked images.
"It was horrible, it's just been one thing after another," she says now. "And it really makes you want to focus on the things that matter the most, which is being with the people that you love. I'm really hoping that this baby brings a lot of hope and good things into our family."
Win McNamee/Getty Former California Rep. Katie Hill following her final speech on the floor of the House of Representatives
Hill and her partner first met while he was covering Congress for Playboy magazine, shortly after Hill's 2019 separation from Heslep. Now finishing a novel, Thomas also freelances for several publications.
"He's been just such a rock for me over the last couple of years," Hill says, "through all of this trauma ... it's just brought us incredibly close together."
"I'm really grateful for that relationship in my life," she adds. "I don't think either one of us would've planned a pregnancy at this point, but we're taking it as a sign and we're really excited about it."
Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Rep. Katie Hill
The pair lives in D.C. and have no immediate wedding plans. "I'm a little bit scarred from marriage," she says.
Last year, Hill released a memoir, She Will Rise, in which she details an abusive marriage to Heslep and how, she says, he leaked the photos to ruin her life. (Heslep denied this and said his computer was hacked; through an attorney, he also said accusations of abuse are false.)
Once Hill's baby is born, the new family plans to move to California and live with Hill's mom and step-dad, who will help with childcare, she says. (She wryly notes, "I don't think I would've anticipated, at 34 years old, moving back in with my family with a baby.")
As for her future, "I would say beyond that, there's still a lot of question marks," she says.
While she is not contemplating another run for office and continues work with the political action committee she founded, Her Time, she hasn't written off anything completely.
Zach Gibson/Getty Rep. Katie Hill
"I'm in the fortunate position where I have family support and the ability to spend some time on having the kid and figuring out what it's like to be a new mom," she says. "And I'm really grateful that I've got that chance right now."
One remaining stressor is the $400,000 she's been ordered to pay to cover the legal bills of the defendants in the lawsuit. She is discussing bankruptcy with an attorney.
Looking back on the last two years, Hill tries to have the perspective that "everything happens for a reason."
"I don't want to say, 'I'm glad it happened,' " she says of the leaked photo scandal. "I just have to focus on what's coming next. I truly have never felt more excited about the future than I do right now."