Welcome back to NBC, Hoda Kotb!
The longtime television journalist and newly inducted mother of two, 55, made her much-awaited return to morning television on Tuesday, into the welcoming arms of her Today show co-anchors Savannah Guthrie, Carson Daly, Al Roker, Dylan Dreyer and more.
But it wasn’t just her co-hosts who expressed their excitement at having Kotb back on TV. Numerous celebrities sent her their well wishes via video, including Julia Roberts, Thomas Rhett, Meghan Trainor, Carrie Underwood and even the quarterback of her beloved New Orleans Saints, Drew Brees.
One extra-special message was from Jenna Bush Hager, Kotb’s new 10 o’clock hour co-host who’s still on her own maternity leave after the Aug. 2 birth of her third child, son Henry “Hal” Harold.
“Welcome back, Hoda. I’m so glad you got this summer with your babes and your family,” Bush Hager, 37, addressed her friend. (Kotb’s second daughter Hope Catherine arrived in April, joining 2½-year-old big sister Haley Joy.)
“But now you’re back to your other family and you were so, so missed. Welcome home,” Bush Hager concluded.
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Hoda Kotb Announces Return to Today as She Urges Women to Take Full Maternity Leave If Possible
In one sweet segment, Kotb opened up about her new life at home with two little ones, admitting that before Hope, she thought she “was topped out” with Haley — who “is beyond a dream, a wish, a hope, a prayer.”
“And just when [I] thought everything was to the max, Hope pops in, and you see your heart’s ability to expand,” she said on the show. “And now, I cannot imagine my life without both of those two little girls.”
Kotb went on to recall some of her favorite moments from over the summer, from watching her daughters hit various milestones (e.g., Haley going from words to “full sentences,” Hope rolling over) to simple activities like taking them to the park for musical play dates with other kids.
“We miss a lot of our lives. We all do. We work … a lot of people are pulling on us. But for this tiny little window, I got to not miss anything,” Kotb added emotionally.
Kotb said on the show that despite her gratitude for getting to spend the “greatest summer of [her] life” with Hope and Haley, “It did feel like Christmas morning a little” when she thought about returning to work. “I went to bed last night I popped up at 3:15 and I was like, ‘I get to come home!’ “
“I know it was a lot of time to take off and I felt a little bad about it but in reality, life is a blink,” she told Guthrie, 47, Roker, 65, and Daly, 46, snapping her fingers. “And you get this moment, and so I decided that I’m gonna take it. And when I’m at work, I’m gonna be 100 percent here.”
And while Kotb’s daughters have “taught [her] so much” about living in the moment and she cherishes her time at home with them, she’s extremely happy to be in the studio with her colleagues again too.
“I’m happy to be here, I have to tell you. Walking in the door this morning made me feel so good — seeing [Savannah’s] face in the makeup room and seeing you, Al, when you walked in, and Carson, it just filled me up,” she said. “And I feel like, ‘Who’s luckier than me? Nobody.’ “
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