Jenna Bush Hager reunites with Hoda Kotb as she makes an emotional return to Today after a three-month maternity leave - and even gets a surprise call from mom Laura to welcome her back

  • Jenna, 37, appeared on the Today show on Monday after enjoying a three-month-maternity leave with her baby boy, Henry Harold 'Hal' Hager 
  • The host received a warm welcome and was surprised with calls from her mom, former first lady Laura Bush, and her predecessor, Kathie Lee Gifford 
  • Jenna said she was happy to be back to work, but she admitted that she held her son a 'little tighter' and 'cried on his little head' the night before 
  • Her return marked the first time she and Hoda appeared on the show's fourth hour together in seven months, as they had back-to-back maternity leaves

Jenna Bush Hager officially returned to the Today show on Monday morning and had a joyous reunion with her fourth-hour co-host Hoda Kotb after enjoying a three-month maternity leave with her baby boy Hal. 

The 37-year-old host received a warm welcome from the cast and crew, who were thrilled to have her back in Studio 1A. The tearful mother-of-three was also surprised with phone calls from her mother, former first lady Laura Bush, and her predecessor, Kathie Lee Gifford.  

Jenna's triumphant return marked the first time she and Hoda, 55, appeared on the Today show's fourth hour together in seven months, as they had back-to-back maternity leaves. 

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Happy to be back! Jenna Bush Hager officially returned to the Today show on Monday after a three-month maternity leave

Happy to be back! Jenna Bush Hager officially returned to the Today show on Monday after a three-month maternity leave 

Tears of joy: Jenna started to cry before she walked on stage and gave her fourth-hour co-host Hoda Kotb an emotional hug
Tears of joy: Jenna started to cry before she walked on stage and gave her fourth-hour co-host Hoda Kotb an emotional hug

Tears of joy: Jenna started to cry before she walked on stage and gave her fourth-hour co-host Hoda Kotb an emotional hug

They only filmed five episodes of Hoda & Jenna before Hoda announced that she had adopted a second child, a baby girl named Hope Catherine. 

The anchor spent nearly five months on maternity leave before she returned to the show in September after Labor Day. 

The month before Hoda's return, Jenna welcomed her third child in August, a baby boy named Henry Harold 'Hal' Hager. 

No one seemed more excited for her to be back than Hoda, who called her out onto the Today plaza to announce her official return to the show. 

'We haven’t been on the show together but five days!' Jenna said as she and Hoda shared a hug. 'It feels like it’s time!' 

All smiles: No one seemed more excited for Jenna to be back than Hoda, who called her out onto the Today plaza to announce her official return to the show

All smiles: No one seemed more excited for Jenna to be back than Hoda, who called her out onto the Today plaza to announce her official return to the show

Reunion: The host received a warm welcome from the cast and crew, including Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker, Craig Melvin, and Dylan Dreyer (left to right)

Reunion: The host received a warm welcome from the cast and crew, including Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker, Craig Melvin, and Dylan Dreyer (left to right) 

Big day: Jenna's return marked the first time she and Hoda appeared on the show's fourth hour together in seven months, as they had back-to-back maternity leaves

Big day: Jenna's return marked the first time she and Hoda appeared on the show's fourth hour together in seven months, as they had back-to-back maternity leaves

'Something you've never seen on Hoda & Jenna before — Hoda and Jenna,' Today anchor Savannah Guthrie joked. 

During the joyous reunion in the plaza, Hoda admitted that she was so excited to see Jenna on the show that she called her before she arrived at the studio.  

'I called Jenna at 4:45 this morning just to say, "It's time. Wake up,"' she said, while Jenna added: 'She was my alarm, and I have to say it, what a positive way to wake up.'   

When Jenna walked on stage at the start of the show's fourth hour, she was greeted by staffers who were wearing 'Hoda & Jenna The Reunion' T-shirts and waving pompoms. 

'I'm already crying,' she said while walking over to give Hoda another emotional hug before they sat down. 

Triumphant return: Staffers wore 'Hoda & Jenna The Reunion' T-shirts and waved pompoms when Jenna stepped on stage

Triumphant return: Staffers wore 'Hoda & Jenna The Reunion' T-shirts and waved pompoms when Jenna stepped on stage 

Emotional: Jenna teared up throughout the show, but she insisted she was happy to be back

Emotional: Jenna teared up throughout the show, but she insisted she was happy to be back 

Family: Jenna and her husband, Henry Hager, have three children: Mila, six, and Poppy, four, and Hal, three months

Family: Jenna and her husband, Henry Hager, have three children: Mila, six, and Poppy, four, and Hal, three months 

Despite the tears, Jenna said she feels 'really good' and is happy to be back to work.  

'I evidently am very emotional, but that's no surprise,' she said. 'It feels so good. I hope you all have these places in your life where you want to go back to. Because I wanted to come back. Y'all didn't have to drag me, and that feels so good.'

Although she was ready to go back to work, she admitted it was difficult leaving her baby boy at home.  

'Last night I held him a little tighter. I cried on his little head. I'll admit it,' she said, explaining that her 'rational' husband, Henry Hager, told her that she was emotional because her return to work marks 'the passing of time.'  

'I can't believe he's here and I get to be his mom,' she added through tears. 'It feels like this unbelievable miracle to get to be this little person's mom and watch his sisters love him.'

Hi mom! Jenna was surprised with phone call from her mother, former first lady Laura Bush, who welcomed her back to the show

Hi mom! Jenna was surprised with phone call from her mother, former first lady Laura Bush, who welcomed her back to the show 

Look of love: Baby Hal is the first grandson for Laura and her husband, former President George W. Bush

Look of love: Baby Hal is the first grandson for Laura and her husband, former President George W. Bush 

hard to leave: Jenna admitted that she held her son a 'little tighter' and 'cried on his little head' the night before her return to work

hard to leave: Jenna admitted that she held her son a 'little tighter' and 'cried on his little head' the night before her return to work 

Now that she and Henry are outnumbered, Jenna wanted to know how Hoda's mother, Sameha Kotb, handled raising three kids.   

'There's days that it feels hard,' she said of having three little ones. 'Life television is easier than being a mom sometimes. I'm like, I'm back to the easy stuff. Because we love them so much. 

'I beat myself up a lot sometimes,' she admitted. 'I want things to be right for those little kids. I want them to feel like the home is a happy one and you know sometimes it isn't always.'

One thing Jenna didn't have to worry about though was her daughters Mila, six, and Poppy, four, embracing their baby brother.   

'They love him. There was definitely a rowdiness in the girls because they wanted to express who they are,' she said, noting that 'men are a little bit simpler.'  

Another surprise: Jenna also received a call from her predecessor, Kathie Lee Gifford

Another surprise: Jenna also received a call from her predecessor, Kathie Lee Gifford 

End of an era: Jenna took over for Kathie Lee, who said farewell in April after 11 years co-hosting the fourth hour of the Today show with Hoda

End of an era: Jenna took over for Kathie Lee, who said farewell in April after 11 years co-hosting the fourth hour of the Today show with Hoda

Fun: During their reunion, Jenna and Hoda tested how well they know each other by playing the Today show version of 'The Newlywed Game'

Fun: During their reunion, Jenna and Hoda tested how well they know each other by playing the Today show version of 'The Newlywed Game'

'As long as Hal is close to somebody that's holding him tight and loves him ... and fed and sleeping, he's happy,' she explained. 'Sometimes girls are like, "You know what but I'm having a bad day mom, don't you know?"'

As part of her return, she got a special surprise phone call from her mom, who was happy to see her back with Hoda.  

'Dad and I are glad you're back on the full hour so we can keep an eye on you,' Laura joked. 'But I'm especially happy for the reason she was gone,' she said of her first grandson. 

Kathie Lee, Hoda's former fourth-hour co-host, also called in to welcome Jenna back and reveal she would be appearing on the Today show on Tuesday morning. 

Getting ready: Earlier in the day, Jenna took to Instagram to post a throwback photo of herself hugging Hoda while sharing her excitement over returning to work

Getting ready: Earlier in the day, Jenna took to Instagram to post a throwback photo of herself hugging Hoda while sharing her excitement over returning to work

Looking back: Hoda paid tribute to Jenna on Instagram by sharing a series of photos of them together, including pictures of them in New Orleans
Looking back: Hoda paid tribute to Jenna on Instagram by sharing a series of photos of them together, including pictures of them in New Orleans

Looking back: Hoda paid tribute to Jenna on Instagram by sharing a series of photos of them together, including pictures of them in New Orleans 

Long time apart: They only filmed five episodes of Hoda & Jenna before Hoda announced that she had adopted a second child, a baby girl named Hope, and was on maternity leave

Long time apart: They only filmed five episodes of Hoda & Jenna before Hoda announced that she had adopted a second child, a baby girl named Hope, and was on maternity leave 

'Welcome back, sweet girl,' she said while joking that she was getting a mammogram during the call. 'I'm really so excited to be back when you're back.'   

Hoda and Jenna were later joined by comedian Chuck Nice, who stopped by to quiz the co-hosts on how well they know each other while playing the Today show version of 'The Newlywed Game.' 

They ended up tying after they each correctly answered two questions about the other, but Hoda hilariously couldn't remember baby Hal's full name.   

She thought it was 'Hal George' and then 'Henry George' after Jenna's father, former President George H. W. Bush, until her friend finally told her it is Henry Harold Hager, a combination of her husband and grandfather's names. 

After correctly answering a question about what Hoda's eldest daughter, Haley Joy wore on Halloween, Jenna joked: 'By the way, I know what she wore and you didn't know my son's name, but okay.'

Funny: One hilarious snapshot shows Jenna smiling with what looks like a piece of food covering her front tooth

Funny: One hilarious snapshot shows Jenna smiling with what looks like a piece of food covering her front tooth

Excited: 'Jenna is back!' Hoda captioned the images of her co-host and friend

Excited: 'Jenna is back!' Hoda captioned the images of her co-host and friend 

Earlier in the day, Jenna took to Instagram to share her excitement over returning to work as well as her gratitude on Veteran's Day.   

'Good morning!' she wrote. 'Feeling full of gratitude for so much today: our beautiful country that is free thanks to all of those who serve, my children who woke up at 5am, finding me in the shower saying "Mama, we need to give you a hug on your first day at work" (not sure how their dad felt about the early wakeup!) 

'And feeling so thankful that I love what I do—this place and the people who I adore—make leaving a darling little man and his sisters so much easier.'

She also posted a throwback photo of herself hugging Hoda, writing: '@hodakotb, I’m coming home!!!'

Hoda, meanwhile, paid tribute to Jenna on Instagram by sharing a series of photos of them together, including pictures of them in New Orleans and playing tennis. 

Everybody dance Today! Jenna made a dramatic return to the Today show on Halloween to perform the iconic Dirty Dancing routine last month

Everybody dance Today! Jenna made a dramatic return to the Today show on Halloween to perform the iconic Dirty Dancing routine last month 

Mama's got moves: Jenna gave birth to her son, Henry Harold 'Hal' Hager, via C-section on August 2

Memories: The mother-of-three gave birth to her son, Hal, via C-section on August 2 

One hilarious snapshot shows Jenna smiling with what looks like a piece of food covering her front tooth.   

'Jenna is back!' Hoda captioned the images.   

The anchor later posted a picture of her co-host right before she walked on stage on Monday morning's show, writing: 'She's ready.'

Although it was Jenna's first official day back, she did make a special appearance on the show's Halloween extravaganza, which paid homage to famous dances. 

She took on the role of Jennifer Grey’s character, Baby, from Dirty Dancing to re-create the film's famous dance scene with Willie Geist, who was dressed as Patrick Swayze's Johnny.

It was during the episode that she happily revealed she would be returning to the show for good on Monday, November 11.  

Jenna Bush Hager returns to Today after a three-month maternity leave

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