"She always wants the best for me like I want the best for me," Jenna Bush Hager raves of friend and co-host Hoda Kotb, who recently welcomed baby No. 2
Bush Hager — who announced her own pregnancy on April 22, six days after Kotb revealed she had welcomed a second daughter, Hope Catherine, via adoption — opens up to PEOPLE in this week’s issue about her excitement over becoming a mom for the third time, as well as how she put positive thoughts into the universe for a sibling for her friend and co-host’s 2-year-old daughter Haley Joy.
“I am pregnant and it was unexpected,” says Bush Hager, 37, adding of herself and husband Henry Hager, “We really hadn’t planned to even have a third baby and it feels like this blessing that I hadn’t even asked for. But at the same time I was starting a show with someone I so admire, and someone I knew wanted to expand her family.”
“So when I told [Hoda] the news, there was a little trepidation because I wanted her happiness to come too,” she continues. “She looked at me and we cried. She cried out of happiness for me and I think she knew her time was coming too. But she said she was thrilled for me. There was not one ounce of anything but absolute support in my joy. That’s why I love working with her and love being her friend. She really did want the best for me. She always wants the best for me like I want the best for me.”
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“I’m thrilled for Hoda and I’m thrilled for Hope because she has the best mom in the world. It’s no secret. Hoda was so brave with talking to all of us and she put it out there to the world that she wanted a baby for her family. She wanted to expand it,” the former first daughter tells PEOPLE. “This is the family she was envisioning. She knew there was a missing piece.”
“She said after hearing how linked [my] sisterhood was [with Barbara Pierce Bush], it made her think of her sister,” Bush Hager recalls. “She started thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have a sister for Haley?’ I knew that and I prayed for this baby for her. I knew it was so what she wanted and not only for herself. She pictured another baby for her family but also for Haley.”
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Calling her “one of the most empathetic people I’ve ever met,” Kotb tells PEOPLE that hearing Bush Hager confide in her about her pregnancy — and her feelings of guilt — made her love her pregnant co-host “so much more.”
“On your best day, somehow you’re worried about how I’m feeling,” Kotb muses. “I feel it’s one of the sweetest things that Jenna’s about.”
But after waiting years for her own daughters, Kotb says she can easily relate to Bush Hager’s mixed emotions.
“I understand a little bit because I’m sitting in this home with two children, and I’m hearing from people on social media who are waiting for their day. Like, ‘When’s my day coming?’ I get it. I get it because I wondered when my day was coming,” she says.
“It’s hard to read an article like this and go, ‘When’s my day?’ I know people who’ve been waiting longer than Joel and I have been waiting.”
Kotb adds, “I think babies come when they’re supposed to come. I think your heart has to be open, so when Jenna was telling me that, I was thinking to myself, my time’s coming too. I feel everything happens right on time.”
For more from Jenna Bush Hager and other Today show moms, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.