"This is my second chance at love, at being happy, at a stable marriage, at having a family," Reagan Charleston tells PEOPLE
Reagan Charleston has a lot to celebrate these days!
Less than a year after her divorce from ex Jeff Charleston was finalized, the Southern Charm New Orleans star, 31, is turning the page on a new chapter — telling PEOPLE exclusively that she and new beau Reece Thomas have walked down the aisle and are expecting a baby girl, due June 18.
“We’re thrilled!” Charleston says. “Everything has been in hyperdrive, but it’s been incredible.”
“He was born to be a dad. He’s so good with kids and he’s got a dad hat on already. And I’m so ready to be a mom,” she shares. “I keep thinking about the fact that I’m bringing a life into this world. I’m going to have a little person who I’m going to feed and raise. It’s the warmest feeling. I’m so excited.”
The baby girl on the way will be the first child for Charleston and Thomas, a 32-year-old operations manager at the Elite Thoroughbreds Farm.
The pair had previously dated over a decade ago, but parted ways after college. Following Charleston’s separation, the two reconnected. “We had instant chemistry; it was like no time had passed at all,” she gushes. “The last decade just went out the window and we picked up just right where we left off, when we were in our early 20s, like college kids.”
“Especially after my divorce, it was so nice to have someone who felt familiar,” she adds. “I had spent months living on my own in the French Quarter, living an independent life. And right when I felt ready to start dating again, Reece came back in my life. It felt like serendipity. Like everything happened for a reason. There’s no other way to describe it: it just feels right.”
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Southern Charm New Orleans cameras will follow Charleston and Thomas’ romance in its second season, including their romantic nuptials (part of the reason the reality star says she kept her big news off of social media).
The couple didn’t wait long before they decided they wanted to get married and start trying for a child.
“I spent so much time convincing myself that I didn’t want kids, that I didn’t want a family, that it just wasn’t right because I had this career and every excuse I could make for myself,” Charleston recalls. “And then as soon as we started seeing each other, it was like, 6 months later we started talking about when we wanted to get married and start having a family.”
Getting pregnant came easily, too.
“It wasn’t an ideal time but we kind of just looked at each other one day when we were with our niece and nephew and were like, ‘Why are we postponing this when we don’t know what could happen? We’re not getting younger! We’re in our 30s, we want a family.’ And about two months later, we found out we were pregnant,” she says. “It wasn’t anything I second guessed or doubted. It felt right and we were on the same page. We both wanted a baby and a family and we were fortunate enough that god blessed us with one, too.”
Meanwhile, it’s been a busy pregnancy for Charleston.
Right before she found out she was pregnant, she opened her self-named jewelry retail store in New Orleans. And just six months in, Charleston took the bar exam — and passed.
“It was miserable, actually,” she jokes, of the stress of managing it all.
This summer, Charleston will start another business: her own law practice with her father-in-law in New Orleans where we’ll be doing primarily real estate law. “We’ve been getting prepped on top of all of this,” she says. “I’ll be able to bring my baby to work. The idea of balancing family and career was something that was so scary to me, but the whole family is rallying around right now. Reece has been so supportive in helping me figure out how to navigate all of that.”
And she has had to slow down. “I had some pre-labor stuff that went on around 30 weeks that was pretty scary, and they put me on bedrest, which was difficult for our busy lives,” Charleston says. “I was in shock. But about two or three weeks ago, they took me off of bedrest, and it’s been smooth sailing since then.”
Though she’s not due for a few weeks, doctors have told Charleston she could go into labor at any moment, leaving her “scrambling to get everything ready.”
“We just did her closet and nursery,” she says, adding that her extended family helped. “We all cried when we finished because it’s almost here.”
But the delivery “scares” her. “I’m really OCD about what’s coming, and like to have everything planned and charted and mapped out. But you can’t plan for that!” she says.
Mostly, Charleston just feels ready for life as a parent, with Thomas by her side.
“He’s my second chance,” Charleston says. “I’d gone through this really difficult transition in my life after my divorce and I was looking at being 30 years old where my friends were getting married for the first time and having babies and starting families and I was looking at completely starting over. That was terrifying. But then Reece came back into my life and everything fell into place.”
“I immediately realized what I had in front of me — a second chance at love, at being happy, at a stable marriage, at having a family. I did not miss my chance to get on that boat,” Charleston says. “And yes, it wasn’t convention that I immediately was in another relationship after my divorce was finalized; I understand that. But when you know, you know. To stifle that or slow it down, it would have just felt like enormous regret.”
Charleston adds: “I can’t see my life any other way right now. It feels like everything is perfect.”
Southern Charm New Orleans season 2 premieres June 2 at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo.