Last June, Andy Cohen celebrated his 50th birthday at a private dinner in Manhattan with a few dozen longtime friends — but only his closest friends in the room knew that the celebration was also, as he calls it, “a going-away party.”
Cohen, host of Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live and overlord of the network’s Real Housewives franchise, was going to be a parent. A surrogate in California was already carrying his son, and the father-to-be was secretly preparing for a seismic change in his life.
“It definitely felt like the closing of a chapter — a way of celebrating the life he had made for himself and the new life that he was making,” his close friend Sarah Jessica Parker tells PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly Editorial Director Jess Cagle in this week’s issue, in which Cohen opens up about becoming a dad — and poses for the first time with his son Benjamin Allen Cohen, who was born on Feb. 4.
And while becoming a single dad for the first time at 50 may seem daunting, Cohen has a web of support stretching across the country — starting with some of Bravo’s biggest stars.
“The Housewives have given me a lot of advice,” Cohen says. “All their mom instincts came out. As loud and funny and aggressive and wild and dramatic and everything you want to say about the Housewives, as much of all that as they are, they’re all moms, pretty much. And they’re all good moms.”
“They all really surrounded me and just wanted to protect me and help me in the sweetest, most humane and lovely way that has just continued to really tickle me,” he adds. “They’ve all been so lovely.”
Other A-list helpers? Cohen’s close friends Parker and Kelly Ripa.
“Kelly Ripa helped me find my baby nurse, who’s incredible,” Cohen says. “Sarah Jessica sat with me for three hours on a Saturday and helped me do my registry. And she lent me clothes and burp cloths that she had saved from her kids. She labeled them all. She left me a big plastic container full of things that she knew I would need.”
Parker, a mom of three, says Cohen “had all sorts of smart questions and worries and concerns.”
“We’ve talked almost daily since the decision [to have a baby] was made,” she says. “He’s the kind of person who takes care of every detail immediately — very organized, very committed and loyal.”
For more on Andy Cohen’s life as a new dad, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
Ultimately, Cohen says he wants his baby boy to grow up “surrounded by as many women as possible.”
“Women have played such a key role in my life,” he says. “My most important relationship has probably been with my mom. He will be surrounded by women. He needs it. We all need it.”
“I have a swarm of women around who are ready to love on this boy,” he adds. “I know I couldn’t do it without them.”