Kenya Moore‘s road to motherhood was full of ups and downs, but the latest chapter in her journey has one “beautiful” and happy ending.
The Real Housewives of Atlanta alum, 47, recently became a first time mom, welcoming newborn daughter Brooklyn Doris on Nov. 4.
“I finally have everything I’ve dreamed of,” she gushes to PEOPLE, posing with her adorable baby girl for the first time in an exclusive spread for this week’s issue.
“She’s so perfect in so many ways,” adds Moore, who says Brooklyn “makes 101 faces” that always make her laugh. “This little angel … so beautiful. I feel so blessed. It’s all been so worth it.”
If Moore sounds extra gushy, that’s because she’s overcome a lot to get to this moment.
The Detroit native, who was raised by her grandmother and lives in Atlanta, had yearned for a family of her own but always seemed to come up short in the love department, with a series of failed relationships behind her. “It’s weird,” she says. “You can be surrounded by people but if you don’t have what you’ve longed for your whole life — and in my case, that’s a family — you just feel lonely.”
Meeting New York restaurateur Marc Daly, 48, in 2016 changed all that. The couple wed in “a romantic” and intimate St. Lucia ceremony in June 2017, and immediately got to work at starting a family. (“We both want to start a family and soon — like, right away,” she told PEOPLE at the time, “We both want a child.”)
They would eventually turn to in vitro fertilization for help, Moore spilling the good news of her baby-to-be back in March while taping the RHOA season 10 reunion.
But pregnancy brought it’s own challenges. At her first ultrasound, doctors couldn’t see the baby’s skeleton and worried Moore had a false pregnancy. Another visit had physicians concerned Moore was having an ectopic tubal pregnancy and would need to be terminated.
“There were so many scares along the way,” Moore says, explaining she was seeing an OBGYN and perinatologist (a specialist for high-risk pregnancy) weekly. “We held our breath every time we went to the doctor.”
Then in late October, Moore tested positive for preeclampsia — a condition marked by extreme fluid retention and high blood pressure that can lead to serious, even fatal complications. Moore first noticed swelling in her feet, but jokes, “Okay pregnant women, their feet swell!”
Days later, she visited her OBGYN and got on the scale. “In one week, I had gained 17 lbs.” she recalls. “I was like, ‘Wait a minute, is this scale right?’ ‘Cause I remembered specifically what my weight was, and at that point, I was at 203 lbs. already. And then when they weighed me, I was 220 lbs. And I was thinking, ‘Something is not right here. Is the scale broken?’ ”
Further tests found protein in Moore’s urine and heightened blood pressure, more signs of preeclampsia. Doctors continued to monitor her and give her more tests over the following days, until they finally decided to pull the trigger.
“I called them to give them my blood pressure readings and my reading was through the roof and climbing,” Moore explains. “They told me, ‘Your condition is worsening so get your bags and go straight to the hospital, you’re delivering today.’ “
Frightened, and with Daly still on a plane to Atlanta, Moore recalls bursting into tears. “It was all happening so fast,” she says. “I started crying because I got so scared. I couldn’t get a hold of Marc, I didn’t know what was going to happen. I just remember feeling overwhelmed with emotion. It was really tough.”
Less than 12 hours later, Moore was on the operating room table, pumped up with anti-seizure medication for herself and steroids to make sure her premature baby’s lungs were developing properly (“They actually made me wait until some of the other cases got out or else it would have been sooner than that,” she says).
Delivery was even harder. Moore’s emergency cesarean section lasted a nightmarish three hours (Marc, who arrive in Atlanta with plenty of time, was in the delivery room by her side). Due to fibroids in the way, she ended up being cut twice — horizontally and vertically.
“They couldn’t get the baby out,” she says. “There were all these complications and they knew if they cut into a fibroid, I could potentially bleed out and die. So they ended up cutting me vertically too, to just get the baby out and make sure I survived the surgery. They were so scared they were going to lose me.”
At one point, Moore’s epidural ran out and doctors gave her anesthesia to put her out. She jokes, “When it was all over, my doctor said, ‘This was one for the books.’ ”
Of course, all those hurdles were worth it the moment Moore held her daughter for the first time. Both were crying, but calmness fell upon them the second Brooklyn was placed in Moore’s arms.
“They laid her down on my chest, and those screaming cries stopped immediately,” Moore recalls. “She was just so perfect, so tiny. And just like that, all my dreams had come true.”
Brooklyn Doris — named after where the couple met and fell in love, as well as Moore’s grandmother — was born nearly six weeks premature. Although her arrival was challenging, it’s been smooth sailing ever since.
“We’re so in love,” Moore gushes. “Everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong. But she’s such a tough baby; so determined. And every step of the way, she kept surviving and getting stronger. She’s my miracle baby. There’s no other way to describe it, she’s my miracle baby.”