Heather Rae El Moussa loves being a mother.
“I am absolutely obsessed with Tristan,” the “Selling Sunset” star says of her first child, born three weeks ago. “New mommyhood is hard but beautiful. I’m enjoying all the firsts and really getting to know him,” El Moussa tells TODAY.com in an intervew along with husband Tarek El Moussa.
“Tristan has a big personality,” HGTV host Tarek tells TODAY.com. “He’s an active little guy. And as you would expect, Heather is a rock star (mom). Their bonding is just beautiful to see.”
The El Moussas, who will celebrate their two-year wedding anniversary in Oct. 2023, are prepping for the March 2 premiere of their new 10-episode HGTV show, “The Flipping El Moussas.” In the show, real estate and home flipping collide with their married life — which included an unexpected pregnancy that occurred as the couple were doing in vitro fertilization.
Now, the family is establishing new routines as the new baby joins Tarek’s daughter Taylor, 12, and son Brayden, 7, whom he shares with ex-wife and former “Flip or Flop” co-star Christina Hall. The ex couple divorced in 2018 though they co-hosted their hit show until its 10th season in March 2022.
The older kids have embraced their baby brother.
“They were bonding with Tristan before he arrived, the kids tracked the birth, they wanted to look at Heather’s app, and hear about his growth, (asking), ‘How big is he — a berry this week? Is he an orange?’” says Tarek. “I just posted a photo on social media of me and all three kids and you can see in their eyes and smiles how happy they are.”
The sweetest moments happen in the evening, says Heather, who acknowledges the challenges of bringing a baby into a blended family.
“When Tarek is holding Tristan, Taylor will come in and give him and the baby a kiss and say goodnight ... she understands that this is an important time for us,” she says. “I haven’t been able to spend as much time with the kids as I’m used to — and I know Brayden is definitely feeling it a little bit — but we explained to them that this is a short period and things will fall back into place.”
“We make sure they know that all three of them are number one,” adds Tarek.
The couple “divides and conquers” having three children but bedtime gets disorderly.
“Heather is stricter than me, for sure,” admits Tarek. “I play games and wrestle with the kids. When she says, ‘OK, it’s bedtime,’ I’m like, ‘OK, five more minutes!’ But then, I will enforce her rules.”
Heather agrees. “People may think that Tarek is more strict but I am definitely a little more rigid as far as schedules and keeping everything on track,” she says. “That’s kind of my job. But we parent very well together.”
Heather kept busy during pregnancy, bouncing between the sets of “Selling Sunset” (which just wrapped its sixth season) and “The Flipping El Moussas,” until about a week before giving birth.
“I actually enjoyed filming while pregnant,” says Heather,
“I’ve heard this from a lot of my girlfriends, that when they were pregnant, they sat around the house a lot, they were in their sweats, they didn’t get ready or leave,” says Heather. “I was almost forced to still get my glam, dress up, get out of the house and feel beautiful. It made me feel like I was still human.” Although her pregnancy was healthy, Heather dealt with a “pretty awful” case of sciatica, which is pain along the sciatic nerve.
Heather and Tarek welcomed Tristan Jay on Jan. 31.
“Our baby boy is here,” the couple wrote on Instagram. “Mama & baby are happy, healthy, tired but doing well. Our hearts are so happy.”
The birth was “terrifying,” Heather shared on Instagram.
“We were at my final doctor appointment and our (doctor) rushed us to the hospital to get monitored because Tristan’s movements had slowed down,” she wrote. “I was 4 days past his due date.”
The reality star was given a medication called Cytotec and a foley bulb to help labor progress and her water broke eight hours later.
“It was time to push!! it all happened really fast,” she wrote in the post. “Tristan’s heart rate was dropping very low every time I’d push & was staying low which was terrifying.”
With Tarek by her side, Heather pushed four more times, the force breaking blood vessels in her face and chest.
“Tarek yelled, ‘I see his head, push push push,’” she wrote. “Our baby boy came out healthy and beautiful. I was in a state of shock, it was a surreal experience.”
Their son’s name honors both sides of the family: Tarek’s parents had initially considered naming him “Tristan” (or Gaëtan or Fabian) and “Jay” is Heather’s father’s middle moniker.
Before deciding on Tristan, Heather and Tarek mulled alternatives Theo and the runner-up Maverick, which Tarek feared would be too popular, given its association with “Top Gun.”
The parents have been laying low with their mothers who Heather says have been “an incredible help.”
For Heather, transitioning into marriage and step-parenting had its “ups and downs.”
“I’m a very happy, positive person, but I felt like I was always second,” she told TODAY in Nov. 2022. “No one ever made me feel that way, but I think when your significant other had such a long relationship with a previous spouse and a lot of love and it was a very public divorce and you’re coming into it. You fall in love with each other, but you always kind of think of the ex. For me, I did.”
Heather’s love for Tarek and Hall’s children was unifying.
“I always said, ‘I parent the kids as if they were my own’ and we do have them 50 percent of the time,” she explains. “I wouldn’t know how to do it any other way. I am very close with the kids.”
With Tarek spending even more time with the older children, Heather can focus on Tristan.
“At first in the hospital, I was nervous it was brand-new — you have the nurses around and everyone helping. They show you quick things to do and then they leave the room and you realize, ‘Wait, I’m supposed to (change) his diaper like this? Swaddle him like this?’” says Heather. After the birth, Tristan developed jaundice, a common condition that turns an infant’s skin yellow due to an excess of pigment called bilirubin that is sometimes treated with phototherapy treatment if it doesn’t resolve on its own.
Although Heather says her “mommy instincts” kicked in at home, nursing wasn’t the experience she expected.
Tristan latched on instantly but he had “severe” tongue, lip and cheek tie, conditions that make breastfeeding harder for babies, for which he underwent laser therapy.
“(Doctors) explained that it’s like sucking a milkshake using a straw with a hole,” says Heather. “Tristan wasn’t able to suck because of the tongue tie so he lost a lot of weight. He’s now doing so much better.”
“I love breastfeeding, but it’s harder than I thought it was going to be,” says Heather. “I thought I would just pop him on, but that’s not how it works. That was definitely really challenging but we’re learning.”
Tarek and Heather recently had a dinner date on Valentine’s Day. For Heather, it was a chance to ditch her robe and “24/7” pumping bra. “It was the first time I actually wore clothes!” she says.
Table talk largely revolved around their son, but the stolen time was worth it.
“It was nice to laugh with Tarek and feel connected,” says Heather. “That’s very important.”