She's back! Jenna Bush Hager returns to TODAY after maternity leave

The TODAY with Hoda & Jenna co-host got teary when taking her seat back next to Hoda Kotb in Studio 1A.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Drew Weisholtz

Studio 1A just got a bit brighter!

Jenna Bush Hager made her official return to TODAY with Hoda & Jenna on Monday, her first day back following her maternity leave after giving birth to son Hal in August.

Jenna and co-host Hoda Kotb warmly embraced before sitting down in the studio, a moment that left Jenna teary-eyed.

"I feel really good," Jenna said.

Jenna Bush Hager and Hoda Kotb shared a hug when they reunited Monday on TODAY with Hoda and Jenna.Nathan Congleton / TODAY

"I evidently am very emotional, but that's no surprise. It feels so good. I hope you all have these places in your life where you want to go back to because I wanted to come back," the mother of three said. She continued dabbing away tears while she shared some pictures of Hal.

Jenna also received a surprise phone call from her mother, former first lady Laura Bush, welcoming her back to the show.

"Dad and I are glad you're back on the full hour so we can keep an eye on you," she joked. "But I'm especially happy for the reason she was gone," she said of baby Hal, the first grandson for her and former President George W. Bush.

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That wasn't the only phone call Jenna received. Her predecessor, former fourth hour co-host Kathie Lee Gifford, dialed in with some warm wishes, as well.

"Welcome back, sweet girl," she said, while joking she was undergoing a mammogram during the call.

Comedian Chuck Nice also stopped by to host a fun game to see how well Jenna and Hoda really know each other. They answered questions about their first jobs, girl crushes and their kids.

And if you thought the phone calls were done, you thought wrong. Country singer Trisha Yearwood also called in to express her support for the duo.

The phone was ringing off the hook, as Jenna got plenty of calls welcoming her back.Nathan Congleton / TODAY

"I love you both, and I just want to say congratulations on you guys being back together again," she said. "We all missed you as a team."

Jenna was so keyed up to return that she stopped by the TODAY plaza early that morning to say hello to Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker, Craig Melvin, Dylan Dreyer, and, of course, Hoda.

"We have been waiting for this day forever," Savannah said.

"I called Jenna at 4:45 a.m. this morning just to say, 'Its' time! Wake up!'" Hoda joked.

"She was my alarm, and I have to say, what a positive way to wake up," Jenna said.

Early Monday, Jenna expressed her excitement to return in an Instagram post, in which she recognized Veterans Day and expressed her appreciation for her own family.

“Good morning! Feeling full of gratitude for so much today: our beautiful country that is free thanks to all of those who serve, my children who woke up at 5am, finding me in the shower saying ‘Mama, we need to give you a hug on your first day at work’ (not sure how their dad felt about the early wakeup!) And feeling so thankful that I love what I do—this place and the people who I adore—make leaving a darling little man and his sisters so much easier,” she wrote in a caption.

While on maternity leave, Jenna wasn't totally off the grid. She joined in for TODAY's Halloween extravaganza, dressing as Jennifer Grey’s character, Baby, from “Dirty Dancing.” She and Willie Geist, who was dressed as Patrick Swayze's Johnny, re-created the film’s trademark dancing scene.

It was on Halloween that Jenna revealed she would return to the show Nov. 11.

This day has been a long time coming for Jenna and Hoda, who have officially sat down to co-host TODAY with Hoda & Jenna for just one week since its inception. When Jenna joined the show upon Gifford's departure in April, Hoda went on maternity leave after adopting her second daughter, Hope. By the time she returned to work in September, Jenna was in the midst of her own maternity leave.

Shortly after Hal was born, when Jenna and Hoda were both on leave tending to their babies, Hoda called in to the show to say she and her co-host got together and that she shared some advice with her.

“I said, ‘Just enjoy it. And know that this is like a moment in time and you get to live it, so don’t spend it looking around worrying about what’s ahead,'" Hoda said.