Kenya Moore Was 'Disappointed' to Leave RHOA — But Is Open to Coming Back: 'Never Say Never'

For seven seasons on the Real Housewives of Atlanta, viewers heard Kenya Moore lament about her desire to start a family of her own.

So one can imagine the frustration felt by fans when Moore’s pregnancy journey and the birth of her 5-week old daughter, Brooklyn Doris, happened away from the RHOA cameras — with Moore ultimately not returning for the show’s eleventh season, currently airing on Bravo.

As upset as they were, no one was more saddened than Moore. “It broke my heart, but with all the stress I went through with this baby, I don’t know how I could have done it,” the new mom exclusively tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue, opening up in an interview for the first time about her exit. “Even now, breastfeeding every three hours, changing diapers, being up at all hours — I just don’t think I could have been present.”

Moore had a high-risk pregnancy that included multiple health scares and a three-hour emergency C-section to deliver her daughter weeks prematurely. (Ironically, she gave birth on Nov. 4 — the same day RHOA season 11 premiered).

“It was really scary,” Moore says. “I really think that things happen for a reason. Even though I was disappointed to not come back to RHOA, I feel like it’s the best thing that could have happened for my baby.”

As PEOPLE reported back in June, talks for Moore’s role on RHOA were said to have fallen apart during a lengthy contract negotiation that left her and the network on opposite sides of uncrossable battle lines.

Multiple insiders said both production and Moore agreed she should return as a full-time Housewife, but Moore wanted more than her bosses were offering and they wanted her to film all parts of her life — including personal time with husband Marc Daly — that she had dictated were previously off-limits.

“They were at a standstill for so long,” one source said. “Everyone was rooting for her and wanted to see her back, even women like Nene [Leakes] and Porsha [Williams] who haven’t always been on ‘Team Kenya.’ The cast, producers, Bravo… they all know she’s good for the show. But it got messy. She just refused to compromise.”

Another source close to the reality star put it differently, explaining that Moore “knew her worth,” “had her priorities set” and wasn’t interested in bending to producers’ “insulting” offers.

Neither Bravo nor Moore responded to PEOPLE’s report in June, but in October, Moore released a statement to Bravo’s The Daily Dish about her absence.

“I have decided to take this season off to focus on my high risk pregnancy in a healthy and drama free environment,” she said. “I thank Bravo for this amazing platform that has allowed me to grow, flourish and appreciate the value of what is truly important in life.”

Despite missing out on the fun, the former Miss USA remains close with her fellow Atlanta Housewives and is open to joining them in front of the cameras again. “Never say never,” she says. “Hopefully things will be able to work out and viewers will be able to see me come full circle.”

“Everything has to align for me to,” she adds.

Housewives like Kandi Burruss and Cynthia Bailey have already made the trip to meet Brooklyn Doris since her birth, with Moore sharing a gallery of photos of their visit to Instagram on Friday. Williams, who is pregnant with her first child, and friend Shamea Morton, who is pregnant with her second, have both reached out via phone with messages of love, too.

“Everyone has pretty much gotten in touch to congratulate me and our family,” Moore says.

That even includes former Housewife Shereé Whitfield, who famously feuded with Moore on RHOA. “Shereé gave me a ring to say congratulations,” Moore says. “I thought that was very big of her.”

But no support has meant as much to Moore as the support she gets from her fans.

“I have really amazing, loyal fans. They’re just so pro-all-things-Kenya-and-Team Twirl,” she says. “I’ve seen all of the postings and everything they’ve been doing.”

Talking about them, Moore gets sentimental. She’s content with her decision not to film this season of RHOA, but she still wishes things could have been different.

“I wish I could have been able to give them what they’ve waited seven years to see,” Moore admits. “All the hell I’ve been through and all of the disappointments — all of the frogs I’ve kissed — I finally just have everything I’ve dreamed of. So it’s been a journey, and to be able to see me as a mother and a wife, I know it was important to them.”

  • For more on Kenya Moore, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now

Moore joined RHOA in season 5 and has given the show some of its most iconic scenes, from her “Gone with the Wind fabulous” battle with Williams in her first season to her feuds with Kim Zolciak-Biermann.

Season 11 currently stars returning Housewives Leakes, Burruss, Bailey and Williams, as well as two new Housewives: Shamari Devoe, a former alum of the R&B group Blaque and wife of New Edition’s Ronnie DeVoe; and Eva Marcille, the America’s Next Top Model alum (and new mom) who appeared as a friend of the Housewives last season and has now been promoted to full-time status.

The Real Housewives of Atlanta airs Sundays (9 p.m. ET) on Bravo.

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