Turns out Shay Mitchell is a good secret keeper.
Because when the Pretty Little Liars alum revealed she was expecting last June, the general reaction from the public was a collective, "Huh. How about that." (Mixed with the obvious joy and excitement for the star.) Because not only did most people not have an inkling the actress was pregnant, the more casual of fans might not realize that she was in an awfully serious relationship.
Which was pretty much the point. Mitchell had been dating former VJ Matte Babel the better part of three years at that point. And while they weren't exactly hiding their romance, making the occasional cameo on each other's Instagram feeds, they weren't broadcasting it either.
"As much as I am active on social media," she noted while revealing her pregnancy in the first episode of their YouTube series Almost Ready. "I still consider myself to be pretty private."
Back in January 2017, when photos of Babel began popping up on Mitchell's Snapchat and a source whispered to Entertainment Tonight that she was seeing the then-ET Canada reporter, she insisted she had nothing to hide—"When I am in a relationship and if things get out, then it gets out," she told FOX411. But she couldn't help reaching for a pretty little lie.
She and the 39-year-old were pals she insisted, having run in the same Canadian network for quite some time. "We've known each other for nine years," she said. "We knew each other in Toronto. Like Drake and all them, it's a Toronto crew. We're really, really awesome friends."
That much was technically true. Babel, a Wilfrid Laurier University grad, had played professional football in Europe for a spell and had taken the LSATs in preparation for law school when he landed in TV "by fluke," he said. "I never ever thought about being on TV. It never even crossed my mind."
But soon he found himself working as a VJ on Canada's Much Music channel, interviewing the likes of Mariah Carey and Justin Timberlake, working as a correspondent on ET and even appearing in two episodes of Degrassi: The Next Generation. That last gig would connect him with Drake and his assistant Ryan Silverstein, who up until 2014 was also Mitchell's boyfriend.
By 2017, though, that title definitively belonged to Babel, a fact that became more obvious when the Toronto native, who now works for management and entertainment company Dreamcrew, joined Mitchell in New York City for February's fashion week.
"I, um... I'm having fun, you know," she stammered to Extra, when asked about her plus-one, though she wasn't going to get more descriptive than that. "Always private, always," she said, "always keep them guessing."
That continued as their raison d'être for the next several years.
While they more or less went Instagram official that April, Babel marking his love's birthday that year with a kissy face-emoji-laden tribute to "the one who makes me smile", they weren't about to become a red carpet-walking, interview-gushing, very online Hollywood pair.
After that first birthday shout-out, Mitchell made just two appearances on his Instagram feed in two years (one in which her face was obscured), until the pair revealed their baby news this June. (Although we're fully expecting her to get some play for her 33rd birthday today.)
And though he was a fixture in her popular Shaycation digital series, he wasn't specifically labeled as a boyfriend, save for one hint in a 2017 interview with Maxim, where she called out her trip to the Greek island of Santorini as her most romantic. "It's just the tranquility to it. There isn't a nightlife there; you have dinner, and you go to bed," she explained. "It kinda just forces you to take it easy. So you better love the person you're with..."
Good thing she had ever reason to adore Babel.
On paper, the striking former athlete seemed to be her type. While she told Maxim, "I fall in love with the spirit of somebody," that person must also have the right, self-assured personality.
"I've seen the most beautiful people walk into a room, and you can just tell they're not confident," she told the magazine. "It's just like...ehh...it takes it down for me." And while he had more or less hidden in plain sight for years, Babel certainly enough chutzpah to hold his own next to his famous girlfriend in their new YouTube series.
Because now that they're out, they're out in a big way.
"When you're in the public eye, there are some things you wanna just keep a secret until you feel ready," the Dollface actress shared in her initial video announcement, titled Guess Who's Preggers. And she was feeling especially ambivalent about broadcasting her news having suffered a miscarriage in her second trimester in late 2018.
"The first time that I was pregnant last year, Matt and I hadn't been planning, it happened and we were really excited about it," she said. "I was like 14 weeks, at that point, I had no idea the percentage of miscarriages. When it happened I was just, completely blindsided by it."
So this time, though they were open with their family and close friends, "I had to be comfortable before I told the world," she noted.
That meant keeping her burgeoning bump—and thrilling news—under wraps until she was nearly six months along. "With the first pregnancy, I was elated and told everyone at eight weeks," she explained to blog HATCHland. "However, I wanted to be sure that this second pregnancy would be viable before shouting it from the rooftops, so I hid it for nearly six months and became very anti-social. Usually, I'm incredibly active and outgoing, but instead, I mainly stayed home to avoid stares and questions. I was extremely lonely."
Which is why she has been so thrilled to document the waning months of her pregnancy and her journey to parenthood with the man she calls her best friend. With their bi-weekly series the formerly private pair have shared ultrasounds, their gender reveal, Mitchell's stripper-filled baby shower and disagreements over her birth plan, Babel apparently not understanding how crucial an epidural can be.
Not that it mattered because, as with most birth plans, it went off-track some time after her water broke at their L.A. home. As Mitchell shared in the delivery installment of their series, she opted for the epidural after nearly a day of labor, later proclaiming, "This is the most comfortable I've been for a long time." (As for Babel, he made his stance on the whole matter infinitely clear, flashing to the No Ovaries, No Opinion tee he'd slipped into for the occasion.)
Thirty-three hours of what Mitchell dubbed "the most intense experience of my life," she's thrilled with the outcome, announcing her daughter's arrival with a sweet Instagram and a peek at the newborn's tiny hand.
True to form, the couple kept Atlas' early October arrival on the down low for a bit as they adjusted to their new normal as bleary-eyed parents.
"There is a lot of stress and anxiety," she admitted to Vogue last year of embarking on this new adventure. "I'd heard all these things from my friends saying, 'You're going to second guess a lot of things you do, you're going to feel guilty when you leave her.' [It's been all about] just taking the time to get ready and be by myself to [say,] 'Okay cool, now I can handle this, I've got this, so many people have done this before me, and so many people have felt the same way.'"
Thankfully she has Babel to remind her that she's killing it in the motherhood game. "I can't explain the comfort in knowing she has someone as amazing as you to show her the way," he wrote in a sweet tribute mere weeks after their little girl was born.
She would argue Babel is a natural, as well. "He still has no idea. I think until that baby comes out and starts crying will it then hit him," she said in that first episode of Almost Ready. "And then I feel like his role begins. He's gonna be a great dad. He is so good with kids. He's just so comfortable. After the pregnancy, I don't have a worry at all."
She has one less secret as well.
(Originally published Oct. 22, 2019, at 6:45 a.m. PT)