Having five kids may not exactly sound like a formula for relaxation, but for Tori Spelling, her little ones have been her calm in the storm when the rest of life gets choppy.
Spelling had always wanted to become a mom and, from the time her first child, son Liam Aaron McDermott, was born—11 years ago today—her life has more or less gladly revolved around her kids.
"To Dean and Liam, my beautiful boys—you made all my dreams come true," read the dedication of her first book, 2008's sTORI Telling, when it was just the three of them (though daughter Stella was born a few months after the book's release).
Spelling married her second husband, Dean McDermott, on May 7, 2006. Liam was born on March 13, 2007, having been conceived while mom and dad were in Ottawa, Canada, shooting the TV movie The House Sitter. They had previously experienced one failed pregnancy after getting engaged and had been trying ever since.
Starting traditions was super important to Spelling. She and McDermott, who also had a son, Jack, from his previous marriage, read Good Night Moon to Liam before bed every night and made sure to sit down to dinner as a family as much as possible, regular family dinners something Tori says she missed out on as a kid.
"I want my kids to always feel safe that they can express themselves and talk to us about everything," Spelling wrote in a blog post. "...Since becoming a mom, I've realized that there are so much more important things in life than ourselves and what we have going on. When you see life created and watch it learn and appreciate the small things, it really puts things into perspective for you. Being a mom gives me the chance to relive things through Liam's eyes and appreciate things that I never took the time to appreciate."
In the meantime, the couple had leased a house that they planned to turn into a bed-and-breakfast in Fallbrook, Calif., leading to the show Tori & Dean: Inn Love. At first it felt like living in a dream, but soon the reality of running a hotel set in, especially with a brand-new baby, Liam having been born while they were shooting the first season. During season two they left the B&B business and for season three their show morphed into Tori & Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood.
"For all the mistakes I know I've made, it's hard to have deep regrets when things turn out so right," Spelling concluded in sTORI Telling, referring variously to her longtime issues with her mother, Candy Spelling; her divorce from Charlie Shanian, whom she had doubts about marrying in the first place; and other missteps along the way.
"It starts to feel like destiny. Dean, Liam, our work, wherever it may lead us, our lives together—it feels safe, protected by the love we have for each other."
Talk about simpler times.
Stella Doreen McDermott was born on June 9, 2008. Spelling was thrilled to have a daughter, having told People when she found out the sex, "I've always wanted a little girl since I'm such a girly girl, and Dean always wanted a little girl as well. I immediately started crying. I couldn't believe it. I have my beautiful little boy and now I'll have my little girl! It's amazing."
"To Liam and Stella—Fate made me a parent. Your amazingly beautiful souls made me a mommy," read the dedication to her 2009 book, Mommywood, wrote with Hilary Liftin.
Now a family of four, they had relocated full-time back to L.A. and were busy juggling work—including Spelling's guest arc on the new 90210—and the kids.
"It really helps to have a partner who is just as hands on, because then we're both available at any given time," Spelling told Pop Sugar in 2009. "At the end of the day, you only have two hands, you have two children and two hands and someone needs to get fed and someone needs to get changed. Liam, at this point, needs more attention and Stella is just getting into the mode where she needs to be stimulated more...she needs activity."
She and BFF Jennie Garth, having come of age on the original Beverly Hills, 90210 together, were now sharing parenting stories.
"You're just obsessed and then I'm like, 'Oh my God, am I like ranting on and showing her pictures of my babies?' And she's like, 'Are you kidding, this is my world!' I'm like, 'you're right.' We can go on for hours."
Spelling's career had expanded to include a jewelry line for HSN, as well as lifestyle- and mommy-blogging and memoir-writing. Her third book, Uncharted terriTORI came out in 2010—and in it she opened up about the mixed feelings she had when Dean indulged in his hobbies, like car racing. He would say he felt like he was escaping the weight of the world.
"...I can't help feeling like that world that he's escaping is us, his family," she wrote. They had renewed their wedding vows on their fourth anniversary, in 2010.
"I crave more time with Liam and Stella," Spelling explained. "If I have a day off, it is automatically theirs. There are things I miss about being single. Before I had kids, I loved to get into bed at three in the afternoon and spend hours watching mindless chick flicks, stupid movies, reality TV and E! True Hollywood Stories. Now I can't imagine doing that..."
She wrote that she had "all I ever wished for. But," Spelling admitted, "trying to be a perfect wife, mother and mini mogul has its challenges, especially if, like me, you want to be perfect at all of them at the same time." And, similarly to her father, the late TV producer Aaron Spelling, she was finding that she had workaholic tendencies.
All that balance she had been striving for was veering off-kilter, and she wrote that it was taking a toll on her health and, sometimes, her marriage. Dean had lamented that she never seemed to be in the mood to have sex anymore, grumbling, per the book, "'You're more in love with the bed.'"
Eventually, being the domestically inclined duo that they were, Spelling and McDermott got into wedding planning (in Uncharted terriTORI she said she wanted to do a show about throwing dream weddings on a budget), and in April 2011 Tori and Dean: Storibook Weddings premiered on Oxygen. Their third child, daughter Hattie Margaret McDermott, was born on Oct. 10, 2011.
Five months later, the family announced that baby No. 4 was on the way. "We feel truly blessed that another little angel has found us. Love Tori, xoxo," she wrote on her blog, ediTORIal.
Spelling anticipated that it would be her last pregnancy.
"As my 4th pregnancy is nearing the end I have bittersweet feelings," she wrote in August 2012. "I can't wait to meet and hold my little man or lady, and definitely I won't miss having to pee 4 times a night or hearing my now pliable pelvic bones move and crunch when I try to pull myself out of bed in the morning. But, there's so much I will miss."
She loved growing life inside of her, being a "human incubator." She loved feeling the baby kick and having McDermott admire her baby bump.
"Like I said, I'm in love with pregnancy," she continued. "Funny enough, if you had asked 21-year-old Tori if she would one day be the mama of 4, she probably would have laughed at you on her way out the door to go have whisky sours and dance at The Roxbury on Sunset with Shannen Doherty and Brian Austin Green. I mean… I always knew I wanted kids but I never could have predicted that I'd want such a large family and how much I would love being pregnant, and then taking care of and raising babes.
"I live for my children," Spelling declared. "I beyond enjoy every single moment with them. I love the big moments like watching them talk and walk for the first time and even the small things like watching them discover their toes or hearing Liam say, 'Mom, mom, mom' 50 times in a row. I even love when Stella says, 'Mom I pooped,' and I walk into the bathroom to find her off the toilet, grasping her ankles with her naked butt in the air, awaiting a wipe."
Son Finn Davey McDermott was born on Aug. 30, 2012. And, Spelling would later reveal, her pregnancy was actually full of moments where neither her nor Finn's survival was guaranteed.
She was in and out of the hospital with bleeding, spent weeks on bed rest, and ended up needing emergency surgery for post-delivery complications (her C-section scar had torn) three weeks after his birth.
But Finn was healthy and, ultimately, that was all that mattered to Spelling.
So on they went, a family of six.
In her 2013 book Spelling It Like It Is, she wrote, "Our family is complete now: me; Dean; our four beloved children; my stepson, Jack; and a somewhat changing menageries of pets and farm animals. The show that tracked our family is over, but we go on changing (houses), growing (our suburban farm), and getting into unexpected scraped (paparazzi-fleeing car accidents). I'm the first to admit that I haven't figured things out yet. But at least I tell it like it is."
It almost all came crashing down in the wake of Dean's infidelity, which would make headlines later that year. Spelling didn't even put out a 2013 holiday card, having previously become known for being the queen of festivities whenever there was a birthday party to plan or holiday to celebrate.
Looking to work on their issues and up their income at the same time, they let the cameras back into their home for the raw 2014 Lifetime series True Tori, which on the surface made their marriage look utterly unsustainable. Spelling admitted that the pressure of being the main bread winner in the family weighed heavily on her, and she spent time hospitalized in April and again in October of 2014.
"After this [show] I have no f--king idea if work's going to come in," Spelling lamented on True Tori. "Like, how am I going to support my family in six months? Look at the life we're leading. We're paying for five f--king private schools [including for McDermott's son Jack]."
Every other headline had them on the brink of divorce but, by the end of 2014, they were back in holiday card mode as a family. Meanwhile, McDermott went into treatment for sex addiction and they went through intensive couples counseling together.
So it was both surprising and not at all, considering how much Spelling seemed to enjoy both the physical sensation of pregnancy and the idea that the bond between her and Dean grew ever stronger through the act of having children, when they announced in 2016—after renewing their vows yet again for their 10th wedding anniversary—that their fifth child was on the way.
"We're in such a good place going into this pregnancy," Spelling assured People. "We're not just still here, but we're bonded and solidified as a couple." Admittedly, "we had to start over," she said. "We had to completely rebuild."
Beau Dean McDermott was born March 2, 2017, the first fruit of Tori and Dean 2.0.
"Everyone was saying, 'Divorce him! Why is she staying with him? That is weak,'" Spelling told People last April. "But my gut instincts just shut it all out, and I said, 'I love this man. If there is a way to work it out, I want to try to do that'...Rebuilding our marriage took time. And now, having a new baby, it makes sense. It's like a new baby in a new relationship."
Though it's apparent just how much Spelling and McDermott adore every one of their kids, life continues to be unpredictable. The day before Beau's first birthday this month, police were called to the family's home, with the 911 dispatcher stating that a woman was possibly having a breakdown. Spelling, who had just been out and about the day before, remained in the house and Dean talked to the officers outside.
She was right back on social media the next day, to mark Beau's birthday, but obviously she piqued her fans' concern and the public's interest in general. According to an eyewitness, over the weekend she and McDermott called for a police escort to help them get past all the paparazzi swarming outside a restaurant where they were having dinner with all five kids.
Tori could be heard telling the photographers, "Everything is great."