The "Today" show anchor Hoda Kotb spoke about her decision to pursue adoption in her 50s.
Kotb is now the mother to two adopted daughters, who are 2 and 4.
Kotb says she divides her life into before and after she got the call about her older daughter.
Hoda Kotb, anchor of the "Today" show, knows exactly where she was when she decided to pursue adoption. She was walking with a friend, who casually mentioned that neither of them ever wanted to become mothers. Kotb stopped.
"I said, 'I do.' I didn't say did. I said I do," Kotb shared on the first episode of the podcast "Me Becoming Mom," by People. "It was an everyday moment that turned into an epiphany."
For Kotb, something shifted when she spoke those words out loud. For years she thought she was destined to be an aunt, friend, and television host. Treatment for breast cancer, which Kotb was diagnosed with in 2007 at age 43, had left Kotb infertile. She had recently finalized her divorce from Burzis Kanga. Kotb knew she wanted to be a mom, but the idea seemed too far-fetched to even speak about.
She was newly dating her now-fiancé Joel Schiffman. The two had talked about moving in together, but Kotb realized she was going to adopt regardless of whether Schiffman was on board. Telling him she wanted to pursue adoption would either be the end of a relationship or the beginning of a family, Kotb said. Luckily Schiffman, who has a grown daughter, responded well.
Going from a dream to a reality
Kotb and Schiffman called an adoption agency right away, but they quickly realized they knew nothing about the process. Kotb had said she was open to any baby; she had no specifications for race or gender. She felt that whichever child came to her was the child she was meant to parent.
About a month after the adoption application was complete, when Kotb was 53, she got a text that she knew would be life-changing. Her adoption worker's message was simple: "She's here."
"I don't know what giving birth feels like, but I sure know what my heart felt like when I heard those words," Kotb said. "It was magical."
An instant connection
In the state where Haley was born, birth mothers have 30 days to change their minds. Kotb couldn't take Haley home until that period was up. She spent the month learning about baby essentials and how to properly put on a diaper.
Kotb said she still gets chills thinking about the first time she met Haley.
"They put her in my arms. I haven't carried many babies. She fit like she was born there," Kotb said. "I thought to myself, 'Forever, as long as I have a breath in me, you will be loved and cared for.' She felt like mine right then. It didn't take any time. It happened instantly for me."
Until that moment, Kotb's life had been defined largely by her work, she said. Once she saw Haley, though, nothing else seemed to matter. She immediately took six months off work, which she describes as the easiest decision of her life.
Growing the family
As an older parent, Kotb knew she wanted to have more than one child. The adoption agency required Kotb to wait nine months to start another adoption; after that, it took nearly 18 months to be matched with Hope.
Today, the girls are 2 and 4, and they're as close as any biological siblings.
Four years after becoming a mom, Kotb is back to work, but her biggest priority is creating the best possible environment for her daughters.
"I can make our place cozy, our place a sanctuary, our place peaceful, our place full of love. This space right here, this is going to be a beautiful, comfortable, lovely, safe, peaceful place," she said. "When I put the key in the door, there is no better feeling."
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