"I can't even believe that it's really real," Hoda Kotb tells PEOPLE ahead of Mother's Day about being a mom to daughter Haley Joy, 14 months

By Jen Juneau and Aurelie Corinthios
May 11, 2018 05:45 PM
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Hoda Kotb is gearing up to celebrate her second Mother’s Day — and she’s counting her blessings.

The Today show co-anchor and mom to 14-month-old daughter Haley Joy spoke to PEOPLE in a candid chat ahead of the Sunday holiday, revealing her exciting plans for the weekend.

“My mom is in town, which is such a treat. So me, Haley, my mom and [boyfriend Joel Schiffman] are all going to go to this little beach an hour away from the city to just hang for the weekend,” says Kotb, 53.

“For 53 Mother’s Days, it’s been about my mom and getting my mom flowers, and it’s just so crazy,” she adds. “I still have moments now where I wake up in the middle of the night and look over at Joel and think to myself, ‘Oh my God. I have a baby in the other room.’ I can’t even believe that it’s really real.”

“Imagine living your whole life one way, and then suddenly everything changes and you can’t believe that you get to do that,” continues the longtime journalist. “I’ve dreamed of it, but I didn’t think it would happen, so on Mother’s Day, it’s underscored.”

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Kotb tells PEOPLE she used to feel a little hurt when random people would wish her a happy Mother’s Day on the street, before she adopted Haley in February 2017. But now, she couldn’t be happier to embrace the day — one she says “has a whole different meaning.”

“I’m going to spend [Mother’s Day] with Haley, probably throwing a ball up in the air and doing the things that make her laugh, like touching her nose and saying, ‘Ding dong,’ ” Kotb shares.

Of course the mother of one has no idea what surprises are in store for her this year yet (last year involved flowers, a framed photo of herself and Haley and sweet cards!), but she says she “[doesn’t] care about any of it” as long as her loved ones are by her side.

“Haley just pulled some stuff out of this box and in there was a card that she ‘signed’ last year and it said something like, ‘I hit the mom jackpot,’ ” Kotb reveals of a 2017 gift. “And I just looked at it and looked at her. Hey, who knew Mother’s Day would have a new meaning this late in life? But it does.”

Hoda Kotb, Joel Schiffman and daughter Haley

RELATED VIDEO: Hoda Kotb on “The Minute” She Learned She Was a Mom: I Knew My Life “Was Changing”

Kotb recalls her first Mother’s Day as “up to my neck in Pampers” and “trying to figure out how to bathe [Haley] without hurting her,” so hopefully this year will be a bit more relaxed since she’s hit her stride as a new mom.

“During that time, I was so consumed with not messing up,” she admits. “I don’t know that I really let it sink in, probably just because I was overwhelmed initially.”

“And now, she says, ‘Mama.’ I mean, she looks at me and says, ‘Mama.’ Which is like … I can’t handle it,” Kotb raves. “I don’t think there’s a sweeter single word I’ve ever heard in my life than that. She holds onto you and doesn’t let go. Most kids, when you cuddle them, they squirm away. She’s like, ‘No, no. I like it here.’ “