Hoda Kotb Says Her Spiritual Sense Was 'Personified' When She Welcomed Daughter Haley Joy
The Today show co-host, 54, reflected on her motherhood journey thus far during an interview with Arianna Huffington for the Thrive Global Podcast. In February 2017, Kotb, who moved in with her boyfriend, Joel Schiffman, revealed she adopted Haley after she was born on Valentine’s Day that year.
Kotb had all but given up on dreams of becoming a mother. A decade ago she battled breast cancer; the treatment left her unable to conceive, and less than a year after her recovery, her two-year marriage to tennis coach Burzis Kanga ended in divorce.
“We were just brought up to believe in God. We were all about that, and I feel like when you have a relationship with God, and I feel like I’ve had endless, countless, abundant conversations about it. Sometimes you think, can he hear me? Does he hear me? Am I just talking to myself? Is it for real?” Kotb reflected.
“But, I think when Haley arrived, I didn’t have any doubt in that belief, but when Haley arrived, it was personified. Literally when I watch her now, I just feel like she’s proof of everything. Like, everything. Yeah. She’s the best,” the mother of one said.
Want all the latest pregnancy and birth announcements, plus celebrity mom blogs? Click here to get those and more in the PEOPLE Babies newsletter.
Being a mom is something Kotb does not take for granted, given specific moments in her past,
“I knew after cancer, and after all of that, they basically said, ‘You could freeze your eggs, you could do this, you could do that, but it’s unlikely that anything would work.’ And, I remembered almost blocking how devastating that was,” Kotb recalled. “At the time, I was going through a separation that would lead to a divorce. It was like, horrible things were happening at the same time, and I kept thinking this is an avalanche of pain. How do people, how does anyone deal with this?”
In fact, Kotb thought she would be impacting a child in a different way.
“I talked to myself and I said, ‘You have so many blessings in your life, here’s something you don’t get. You don’t get children. It’s not the end of the world. You have great nieces.’ I always wanted to teach little kids,” she revealed. “As soon as I’m done with this job at the Today show, I’m going to teach first and second graders. I said I’m going to fill it. I wanted to start a summer camp for kids. I had a million kid-related dreams, so I said, ‘I will be able to fulfill that. I just can’t have my own.’ ”
But after she met Schiffman, Kotb realized she still desired to have a child and those feelings were something she couldn’t “swallow anymore.”
“I met Joel, and there was like a voice inside me that I couldn’t quiet. It just kept coming up. I tried to push it away, it kept coming,” she said. “I sat with him, and I said, ‘For a long time I’ve had these feelings, and I’ve wanted to have children, but I’ve pushed them away. I just can’t push them away anymore. I’m going to ask you, I would like to explore adoption with you.’ ”
Kotb worked with a licensed New York adoption agency and within a matter of months, she finalized her adoption of daughter Haley. Kotb flew to another U.S. city to pick up her little girl but is keeping details of the adoption private to protect its confidentiality.
Kotb previously told PEOPLE her priorities have shifted “in the most beautiful, magical, delightful way” since becoming a mom to Haley, and that while balancing a career and motherhood isn’t easy, it’s worth the hard work.
“Work has ridden sidecar right next to me my whole life, and now it’s time for a baby seat to be here,” she said. “I enjoy work and I love it and I put my heart and soul into it when I’m there, but my true heart is with [Haley], all the time now. I love being able to say it out loud, that my time with her is the most important thing — more important than work and more important than anything.”