The ability of a baby to heal the childhood wounds of his or her parents is a phenomenon that Mariska Hargitay knows all too well. Having lost her mom — actress Jayne Mansfield — in a car accident while still a toddler, Mariska is now mom to a toddler herself, 3-year-old August Miklos Friedrich. “Becoming a parent erased many of my negative childhood feelings and filled them with something new,” she tells the August issue of Redbook.

Many of those feelings were recently dredged up again, however. In January, the 45-year-old actress learned that she was suffering from a collapsed lung, and in March following surgery, her lung collapsed again. “I just thought, ‘Please make me better, please make me better,'” she recalls. “I got really scared that maybe something else was wrong.”

In fact, Mariska says she feels “like the luckiest person in the world” after all she’s been through. “I think you learn to feel grateful when you are exposed at such a young age to the fact that bad things can happen,” she explains. Like most moms, however, Mariska admits that she fears failure — “all the time.”

Although she has since returned to the set of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, where she sustained her injury, Mariska has definite ideas about what she would do with a year off. First and foremost would be more time with the Joyful Heart Foundation, which she founded to provide support for women who have been sexually assaulted. Then, she says, it would be time for some rest and relaxation with the people who matter to her most. “I’d go to Italy and take cooking classes, swim with my son,” she reveals. “I’d eat, see the countryside, and be with my husband (actor and writer Peter Hermann) and kid the whole time.”

Source: Redbook, August issue

— Missy