Hoda Kotb, who co-anchors “TODAY” on NBC with Savannah Guthrie, and co-hosts the show’s fourth hour with Kathie Lee Gifford, had resigned herself to a childless life after battling cancer amid a divorce. At the time, the doctors told her: “‘You could freeze your eggs, but it’s unlikely that anything would work,’” she reveals to Arianna Huffington on the Thrive Global Podcast, in partnership with iHeartRadio and Sleep Number. “I remember almost blocking [out] how devastating that was.”
In a revealing conversation, Kotb tells Huffington that she reasoned with herself: “You have so many blessings in your life. Here’s something you don’t get: children. It’s not the end of the world.” Kotb confesses that she planned to fill the absence of kids by spending time with them in other ways. “I always wanted to teach little kids, so I said, as soon as I’m done with this job at ‘TODAY,’ I’m going to teach first and second graders… or start a summer camp for kids. I had a million kid-related dreams,” she says.
But just when Kotb had begun to make peace with that plan, she met her partner, Joel Schiffman, at an event, and her desire for a child reemerged. “I met Joel and there was a voice inside me that I couldn’t quiet. It just kept coming up. I tried to push it away [but couldn’t],” she reveals. Since Schiffman already had a daughter in law school, she was apprehensive about broaching the topic with him.
“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 would like to explore adoption with you.’” She asked Schiffman to “take a week and just marinate it” before responding, but after a slight pause, he told her, “I don’t need a week.” Hearing him affirm her desire to expand their family moved her to tears: “Right there, I wept on his chest,” Kotb says.
In her conversation with Huffington, Kotb also shares the life-changing moment she got the call that would make her a mother. “I’m sitting in my office one random day, doing FaceTime with Joy Bauer. I’ll never forget it…The phone buzzed. It said: ‘Ashley Project, call me,’” Kotb recalls. The woman handling the adoption was named Ashley, and Kotb called it “the project,” so she wouldn’t let it slip before she was ready that Schiffman and she would soon be a family of three.
“I wrote down, 11:54 a.m., because I knew that was the line, the demarcation, in my life… the moment my life changes,” Kotb recalls. She describes a cosmic force that assured her that her daughter was coming. “I knew she was sleeping under the same moon and stars. I could feel it. I didn’t know her, but I knew her,” she says with metaphysical wonder.
Having a child has also informed Kotb’s spiritual beliefs in a meaningful way. “Sometimes I [would] think: Can God hear me? Does He hear me? Am I just talking to myself? Is it real?” Kotb tells Huffington. But when Kotb’s daughter Haley arrived, that changed: “I didn’t have any doubt in that belief… she’s proof of everything.”
Kotb’s story is also proof that often, the greatest moments in life come later than expected. She marvels at how some of her biggest gifts came in her fifth decade. “Who would’ve thought that at 52, somehow you get to live your best life?”, she asks. “I still can’t believe that some of the greatest blessings in my life are coming at this stage in my life.”