The conversation with God that changed Hoda Kotb's outlook on motherhood

TODAY anchor Hoda Kotb had a wonderful cheerleader in her own mother, Sami, and is also picking up lessons from daughter Haley Joy.
by Gael Fashingbauer Cooper / / Source: TODAY

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Recently, TODAY anchor Hoda Kotb had one of those days.

She was up at 2 a.m. with her baby, Haley Joy. Her partner, Joel, was out of town; her dog, Blake, pooped on the floor and then ran into a wall, breaking a picture frame. Glass shattered all over the floor, she was in bare feet, the dog was barking and the baby was crying.

"You're just, like, sitting there and the world's exploding," she said.

A few words put everything into perspective.

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"I remember having a short conversation with God," Hoda said. "And I remember saying, 'I would have begged you for this day.'"

Hoda said she thought about how, in the days before she became a mother at age 52 by adopting Haley Joy in 2017, she would have longed for even the most challenging day with a daughter of her own.

"Like, this terrible day, I would have begged on my knees for. So I remember I just literally took one breath, put her in the playpen, cleaned up ... but I remembered, for a second, having that awareness," Hoda told her TODAY co-anchor Savannah Guthrie, in a wide-ranging conversation about motherhood at New York's Central Park Boathouse.

Hoda Kotb's birthday party for Haley Joy.
Hoda and Haley Joy celebrating the little one's birthday in February. hodakotb/Instagram

That awareness doesn't make every second with a baby all sunshine and roses, but it has stayed with her on the hard days of new motherhood.

"I try to check myself on those rough days," she told Savannah. "And say, 'Remember when you were on your knees asking and begging for this moment? Take it.'"

Savannah, who had her first baby at age 42, said she completely related to those flashes of perspective, thinking to herself: "I'm overwhelmed. I have two kids. Wait, what?! I have two kids. Are you kidding? Oh, my gosh, when did that dream come true? In my 40s and I'm so lucky."

Hoda said she'll always remember the first time baby Haley Joy was put in her arms.

Savannah and Hoda share a bond of coming to motherhood later in life than most; Savannah was 42 and Hoda was 52.
Savannah and Hoda share a bond of coming to motherhood later in life than most; Savannah was 42 and Hoda was 52. TODAY

"And I remember she fit," she said. "That's all I remember. I remember thinking, 'I can't believe this fits like this.' It's like a puzzle piece that snapped in and now I'm me."

She has high hopes for her daughter, but like any mother, worries about what the world has in store.

"I want her to be two things at once," she said. "I want her to be brave and strong but kind and gentle. I want her to be someone who doesn't get rolled over, but also someone who's polite and deferential to people. I'm like, 'How do those all get together?'"

TODAY

And as Mother's Day approaches, Hoda gives thanks for her own mother, Sami Kotb, who has always been her cheerleader. Growing up, Hoda said she always felt out of place in school. Her teachers were always telling her to "use her playground voice" because she was so shy and quiet.

"I sat in the back and just prayed no one called on me. Like, that's how I lived," Hoda recalled. But her mother saw a different girl, and always had confidence in her.

"I remember my mom always telling me, 'You're so beautiful. You're so smart.'" she said, following up with a joke. "I'm like, 'If I'm so beautiful, explain the seventh-grade dance.'"

And in just about 15 months of life, Haley Joy has taught her mother a few important lessons as well.

"I think Haley taught me a couple of things," Hoda said. "Number one, it's not too late ... If you believe in something, it may actually come true."

"She's taught me that no dream's too big."

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