In 2007, TODAY co-anchor Hoda Kotb underwent a very public mastectomy operation after being diagnosed with breast cancer. However, what fans following her story didn’t see was her internal struggle over the potential impacts her treatments could have on her chance to be a mother.
For Good Housekeeping’s April issue, which features both Hoda and Savannah Guthrie on the cover, the Hoda opened up about the benefits of becoming a mother later in life and the moment a pivotal phone call from her doctor made her sob.
Today, Hoda is breast cancer-free and a mother of two. Still, the road to motherhood was not entirely straightforward.
“I remember that my oncologist called, and we were talking about freezing my eggs,” Hoda told Good Housekeeping.
“She basically said that given my age and (my breast cancer treatment), it was pretty close to a dead-end,”
Hoda Kotb, on her chances of becoming a mother after breast cancer treatment.
According to the American Cancer Society, while many women can become pregnant after breast cancer therapy, certain forms of treatment like chemotherapy can damage the ovaries and affect fertility. Experts advise women undergoing cancer treatment to freeze their eggs or embryos in a cryopreservation procedure. In some instances, the process can help preserve fertility.
“She basically said that given my age and (my breast cancer treatment), it was pretty close to a dead-end,” Hoda explained. “I was in my room, and I just sobbed. I thought, 'Well, that’s that, isn’t it?' Like, you almost blame yourself. 'Why didn’t I do this? Why didn’t I do that?' So I just pushed it away because the reality seemed impossible to bear.
"How do you survive knowing you can’t have what you desire and what you feel like you actually physically need?” she said.
Kotb’s wish to become a mother came true in 2017 when she adopted a baby girl, Haley, now 5. Two years later, she adopted daughter Hope, who is now 3. The two girls recently joined their mom on her trip to her beloved New Orleans with Jenna Bush Hager.
A solid foundation at home was pivotal for her decision to start a family at 53.
“I don’t think I would’ve adopted if it hadn’t been for Joel,” she said of her former fiancé, Joel Schiffman.
“Having a stable relationship in that moment was really important. Once that fell into place, it didn’t seem as scary to me,” she added.
In January, Hoda announced on TODAY that while the two were no longer romantically together, she and Shiffman had decided to co-parent their two daughters as friends.
“He’s a great guy, and he’s a very kind and loving person, and I feel privileged to have spent eight years with him,” she said when she broke the news on TODAY with Hoda & Jenna. “We are both good, and we are both going on our way and our path, and we’ll be good parents to those two lovely kids.”
Looking back, that mindset was probably a self-defense mechanism.”
Savannah Guthrie, on not getting her hopes up about motherhood late in life
Relating to Hoda's sentiment of feeling as if her chance to be a mother had passed, Savannah told the magazine she also once felt herself at a crossroads when it came to having children.
“I stopped even letting myself hope or believe I could [get pregnant], because the years were getting on,” Savannah, who became a mother at age 43, explained. “It wasn’t that I thought it was impossible; I just thought it wasn’t likely.
"I didn’t want to get my hopes up," Savannah said. "I just tried to tell myself that it would be OK if it didn’t happen: ‘Maybe it’s not meant for me, and that’s OK because I’ve already been blessed so much in my life. I’m not entitled to have a baby too.’ Looking back, that mindset was probably a self-defense mechanism.”
These days, when they’re not anchoring TODAY, Hoda and Savannah are tackling their other high-pressure jobs as parents.
Hoda explained that the key to balancing work and being a parent is primarily about striking the idea that there has to be a perfect balance altogether.
“Some days I hit a home run; some days it’s all terrible, and then you reset the next day and try again,” Kotb explained. “There’s no quick fix for balance that I can give. I mean, look, you try to give 100% at home and 100% at work, and then that’s it. And then you see how it shakes down, but I think that’s the best way to do it.”