Thank you and congratulations on motherhood.
‘Today’ Stars Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie Open Up About Their Journeys to Motherhood
For the NBC morning show coanchors, becoming a parent was worth the wait.
Savannah Guthrie, 50, and Hoda Kotb, 57, costars of NBC’s Today show, both dreamed of being parents. But sometimes life makes those plans complicated.
In 2007, a breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment left Hoda unable to bear children. At 41, Savannah doubted that she’d be able to conceive; after having her first child, she experienced a miscarriage and went through two rounds of IVF. Now she and husband Michael Feldman are parents to Vale, 7, and Charley, 5.
After she recovered from cancer, Hoda, with ex-fiancé Joel Schiffman, adopted Haley, now 5, in 2017 and, two years later, Hope, now 3. In an intimate chat with Good Housekeeping, they reflect on their good fortune, some hard-earned lessons and the importance of their friendship.
The challenges of starting a family
Savannah: I stopped even letting myself hope or believe I could [get pregnant], because the years were getting on.
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. 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.
Hoda: I remember that my oncologist called and we were talking about freezing my eggs. She basically said that given my age and [my breast cancer treatment], it was pretty close to a dead end. 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?
I find myself being so much more patient and calm than I ever would have been at a younger age.
The importance of support systems
Savannah: My mom got me through the personal trials of my 30s. It was great to have her, because she was just always so certain. She’d say, “Well, of course you’re going to have your family, Savannah!” It felt good.
Hoda: I don’t think I would’ve adopted if it hadn’t been for Joel. Having a stable relationship in that moment was really important. Once that fell into place, it didn’t seem as scary to me. I also read about Sandra Bullock and the children she adopted. I’d always felt a weird connection to her, though I only knew her from the show. But she was my age, and I just thought, Wow, she’s really cool. I called her, and we talked. She said adopting was the most important thing she’d ever done. When I had made the decision to adopt and was on the plane to pick up my [first] daughter, I called her again. She said, “It’s about to begin!” Sometimes all you need is a model before [you realize], I can handle it.
Being an “older” mom
Savannah: Hoda and I are both at a point in our careers where we have a lot more certainty about our schedules — that helps. By this time in life you’ve seen a few things and you know how to weather the ups and downs. I’m glad my kids don’t have the stressed, anxious and insecure 30-year-old version of me. The peace and calmness that comes with age is a great thing for kids to see in action.
We live in New York City, and there are a lot of older parents, so you don’t stick out like a sore thumb. But sometimes I wonder, on a Saturday afternoon when I’m really tired, Do younger parents feel this way? And the answer is yes. I know them, they’re my friends — and they’re exhausted. All parents have those moments of low energy and times they’re frustrated. That’s just the nature of it.
Hoda: All of a sudden all the things about having little kids that seem like a problem, you see in a whole different way. And I find myself being so much more patient and calm than I ever would have been at a younger age. You realize we sometimes blow things out of proportion.
I got a letter at my house from some lady, and she said, Who do you think you are, having those kids at this age? It was handwritten, with a stamp on it. And I remember thinking, She took a piece of paper out on her desk and wrote this down, folded it up, put it in an envelope, got my home address and put a stamp on it and mailed it. I’ve come to learn that there are two ways to live your life. You can live your life worrying about what people think of your life, or you can live your life. And I realized that sometimes I was living my life being concerned about the perceptions of it. I sort of had this epiphany: I have a choice.
I don’t know what balance is. Sometimes you’re outof whack — and sometimes you have a good day.
Dealing with mom guilt
Savannah: The first time I put [Vale] in her nursery, I lay down on the bed and started sobbing. Mike said, “What’s wrong?” And I said, “This is the farthest apart we’ve ever been.” She’d either been in my belly or in my arms or in my room, and I just felt sick. I almost felt physically ill to be apart from her — and it still happens. I’m feeling guilty right now. I’m probably late to [pick her up from] the bus. I don’t know how to overcome it. I just know that it’s real. I wish it weren’t, but it really is. I mean, I feel guilty all the time, and all I do is hang out with my kids.