Tears were flowing Monday morning as new mother Hoda Kotb returned to host the “Today” show after her maternity leave.
The 52-year-old announced back in February that she adopted a newborn girl, Haley Joy, during a call-in to the show. Kotb was left unable to conceive after undergoing treatments for breast cancer in 2007. Although she thought that chapter was closed for her, she still felt a desire to be a mother in the years following and decided to adopt a baby.
“I’ve had joy beyond what I could have imagined, but this is beyond a dream,” Kotb said tearfully in the “Today” show segment. “Like, you have your dreams, and then ... and then this.”
Kotb’s return was an emotional moment, and she repeatedly choked back tears when talking about her new daughter. The host opened up to PEOPLE in March about her desire to have children and the ache that she felt when it wasn’t possible. Between her infertility and divorce from husband Burzis Kanga, it seemed to Kotb that motherhood wasn’t in the cards.
“One of the things in my life I’ve always wanted was to be a mom,” Kotb said in an interview with PEOPLE. “Sometimes in your life, things just don’t work out for whatever reason, so you say, ‘Well, I wasn’t meant to have that.’ But it was really hard to come to terms with it.”
The adoption was kept secret until Kotb was able to bring her daughter home. The television host is raising Haley Joy with longtime boyfriend Joel Schiffman. Kotb revealed that when she brought the idea of adopting up to Schiffman, he responded immediately that he was on board.
“I can also say that Joel is the perfect partner for this,” co-host Matt Lauer said on Monday’s segment. “He is such a wonderful, warm, great guy, so this happening for the two of you is even better.”
Although Schiffman was not put on Haley Joy’s adoption papers, Kotb told PEOPLE that he will still be her daughter’s father and co-parent. The happy mother has posted plenty of pictures of her new little girl with her family and friends.
“I didn’t know this existed before now,” Kotb told her co-hosts. “And I understand everyone who has kids, which is all of you guys, I understand what you meant, but it took me this long.”