Hoda Kotb was back on duty this morning on “Today” alongside Kathie Lee Gifford. The morning host has been on an extended maternity leave over the past two months, learning to adjust to life with a baby, and loving every minute, even “the bad ones,” as she described. The familiar tissue box that drops from the sky is usually prepared for Kathie Lee, but today, the tears of love and joy flowed for Hoda, just with the mention of her time with baby Haley Joy. Adjusting to the normal demands of a newborn is difficult at any age, but at 52, the cheerful Kotb is inspiring many prospective older parents to take the life-changing leap because the “she” or “he” to make life complete is out there.

Girls unite

Kathie Lee opened the fourth hour on “Today” feigning a forlorn look, saying, “Hoda was here, then she missed the baby too much, and she left!” An exclamation of “Not true!” quickly followed, and the camera swung to a side door. “Come on out, Hoda woman,” Gifford called, and Kotb obliged, looking radiant in fuchsia. “Where’s my other girl?” Kotb replied. For a moment, the two just looked at each other, until Kathie Lee playfully presented a basket of goodies. There was a “Hoda mama” sash, Gifford’s lullaby CDs, and “every book I ever wrote,” as Hoda ducked with laughter.

Priceless mornings with Haley

“You think of first things in your life...I put my toes in the ocean, saw a sunrise, you go to college, and then, she walks in...” described the mom, her eyes welling with tears.

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The morning host related that the moments she wishes could last forever are those at 6 AM, her baby girl’s last wake-up before the day starts, when she’s hungry and needs a diaper change.

Cherishing all the moments

Kotb openly reflected, “I’ll take the bad days,” referring to the kinds of days that every mother has known when every need is met, and baby can’t be soothed. “I say ‘Thank you’” Kotb insisted, “because I would have begged for this to have a child. I’m crazy. I really think I’m crazy. I cry at everything now.”

Middle-age hasn’t kept Kotb from passing one of a mom’s hardest tests—handling a poopy diaper on an airline flight, and managing it all in one of those tiny lavatories! “I can’t believe how my heart can feel,” Hoda confirmed, “and I try to linger and savor every moment.”

The host encouraged older parents to adopt, and not allow thoughts of “too old” or “not a right fit” to keep them from a life-long dream. “Do it, because she or he is waiting for you.”