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Hoda Kotb Opens Up About Daughter Hope's Health Crisis in Emotional First Interview: 'So Resilient' (Exclusive)

The 'Today' anchor is trying to shield her daughter, 4, from "grown-up worry" as they establish a long-term care routine, one year after she was in the ICU

<p>Brian Doben</p> Hoda Kotb photographed for People magazine on feb. 26, 2024 by Brian Doben at Gary

Just over a year ago, Hoda Kotb sat down to write Hope Is a Rainbow, a children’s book dedicated to her younger daughter Hope, now 4.

“The book was written initially because of who she is. I thought her goodness should be spread around,” says the Today anchor, 59, who had previously written I’ve Loved You Since Forever, which celebrates adoption, in honor of her older daughter Haley, 7.

Hope “is just intuitive and smart, and I’ve never seen someone who’s quite as generous,” Kotb says. “She’s the kid who gives away her last blueberry. If your toy is broken, she’ll give you her new one. She is that person.”

When Kotb first settled on the name Hope, “it defined where I was in my life when I was looking for hope. You’re like, ‘Please let this happen,’ ” she recalls of her second adoption in 2019. “She was the hope that I’d been looking for and wanting. Sometimes you name a child, and then they become the name.”

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<p>Brian Doben</p> Hoda Kotb photographed for People magazine on feb. 26, 2024 by Brian Doben at Gary's Loft in NYC Hair: Adel for Adel atelier salon makeup: Mary Kahler Stylist: Fran Taylor; asst. stylist Alexandra Rozansky clothing credits pink blouse setup blouse--Jennifer Miller Jewelry Jason Wu taupe shirt and pant: set up shirt and blouse--Zimmermann Jennifer Miller Jewelry

Related: Hoda Kotb's 2 Kids: All About Haley Joy and Hope Catherine

Over the past year, that’s become all the more evident.

Last February, Kotb was absent from Today for two weeks when Hope experienced a medical crisis that landed her in the intensive care unit (ICU) for several days and in the hospital for more than a week.

“We had a scary stretch,” Kotb says now. “Any parent who’s been through a scary thing with their child understands. It’s like you just can’t believe that your child’s sick. You can’t believe that there’s nothing you can do. You can’t believe that no matter what you do, you can’t will it away or protect her, or all the things that we’re supposed to be doing as parents. And it’s a position I’ve never found myself in.”

When the family finally returned home, they began settling into a longer-term journey of managing Hope’s health. (Because of Hope’s young age, Kotb decided not to get specific about her daughter’s diagnosis, but she shares that they are consistently monitoring her around the clock to safeguard her well-being.)

Months in, “things have stabilized,” Kotb says, adding that she hired extra help to balance the new medical demands with her highly unusual and rigid work schedule. Now her top priority is “trying to make everything normal,” she says. “It’s really tricky, because I don’t want Hope to get labeled. She’s a kid who is so vibrant, and most days everything is totally fine. I don’t want people to look at her differently.” 

<p>Jake Chessum</p> Hoda KotB and her daughters, Haley Joy (5) and Hope Catherine (3)  photographed on July 18th in Bryant

Jake Chessum

Hoda KotB and her daughters, Haley Joy (5) and Hope Catherine (3) photographed on July 18th in Bryant

To the degree possible, she’s also trying to shield her daughter from her own constant concerns. “I’m not going to put my worry on her. It’s too much for a kid to carry,” says Kotb, admitting that she rarely sleeps soundly through the night anymore as she listens for Hope’s monitors to go off. “Even just always saying, ‘How are you feeling? You feeling good today, honey?’ is saying, ‘I’m worried,’ because you’re not saying that about your other child. I’ll be discussing how it’s going with the nanny, the nurse, whoever, and if she’s there, she’s like, ‘Am I okay?’ I’m trying so hard to let her be a kid and not have all of the grown-up worries.”

And so the family has found a slightly subdued new normal. Kotb’s legendary 4 a.m. wakeup time has moved up to 3 a.m. these days, “so I have some time to meditate,” she says. Her ex-fiancé Joel Schiffman takes the girls to school several days a week, and Kotb strives to pick them up every day as work allows.

“We eat dinner, then it’s bath time, then we march down the hall playing Lizzo’s ‘Juice’ with a little speaker until the neighbors say, ‘That’s enough. It’s too loud.’ Then it’s 8 p.m., and it’s bedtime,” she says. On the weekends “we do the birthday-party circuit—usually three of them.”

<p>Brian Doben</p> Hoda Kotb photographed for People magazine on feb. 26, 2024 by Brian Doben at Gary's Loft in NYC Hair: Adel for Adel atelier salon makeup: Mary Kahler Stylist: Fran Taylor; asst. stylist Alexandra Rozansky clothing credits pink blouse setup blouse--Jennifer Miller Jewelry Jason Wu taupe shirt and pant: set up shirt and blouse--Zimmermann Jennifer Miller Jewelry

Living with this level of stress has taken a toll on the news anchor, so she’s been trying to carve out some me-time. “When you’re dead on your feet, you can’t really function,” she says, adding that every Thursday she tries to see a friend or go on a date (most recently she was set up by co-host Jenna Bush Hager). “I feel like you need one day to recharge. And I realized when I wasn’t doing that, I was so depleted — you’re nothing to anybody.”

During the hardest times, Kotb says she and her girls have turned to faith. “I tell them, ‘God’s everywhere.’ And I think it’s been helpful to Hope, especially during this kind of period in her life,” says Kotb. “She likes to be protected. She looks up sometimes, and I go, ‘What are you looking at? What’s that?’ She goes, ‘Angels are here.’ And I go, ‘Where?’ She goes, ‘Here.’ And I’m laying there. I’m as quiet as I can be not to disturb the most beautiful moment.”

<p>Hoda Kotb/Instagram</p> hoda kotb instagram with children, haley and hope (younger) sister Haya and mother Sameha Kotbposted 7.4.23 https://www.instagram.com/p/CuTE4IrL5ui/?img_index=18BIM

Hoda Kotb/Instagram

hoda kotb instagram with children, haley and hope (younger) sister Haya and mother Sameha Kotbposted 7.4.23 https://www.instagram.com/p/CuTE4IrL5ui/?img_index=18BIM

And Kotb has been in awe of the village that has assembled to rally around her and Hope. She says she was “in a puddle” when Today weatherman Al Roker showed up at the hospital. Co-anchor Savannah Guthrie found unique ways to help, from taking Haley to the mall with her own kids while Hope was being treated, to playing bartender at Hope’s birthday party last year when Kotb was feeling overwhelmed. “She goes, ‘I’ll hold court. I got it. You don’t have to worry about anything. I’ll talk to all these moms,’ ” Kotb recalls.

And her extended family has been closer than ever, spending time in New York City as Kotb’s mother, Sameha, 87, recovers from a broken hip, across the street from her apartment. “My sister’s here. My brother just came last weekend. The kids keep saying, ‘It’s like Thanksgiving over and over again,’ ” Kotb says. “This is the most support I’ve ever had.”

<p>Penguin Young Readers Group</p> Hope is a Rainbow 2024 book by Hoda Kotb

Penguin Young Readers Group

Hope is a Rainbow 2024 book by Hoda Kotb

And though Kotb says they don’t feel like they’re out of the woods, she is confident that the trials of Hope’s childhood will have served a purpose.

“I look at her, and I think, ‘Wow, you blossomed into this incredible kid who is so resilient and well-equipped for her whole life despite this stuff that has happened to her,’ ” Kotb says, tearing up. “She just demonstrates that when you have whatever she has inside of her, this will, this fight, this everything . . . she can withstand anything. This child is going to have the easiest adulthood because she’s had a tough go of it early on.”

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