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Hoda Kotb Confesses Inability To Conceive Amid Surprise Adoption

Mar. 8 2017, Updated 1:56 p.m. ET

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Hoda Kotb is elated to be a new mom at 52 after adopting her infant daughter, Haley Joy, last month. But in a new interview, the Today cohost admits the road to motherhood was an emotional rollercoaster.

After battling breast cancer in 2007, she was left unable to conceive.

"I couldn't have children," she told PEOPLE. "Finally I said to myself one day, 'Why can't I? Why not me?' I had this ache in me that I couldn't push away anymore."

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"There was a hole, People would say, 'Oh, do you have kids?' And I'd feel like, 'Ouch.' I knew inside it was supposed to be for me."

When she brought up adoption to her boyfriend of three years, financier Joel Schiffman, 58, she was thrilled when he wanted to be a partner in the process.

"I said, 'Think about it for a day or a week or whatever.' And he said, 'I don't need a day. Let's get this journey going.' At that point I blubbered like a baby. It was like the dam burst," she recalled.

Though he wasn't officially involved in the adoption, Haley will call Schiffman "Dad," she insisted.

Kotb revealed she worked through a New York adoption agency, and picked up Haley in an undisclosed U.S. city after her birth.

"I wake up sometimes and go, 'Oh my God, I have a baby!'" she said. "But it feels totally real. I guess if you've been waiting this long for something, and you wish for it, pray for it, hope for it, wonder if it will ever be, and then it happens, nothing's more real. Nothing."

As RadarOnline.com previously reported, new mom Kotb is so serious about motherhood, she has ditched her beloved booze.

"Hoda isn't shirking her image or responsibility," a Today source said of the star, who regularly throws back drinks on air with cohost Kathie Lee Gifford, 63. "But she's told producers that she'll be drinking mocktails from now on!"

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