Mariska Hargitay's Moving Story: "Adoption Is Not for the Faint of Heart"

Mariska Hargitay opens up about her own experiences with adoption.

When you read short news bites about celebrities who adopt children, they usually don’t go much farther than “Superstar X welcomed a son through adoption.” That gets the basic information out, but it doesn’t give a true picture of the journey: ultimately joyful, but also often long, at times frustrating, anxiety-ridden and sometimes even heartbreaking.

Mariska Hargitay has made the courageous and generous choice to share her own story in the May issue of Good Housekeeping. It’s a must-read for all parents – and for anyone who thinks that celebrities just have babies dropped in their laps two minutes after they decide to adopt.

“I’m not gonna lie,” the Law & Order: SVU star says bluntly. “There were wrenching moments. Adoption is not for the faint of heart.”

She explains that the idea of being an adoptive parent was nurtured in her from an early age. Remember, she and her brothers lost their mother, Jayne Mansfield, in a tragic car crash when she was small (and a passenger in that same car). Being raised by her father’s third wife left an indelible impression. “[W]e were really blessed that she really embraced us and loved us so quickly,” she says.

Hargitay went on to marry Peter Hermann and have their son, August, now 6, but the idea of expanding their family through adoption never left her. They met with a domestic adoption lawyer two years ago – and what unfolded was a rollercoaster of devastation and joy to rival any made-for-TV movie.

What happened?

The couple was matched with a pregnant woman who wanted them to become her baby’s parents. After the little girl was born, the birth mother changed her mind. Hargitay still tears up when she talks about it. “But…this is what I’ve come to understand about life: It was probably the greatest, happiest ending,” she says. “I mean, it was so painful for us, but it was so deeply joyful and deeply right for her.”

Shortly after that, they were paired with another birth mother and became parents to Amaya, now 14 months old. Hargitay even helped deliver her daughter – an experience she calls “one of the most meaningful moments I’ve ever had in my life.”

Amaya is African-American, which is a nonissue for the family. Hargitay says, “We want our family to reflect a realistic microcosm of the world.”

The new parents planned to wait a while before having more children, but just a couple of months later, their lawyer told them about an adoptable baby boy who had just been born prematurely. Hargitay didn’t hesitate. “I’ve never made a bigger decision so quickly,” she says. Andrew is now 10 months and doing well despite lingering health issues.

Now their home is as noisy, chaotic and fun as any mom could want. August relishes being a big brother. And Hargitay credits her experience with strengthening her trust and faith.

“Adoption was a bumpy ride – very bumpy,” she says. “But, God, was it worth the fight.”

Read the whole must-see interview in Good Housekeeping.

[Photo: courtesy Good Housekeeping]

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