Mariska Hargitay: Adoption Is Not for the Faint of Heart

04/04/2012 at 09:00 AM ET
Courtesy Good Housekeeping

Mariska Hargitay is used to dealing with heart-stopping situations on Law & Order: SVU, but nothing on-screen compares to her harrowing experience adopting two children.

In the span of six months last year, Hargitay and her husband, actor Peter Hermann, adopted both daughter Amaya Josephine, now 13 months old, and son Andrew Nicolas, 9 months.

Hargitay and Hermann have a biological son, August, 5½, whom Hargitay says is feeling “pretty good and pretty powerful” about his younger siblings.

“August thinks this was all his idea,” Hargitay tells Good Housekeeping in their May issue. “He said, ‘I want a baby sister,’ and Amaya came. Then he said, ‘I want a baby brother,’ and Andrew came.”

But in actuality, the process was not that easy. In fact, Hargitay says the building of their family was, at times, heartbreaking.

“I’m not gonna lie,” Hargitay admits. “There were wrenching moments. I say to everybody, ‘Adoption is not for the faint of heart.'”

Because Hargitay was 42 when she gave birth to August, she and Hermann were concerned about being able to have additional children, she admits.

“August wanted siblings, and Peter and I both envisioned this big family because we both come from that,” she says.

“I really did think that down the line, Peter and I would adopt a child. That was always part of the plan.”

She and Hermann began the process two years ago, meeting with an adoption lawyer and going through home inspections to get the ball rolling.

After a couple of failed attempts to connect with a birth mother, Hargitay says, they found someone not far from New York City. After Hargitay and Hermann met the woman, finalized the adoption plan, were present in the delivery room, named the newborn and parented her for two days, the birth mother changed her mind.

“It was nothing short of devastating,” Hargitay explains. “But … it was probably the greatest, happiest ending. I mean, it was so painful for us, but it was deeply joyful and deeply right for her.”

Hargitay says she still keeps in touch with the woman and, though she has not seen the baby again, feels that she is “forever connected to her.”

Then, just over a year ago, she and Hermann were connected with the woman who gave birth to Amaya. Though Hargitay says they were initially told the baby would be a boy, they were thrilled to find out they would be having a little girl.

Hargitay even helped to deliver Amaya in the hospital.

“I basically pulled Amaya out. Peter and I held her, and then the birth mother and I hugged for a long time,” she recalls. “That was profound. That was one of the most meaningful moments I’ve ever had in my life.”

Though they had wanted to wait about 18 months before adopting a second child, as fate would have it, they received word just half a year later that there was a premature baby boy awaiting adoption.

“It was a no-brainer,” Hargitay says. “It was like … a miracle. And I don’t use that word lightly. I’ve never made a bigger decision so quickly.”

They decided to name the infant Andrew, after a dear friend of theirs who had recently passed away.

Andrew still struggles with health issues, and the family has a private nurse living with them to tend to him, but Hargitay says she wouldn’t change a thing about how her family was formed.

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

— Liz Raftery

FILED UNDER: News , Parenting

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Adopting mom on

I have always loved Mariska and really love her family composition! Congratulations to her entire family!

sally on

I just love her! Talented, beautiful, down to earth!

Allyson on

I am glad that everything turned out good. I know from my own adoption, that finding someone that loves you and picks you is the most wonderful thing that you can ever have happen.I say good luck to you and your family Hargitay….

Stayce on

Love her! Best wishes to her and her family

Shelley on

What a sweet story! Best wishes to the family!

auroramia on

What a lovely big heart she has.

Jae on

Love her! So happy for her and her family! I had’t heard about the second adoption!

Tammy on

Mariska is a class act. I love her!

justamom on

This woman has always seemed like such an amazing person. Prayers for her little one and best wishes to her family.

Susan on

Best wishes to you and your entire family. I know from experience that making that decision is one of the most important ones because I cannot have children of my own and went through all the IVF but could not afford to adopt but I am hopeful that one day I will have the money to adopt a child. God Bless you Mariska and Peter.

nancy on

she is amazing!!

kpmonkeymommy on

I think August should feel that way… I think he had God’s ear on this one. And what a double blessing (and I agree, a small miracle) that not only their family now has 3 beautiful children, but that Andrew (any newborn/infant/child with health issues is harder to place) has a family that loves him and can provide all the care he needs to help him overcome his obstacles.

Bernadette Derry on

We are Adoptive parents we know how she feels to have her children,we have one child that we adopted in January and fostered for a year.Best thing we ever did.

mommyofone on

Being a adoptive mother, I understand the struggles of Mariska’s. Thank you for telling the story so more people understand it is such a gift to get these children and how wonderful it makes us parents feel!

Brooke on

And here I am crying at work now! Such a beautiful family – so obvious these children, all three of them, will be raised with love. Who could ask for more! Congrats Mariska!!!

Kara on

Even though I’m 25 now, I still love seeing stories like this. As an adopted child, it’s wonderful to see and hear about more lucky children finding their forever families and parents finding their forever children.

I’m grateful that Mariska has chosen to generously share her story in such a compassionate way so that people can understand just how difficult, heartbreaking, and arduous this process can be for everyone, no matter how much money you have. She comes across in such a graceful manner and hopefully, her happy ending despite some painful bumps along the way, encourages people to have a more open mind about adoption and not believe all of the extreme stories out there.

Yes, it can be a difficult process and journey for everyone (adoptive parents, biological parents, siblings, and the children themselves) but as an adoptee, I am so grateful for everyone involved for giving me the gift of a loving family and knowing that my biological mother loved me enough to give me an incredible life. Hopefully, Amaya and Andrew will feel the same way. August, Amaya and Andrew are so lucky to have parents with such class and parents who have surrounded them with love and gratitude since day one.

Shannon on

I love celebrity stories that reinforce my faith in humanity. Thank God someone on the cover of a magazine is setting a good example.

Nora on

Mariska seems like such a fantastic woman. Best wishes to her family. Congrats on your three children!

Grace on

@Susan: You should google “adoption grants” – there are several organizations that offer grants to those who can’t afford the cost of adoption. Also, there are adoption attorneys who offer sliding scale fees.

You could also look into adopting out of the foster care system. Many people pass up that option because they believe the only way to adopt out of the foster care system is to go the foster-to-adopt route, where you have no way of knowing if you will actually end up adopting the child.

But there is another way to adopt from the foster care system. There are quite a few children in the foster care system who are already legally emancipated from their birth parents and ready for adoption. That type of adoption is not very expensive. There’s a small paperwork fee (which can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $1,000 – but it’s so much cheaper than most of the other adoptions routes.) Good luck!

SusieKJ on

@Allyson – I agree! My brothers and I were adopted and so is my oldest son.

I’ve never understood folks hung up on being “blood related” to their offspring, as if you won’t love them as much if they aren’t related to you. Don’t you love your spouse?

bethany jencks on

I love her and the show. I am proud of her

Mandi on

This article really hit home for me. We are in the process of adopting our daughter and we are definitely in the midst of some harrowing moments right now, but she put it perfectly. It’s so worth it!

Susan T on

With her amazing happy public life its easy to forget that someone like Mariska Hargitay does actually have problems and genuine heartache in her private life.She continues to be such a role model for many and she and her family deserve the joy that a loving family can provide.

Carnie on

My husband and I adopted a sibling group of 3 two years ago from the foster system and are in the process of adopting my 3 year old foster son that we’ve had for 2 years. I strongly recommend this route. Not only does it save some innocent children from growing up in the system, you get so much support and resources pre-adoption and post adoption. The cost was only $25 per child and that was for their new birth certificate. I love my forever children!

Cheryl on

As an adoptive parent, she is right on! Adoption is the same amazing journey I’ve ever been on, but every bump in the road is absolutely worth it!

Lola on

Absolutely LOVE her & wish her and her family nothing short of the best in life!!

RKF on

@SusieKJ – It is not a “hang up”, as you call it, for some of us to feel differently than you. I would never adopt, as I would never feel the same way about a child that is not biologically my own. There is nothing wrong with that, and I have the utmost respect for those who do adopt. It just isn’t for me.

And no, I do not feel the same way towards a spouse than I do my biological sister. There’s love for both, but it’s different.

Regardless, Mariska’s story is beautiful (as is she!), and she really seems like the kindest, sweetest woman.

Anne Carol on

Whenever I read about Mariska my heart fills with joy. What a wonderful woman. It is simple, generous, beautiful and talented. Congratulations Mariska for his beautiful family.

Lana on

My husband and I have one adopted son and 4 biological children. I only call him adopted as a means of bringing him into this world. We have 6 adopted grandchildren among 16. They are all loved the same.

So we are now working with our church to assist with adoptions and to get the word out about adoption as an option. We love the work. We love seeing articles like this to show people about the oys and pains of adoption. But also show how wonderful it can be for everyone.

adoptiongoddess on

Happy to hear her adoption story. Adoption is not for the faint of heart, but as a mother of four through adoption, I can say, it’s one of the biggest blessings in the world.

SAR on

How sweet! Thank you to Mariska for sharing her story.

jones on

She seems like a really awesome person with a huge heart. Her comments about the failed adoption and it being a blessing really show how kind and positive she is. Plus, I hope people will shut up about her getting preferential treatment b/c they received Andrew so quickly. Her willingness to parent a special needs child explains why the placement happened quickly.

Whitney on

I just adore her…. No other words needed

tlc on

I love her! I am also an adoptive mom who adopted from fostering a little girl from a very young age. She is now 3 and she is the best thing ever! Our older son (bio) is 11 and he adores her as well! We didn’t have the heartache of having a bio mom change her mind, but we did have some scary moments with our daughter’s bio mom who was a drug addict and very unstable.

Thankfully everything for Mariska and Peter turned out amazingly and they have their beautiful family!!! IT’s a gift and a blessing for sure!

Shannon on

Such a lovely lady. She rocks.

donnab40 on

Like everyone else I love Mariska, she’s so down to Earth & so approachable. I am so happy for her & her husband that everything worked out the way that it did & they now have the beautiful family they always wanted & so much deserved. Congratulations to you & your family. God Bless you all.

wendy on

love Mariska, she seems so down to earth and genuine. so sorry to hear that Andrew still has health problems, but glad that he is now their son and they have the resources and the commitment to make sure he gets the best care possible.

Amy on

Beautiful story,beautiful babies,beautiful family. They are all blessed to have one another.

Amanda K on

She’s a beautiful woman with a big heart. I’m happy she shared her story. What a lovely family.

Guest Lady on

Gosh, I can’t imagine the heartbreak of bringing home a child and then having the birth mother change her mind and having to give the child back. It takes a really strong person to get thru that! She has always seemed really solid and like a genuinely nice person. I’m glad her and her husband have the family they always desired.

Carrie on

@RKF that’s very sad for you. Most people bond very quickly with infants in their care, even if they are just a nanny or babysitter. Especially women, when women are the caregivers to an infant it does not take long to love the child and want to protect them with your life. I helped raise my friends baby when her husband left her, it did not take long before he was like my own, I felt no different about him than I did my kids and he was just my godchild not a kid I was legally responsible for.

I am also very sad for you that you think the love you have for your sister and your partner are so different. The only big difference I have ever noticed is that I am not physically attracted to my sister. Both are my best friends that I can tell anything to, both are my family and I’d lay my life on the line for both.

Erd on

I think it’s fantastic that she gave he real picture of adoption. She struggled like any other adoptive family, and she’s right. It’s not for the faint of heart. We were on pins and needles for weeks as the birth father of our child played games with us and the birthmom just because he could. It’s not easy, but adoption is an amazing experience both good and bad.

Sherry on

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for adopting. I was adopted. I thank God, everyday, my parents chose to adopt. Not only did they adopt myself, but they adopted my twin sister. We were not babies. We were five. Most want babies. I am glad they opened thier hearts and arms, to my sister and I. I am 38 now. I thank them every chance I get. Thank you for another chance at life. Thank you for for saving us. Thank you to all those who choose adoption and strive to make someones life better.

Ellie on

Parenting a baby for a while before the birth mother changes her mind and having to let go is a very hard thing. I applaud Mariska for going for adoption even after that experience.

She is a great person and her family is very lovely. It is great that she and her husband can provide the health care Andrew needs.

Anonymous on

This just goes to show how little we really know about what celebrities actually go through when they adopt. The first we hear about a celebrity adoption is often when the baby or child has actually been adopted (as opposed to when the celeb parent or parents are still going through the process), so it’s easy to assume that it happened quickly and/or that the celeb got preferential treatment.

Now, I’m not saying those things NEVER happen with celebrity adoptions. However, Mariska’s story should be an eye-opener to us that even celebs have to endure long waits and failed placements when it comes to adoption (I can’t even imagine how heart-wrenching it must have been for Mariska and Peter to lose the baby girl they thought was theirs, or how they explained to August that his new baby sister was no longer his baby sister!)!

Personally, I love it when celebs open about their adoptions and the challanges they faced while going through the process (Sheryl Crow, Meg Ryan and others have also shared the difficulties the faced on the road to parenthood via adoption). I think it helps to de-mystify the process a bit, plus it lets frustrated prospective adoptive parents know that they’re not alone when it comes to having to wait a long time for their children!

I also want to say that I greatly admire Mariska and Peter for being willing to adopt a special needs child. Sadly, there aren’t a lot of people out there who are willing to make that commitment. Bless you, Mariska and Peter, for giving a little boy a home and a loving family!

sat on

best wishes to this family and to the birth parents!!

torgster on

I hope sweet little Andrews health issues aren’t permanent and that he outgrows them. Such a lovely family and sad for all of them if the poor little guy has to suffer in the longterm. Here’s hoping.

Susan Albert on

I also love Mariska, always have. So happy that everything turned out .

ToRo on

Love Mariska. I’m glad it all worked out for her and her family.

amie on

Anonymous hit the nail on the head when she said that we don’t know much about what the celebs go through when they adopt. I’m not a celeb and the first people heard about my new son’s adoption was when I said, “I have a son!” They didn’t know that I spent years waiting… it was heartbreaking all that we went through. I can’t imagine going through it under a microscope, so … thank you. Good luck to Mariska and her family!

sherry on

Best wishes!!

Anonymous on

“They may not have my eyes, they may not have my smile, but they all have my heart”….God bless them.

Latasha Penn on

I just love that story I was adopted maybe for the wrong reasons and I almost gave up on Humanity, but after hearing your story you have brought it back. You are a very kind, beautiful and talented Class Act. I really wish more Celebrities would set Graceful and Humble Examples like you and your husband is doing.
You guys have a very Beautiful and Handsome Children. God Bless and Thank you for Bringing my Faith back in Humanity.