Mariska Hargitay: My First Adoption Attempt Was "Devastating"

The actress opens up about her first try at adoption, when the baby's biological mother changed her mind two days after giving birth

Adoption is rarely an easy process, but for Law & Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay, 48, the experience was more difficult than most.

The actress was 42 when her biological son August, now 5, was born. She and her husband Peter Hermann knew they wanted more kids but were worried that she was too old -- and so they decided to turn to adoption.

"I really did think that down the line, Peter and I would adopt a child. That was always part of the plan," Hargitay says in the May issue of Good Housekeeping. "I’m not gonna lie. There were wrenching moments. I say to everybody, 'Adoption is not for the faint of heart.'"

The couple started the adoption process two years ago, and finally found the woman who seemed like a perfect fit. Hargitay and Hermann met with the birth mother, finalized the adoption, were in the delivery room during the birth and even took the child home as their own for two days -- but then the birth mother changed her mind.

"It was nothing short of devastating," Hargitay says. "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 (the mother)."

Hargitay still keeps in touch with the woman, and although she hasn't seen the baby since, she says she feels "forever connected to her."

Fortunately, that experience didn't sour Hargitay on adoption. A little more than a year ago, Hargitay and Hermann connected with the woman who gave birth to their now 13-month-old daughter Amaya Josephine, and even helped deliver their daughter in the hospital.

"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."

Half a year later, Hargitay heard about a premature baby boy who needed to be adopted as well. Although she and Hermann had planned to wait 18 months before adopting a second child, the couple couldn't resist bringing now 9-month-old Andrew Nicolas into their family.

"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."

According to Hargitay, big brother August loves his two little siblings, and is convinced that adopting them was his master plan.

"August thinks this was all his idea," Hargitay says. "He said, 'I want a baby sister,' and Amaya came. Then he said, 'I want a baby brother,' and Andrew came."

Despite her initial heartbreak and the fact that Andrew still has health issues, Hargitay says she would trade her experience for the world.

"Adoption was a bumpy ride -- very bumpy," she says. "But, God, was it worth the fight."

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