From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
Ed McMahon, 63, television's No. 1 second banana, and his second wife, Victoria Valentine, 40, a former airline VIP hostess, put off having children when they married 10 years ago. When they did decide to start a family, nature declined to cooperate, and the couple looked to adoption as a solution. "Adoption was something Ed had a good feeling about even in the early years of our marriage," says Victoria. "He thought it would be wonderful, with all the things we've been given, to give a child something."

Last December, after a year-long wait, the McMahons adopted 5-day-old Katherine Mary. Maybe because he's an experienced hand (McMahon has four children, ages 26 to 39, from his first marriage) or because he's a natural at supporting roles, Ed has proved to be a zealous pop. The adjustment was a little slower for Victoria. "Because we waited so long for this child and because you don't dare get your hopes up until everything has been done legally," she says, "you think, 'Is she really here? Is this going to last forever?' It's just hitting me that this is my daughter." They both agree, however, that what was once a "great twosome is now a great threesome."

Ed: Having a child was something we had talked about for several years, but Victoria felt she wasn't ready. She wanted to spend all her time with me, and she felt she couldn't do that if we had a baby. But two years ago we took care of our granddaughter, Alexandra, who's 3½ now, and had a great time. The more we thought about the joy we had had from her, the more we thought that this was really what life was all about. So we decided, let's go for it. When we were unsuccessful having a baby of our own, we decided to adopt.

Victoria: Ed wanted a little girl with an Irish Catholic background. I said, "I could be 70 years old by the time we found that little girl. What about a little Italian boy?" But the good Lord said, "You'll have your little girl." You can see how lucky we are.

Ed: Ours was a private adoption, and I can't talk about the details. That's because the baby is not fully yours until the courts so decree, and in our case that will take another six months. Katherine is a beautiful child with a personality to match. The only problem we have with her is her Irish temper. When she wants to eat, she bellows. You'd think someone had been beating her with tongs. But then all you have to do is show up with the formula, and everything is wonderful.

Having Katherine has given me a kind of new lease on life. I'm feeding her, I'm changing her, I'm there for every visit to the doctor. I didn't do that with my other kids. I wasn't there as much, and it's a shame. I have the time now. Even though I have a heavy work schedule, it's all at night. I read Dr. Spock to refresh my memory about what it's all about. Another book I'm reading is The First Twelve Months of Life, edited by Frank Caplan. Each month is a chapter, but I read ahead to know what's coming up. The other day I spent an hour with a pink bear trying to get Katherine Mary to turn over. The books said she was supposed to be doing it and she wasn't, and my wife panicked. I got Katherine to do it. She would chase the bear, first with her eyes, then with her hand, and she rolled over. That was a great day.

Victoria: Our priorities have changed since Katherine's arrival. Things that used to be important are no longer as important. We've cut back on socializing about 90 percent, but people understand.

Ed: On the days I'm not working I'll give Victoria a break and take the 3 a.m. feeding. Otherwise I get up for the 6 a.m. feeding. I get tired, but it's a nice tired. We have a nanny so we get our respites. This weekend we'll go down to our boat, just Victoria and I, without the baby this time. You have to have that time, too. But we're not going to let the nanny raise this baby. We've decided to take Katherine everywhere. She'll be going to Hawaii with us in a month. She's had lunch at the Polo Lounge twice. She's met Johnny. She cooed and gurgled with him. Of course, many women have done that.

We have time and money now, so we're going to have to be careful about spoiling Katherine. It's not easy. She got 60 presents for Christmas, more than the whole family combined. We've done her nursery all in Miss Piggy and we've gone to a kid's clothing store in Marina del Rey and bought everything in sight. But she's not going to have a Corvette at 16. I want to get her ready for the real world. It's rough out there.

We haven't had any insensitive remarks about the adoption. It's all been positive. There's no stigma attached to it. It's right and proper. It never occurred to me if she'd be harder to love because she's adopted. You don't have a control valve on love. When she gives you that smile, forget it. A friend sent us a poem that starts, "Not flesh of my flesh, or bone of my bone, but desired of my heart..." It's the concept that you weren't just sent to us, we sought you out. We want our daughter to grow up knowing this. We don't know Katherine's natural mother, but we're going to let Katherine know her when she's 18 if she wants to. It'll be up to her.

Victoria: I'm seeing another side of Ed after all these years of marriage. He takes fatherhood very seriously, and it's very romantic.

Ed: Before Katherine arrived, Victoria and I worried about what this would do to our relationship. We had this fear that the baby might come between us. Well, she is between us, but she's a cement that has bonded us closer.

  • Contributors:
  • Lois Armstrong.