Mariska Hargitay Mariska Hargitay

What a beautiful and bittersweet year 2006 was — the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I became a mother, something I had dreamed about all my life. Then shortly after my son, August, arrived, I lost my father, Mickey. He was my greatest champion, always encouraging me to follow my dreams with everything I had and to never give up. He is responsible for the person I am today, and I will always be grateful that he had a chance to look into his grandson's eyes and pass along his love and strength.

It was devastating to lose the man who gave me so much courage and confidence, but August is as much an inspiration as his grandfather. From Day 1, he has filled our lives with more light and joy than I could have ever imagined. I am so happy to be a member of the Moms' Club, and of course my husband, Peter [Hermann], is a natural for the role of Best Dad Ever.

In the beginning of 2006, I was like a lot of women in America — pregnant and still on the job. Of course, lots of actresses do that. Some even have it written into the script. That wasn't going to be the case for Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. There's no time for morning sickness when you're running through the streets of New York lugging a gun, and there are only so many ways one can conceal a swelling belly. (Olivia carried more files and boxes in seven episodes than she did in seven years.) I not only had to rescue innocent kids from dangerous predators all season, but I also had to walk away from my partner, Elliot Stabler. It was an amazing season, one that led to Emmy nominations for Christopher Meloni, who plays Stabler, and for me. Knowing that my father was able to see me win the award — that was the real prize.

When I came back to the show in September, it was like I had never been away. The only difference: I had a 9 mm Glock on one hip and August on the other. August is with me 24/7, so no matter how long or demanding or emotional the work is, I have him to help me put everything in perspective. Just looking at him refreshes and replenishes my spirit.

One of the greatest things about becoming a mother is that it redefines you. I never knew I was capable of loving another person so much. Sometimes when I wake up to feed him in the middle of the night, I just stay up and look at him in awe and admiration. Why sleep when you can spend time with such an amazing little guy?

Send your comments on this feature to letters@tvguide.com