Katherine Heigl: I Didn’t Have Newborn Experience

06/08/2012 at 02:30 PM ET
Gregg DeGuire/Wireimage

She may not have been a first-time mom, but for Katherine Heigl, adopting her second daughter opened her eyes to an entirely new chapter in parenthood: life with a newborn!

The actress and her husband Josh Kelley welcomed their first daughter Naleigh, 3½, from South Korea when she was 9 months old, and recently adopted Adalaide Marie Hope shortly after her birth.

“I had never had a newborn before. I didn’t really have that experience. So it’s all been new,” the actress, 33, told PEOPLE at the 40th AFI Life Achievement Awards in Culver City, Calif. on Thursday.

“I was prepared for the nights and having to get up and all of that. But the beauty of it is it’s really only a few months of your life that you’re walking around like a zombie because you haven’t slept.”

Fortunately for the new family of four, things are continually getting “easier and easier” — due, in part, to one very proud big sister.

“Naleigh was super excited about having a new baby sister — until she arrived. Then she was a little hesitant about whether or not she wanted her to stay,” Heigl shares. “And then she became her little protector and is taking on the role of big sister very seriously.”

Still, admits the new mom-of-two, juggling her growing brood isn’t always smooth sailing.

“I think it’s far more chaotic than I anticipated,” she says. “And I think every parent probably says that and every parent tries to warn new parents about it. And we all go, ‘Pish posh, it’s going to be fine. What’s one more?'”

— Anya Leon with reporting by Scott Huver

FILED UNDER: Exclusive , News , Parenting

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Showing 59 comments

justme on

I love Katherine and think she is a great Mom and actress, I love anything she plays in and love her movies.

lifeasahouse on

It is a learning process for all of us.

Hea on

I really like her. 🙂

Bella on

I really like her…But she looking really old at least in this pic. congrats on the new baby…But yeah we women who actually give birth to a child it is the same of us when it comes to having a new born…thats life…you learn as you go…

christa on

She will wing it, just like the rest of us. Love her and her family.

Kay winter on

I really like her and enjoy her talent but feel she is unappreciated. However, I do also feel she needs a stylist who will advise her how to look her age. Her hair (bleached blond, old “do”) and clothes are often appropriate for a person 20 years older than she is.

Shannon on

All new parents go through this. She does need to dress more age appropriate. When she gets older she’ll probably want to dress like a 20 year old.

abbey on

She is an amazing woman! I wish her all the best with her growing family….hang in there sleep will come.

Liz on

She looks about fifty-five. But glad she’s enjoying this happy time with her newest baby.

Missy on

How is Naleigh’s name pronounced? I’ve never heard. Is it NAY-lee (like the “a” in cake), NAL-lee (like the “a” in cat) or NAWH-lee (like the “au” in auburn?)? I really like Katherine and am happy for her. She said her one vice is smoking and it is really, really starting to show on her face!

meghan on

They will find their groove in no time. Love Katherine. 🙂

JMO on

Missy it’s Nay-Lee.

Kay Winter how does she come of unappreciative?? Is it because of the Grey’s Anatomy comments years ago? I agree at those times I really couldn’t stand her but I’ve since read different things and I think she has regrets about making those kinds of comments. People grow and I think Katharine has def been someone that has show alot of growth in the last few yeasr. I’m still not a huge fan of hers but I think she seems content with her life and doesn’t have to be so bitter about the things she used to be bitter over.

Megan on

At least she’s honest….you’re never ready for it!

Meg on

JMO, Kay Winter did not say Katherine is unappreciative, she said that Katherine is unappreciated, as in her talent isn’t recognized.

I agree about her styling though, she sometimes looks really old. I don’t think her hair colour is bad, but it’s always stylied so old fashioned.

Guest on

You really don’t have the newborn experience unless you have given birth. I am all for adoption, my brother adopted 2 girls, but as a mother you have no idea what it is like to have to deal with a newborn unless you have made that journey. Healing from birth, sleep deprived etc.

mountainmiss on

Can she not have babies of her own?

CaliGirl on

Reproduction is a normal thing and if it is not possible for you to do so, maybe that’s gods way of telling you – “hey, don’t have kids. You’re not suppose to otherwise I would have given you that ability.” Food for thought.

DWally on

She seems clueless as a mother and not very nurturing. She admitted in some earlier article she didn’t bond well with the first child. Also, probably the Nanny does all the work anyway….I doubt she actually gets up with the kiddo at night.

Katie on

Wow, she looks terrible in this picture. Too many cigs…

Sunny on

A woman ages, she looks old. when a man ages, it adds character. Time to end that lie. She looks lovely.

nora on

she’s an amazing person for doing it. i personally think that everyone who’s got the money and heart should adobt a baby!

Motheroftwo on

@guest, just because she didn’t have the baby herself having a new born period is challenging when you have never dealt with it before. I have had 2 children of my own and my cousin has adopted 2, that doesn’t make her any less of a mother than me. Newborns are hard to handle if your not ready for it, and her honesty about it is refreshing because so many of these stars use nannies excessively. Give her some credit.

JDK on

Can’t stand her – wish she would just go away.

Dina on

Hey CaliGirl-

Why don’t you reserve your opinion for something you have knowledge about? In this case, you clearly don’t. I’m sure God never intended for 19 year old crackheads to get pregnant when they have no means or desire to take care of a baby, but it happens. There are plenty of couples out there who would make wonderful parents and who desperately want a child, but aren’t able to have their own. What’s more, adoption is very expensive, so sometimes deserving couples are excluded from this option, as well.

Your comment is incredibly insensitive and ignorant and doesn’t even fit in this forum. Admittedly, my response doesn’t fit here either, but I felt compelled to respond on behalf of women/couples who find themselves in the situation you described.

Kasee on

CaliGirl, ever watched the show “16 and Pregnant”? Biological ability to procreate hardly means someone is “supposed” to have a child.

meme on

@CaliGirl…so all the babies and children that need homes should just be ignored by those who cannot biologically have children?? Your logic is flawed.

Donna on

Why does she think this is a dilemma that she and only she has? News flash, honey – – EVERY MOM goes through this! There’s nothing else newsworthy about her so lets make up a crisis so we don’t forger her sappy face.

Meghan on

She is not physically recovering from giving birth. Her insides were not torn as she pushed her child out. She is not in a crazy haze of postpartum hormones. I would also step out on a limb and guess that she has at least a part time nanny if not a full time, live in nanny to help out. I don’t want to hear what having a baby is like for her. The rest of us have a much different experience.

Tigerlee on

Sanctimommies strike again. Want pats on the head for doing something a dog can do. How dare Katherine talk about her experience being a mother to a newborn baby on a baby blog section of an entertainment web site. Horrors. Horrors. Yes, sanctimommies you are superior to adoptive mothers because you can spread your legs and push out a mammal. Applause. Applause.

Guest101 on

Ok in response to the person who said you never have the newborn experience unless you give birth, are you kidding me? What cave did you just crawl out of? SO if you bring a newborn baby home the day that they are born you don’t have a newborn experience? How did you come to that belief? I think what you meant to say is you don’t have a pregnant experience, but clearly you’re an idiot and could not correctly explain your argument.

jj on

@guest and caligirl..your comments are as clueless as you both are..Horrible things to say.

caitlyn moore on

Just because she is modest and has a classy personal style preference doesn’t mean she looks “old” people…Get some manners already.

caitlyn moore on

@Guest101 I love your comment – Said perfectly!

CAL on

First let me say bless Katherine and her husband for adopting and doing an amazing thing…secondly…

to all you woman who think that the only way a woman can experience a newborn by giving birth have NEVER had any problems conceiving…it is completely rude and obnoxious to say what you have said to the large community who CANNOT have children on their own, and while you are “lucky” I will one day be lucky with an adopted child, no matter age, sex, or race….you all should be ashamed to be spewing the hate that you are spewing just because people can’t experience birth…

Lastly, thank you to the people who rejected the comments of the apparent oblivious and embrace other ways of being a parent.

Jane on

@Guest: Your comment makes no sense. How does a person who adopt a newborn not understand what it’s like to deal with a newborn. Newsflash: Babies who were adopted do not raise themselves.

Traci on

I absolutely loved her in Love Comes Softly.

Jane on

@Donna: Where does Katherine say or imply in this interview that she thinks she’s the only person who goes through this? Your bitterness is showing.

Leah on

She sounds very down to earth to me. I have given birth to 3 kids. While I was torn up by all 3 deliveries, only the first one was noticeable. While I felt it all giving birth to my 2nd and 3rd babies, after they were born it was like ‘what I just gave birth? I feel fine.’ I still had a newborn experience with all 3 kids, each experience was different since the first time I had just one baby to take care of while the 2nd and 3rd babies there were other children in the house to care for meaning I could not wallow in just giving birth. She doesn’t sound like a sanctimommy to me. She sounds human.

Jen on


It’s actually not all that uncommon for there to be a substantial and sometimes, very difficult, adjustment and bonding period for children who were not adopted as newborns.

I like reading these stories, but these forums have become so judgmental, mean spirited, and catty. What a sad commentary on how women treat each other.

jodee on

I have NEVER commented on one of these boards….however I could not sit idly by. I have been very blessed to have been able to concieve naturally and give birth to my first child and equally as blessed to have the priviledge of adopting my last two children..both of which we were present for the births and they are full siblings 22 months apart….

There is absolutely no question in my mind ALL of my children were sent to our family by the Lord….no question. To all of those not yet Mother’s who are struggling with fertility….your babies will find you!

Marky on

My daughter was adopted from Korea just before her first birthday and it took about 2 months for her to adapt to the time change, so I was up all night and she slept a lot during the day. I also had a child who was 3 1/2 years old who needed attention, as well. I assure you, it was very much like what Katherine described and to be honest, children have been my life as long as I can remember. Do not think, for one minute, that I didn’t go through the process of working to get her to attach closely to both of us; it was tough! She was always an amazing daughter and still is!

Meghan, what the heck kind of doctor did you have that your “insides were torn as (you) pushed your baby out?? I’ve had 2 vaginal deliveries and I was up and around in just a few hours, with nothing torn at all! Are you seriously telling me I don’t know what it’s like to “truly” be a mother because i felt fine and looked fine, and wasn’t up all night with my bio kids??? Really? Wow! What a colossal ego you must have, that you think your genes are so amazing no others are worth the trouble, and if you don’t rip yourself end to end, you didn’t really have a baby!

I was a foster parent to 45 kids, from 22 hours old to 8 years old when they came to us, and believe me, I know newborn experience! Try it with 6 other children in the house, oldest being 8 or 9, several of which have to be gotten off to school and having their homework supervised, play supervised, etc. Last I heard, it isn’t a contest between women as to who has the “right” newborn experience! We should be supportive of each other regardless of how they got to that new experience or how old that “newborn to their family” is. Believe me, a child who is 5 yr. old, can be just as needy as a newborn, if they are new to your home, and don’t really know you yet. Some of you need to be less judgmental and more supportive of those whose experience is different from yours.

diane on

Keep it up! I love hearing such great news. I came from a large family and my mom always said “Once you have a third baby and balance that, you can have a team, or run the world!”

I had four girls and I think she was right!

chelsea on


For your information Katherine choose to adopt children first because she came from a family that was blended by biological and adopted children. She has an adopted sister. When asked in interviews she has said she hasn’t ruled out having biological children, but felt strongly about adopting first. If you are going to have a negative comment please educate yourself on the topic before you open your mouth.

lyn on

Newborn infants are difficult whether you gave birth to them or not. I think it is wonderful she is giving these two children a good life in what seems like is a loving home. Good luck to her and her family.

Amy on

Why do I bother reading peoples’ comments. In every style, baby article, etc women are catty witches. No where did she say that she is the only one going through this, and it it also her choice to adopt if she wants to. She has a heart for adoption because her sister was adopted. She has the freedom to make her life choices just like anyone commenting does.

On another note, the newborn time goes by way too quickly. Enjoy it!

Holly on

I had twins last year and no one told me how much work it would be! One baby is easy, 2 is definitely a LOT of work. Your life is not your own anymore, you can’t just pick up and go to the store or do what you want, when you are a parent, you are living your life on baby time.

Maggie on

Nowhere do I see more vicious, catty comments than I do in the mommy blogs.

Giving birth does not make you a mother. Casey Anthony gave birth.

Please, let’s stop being so hateful to each other. Bio mom and adoptive moms- you’re both moms. No need to hate or feel superior or judge others.

boohoobytch on

her first baby is too cute for words

claire on

These comments are absolutely ridiculous- no where did Katherine say she is the only mother to experience what she is or has experienced. She, as a proud and excited mother, spoke of her experiences, just as I am sure all the other mothers have spoken about their experiences.

To the one who said she shouldn’t adopt if she cannot conceive- just wow. I don’t recall her ever saying she cannot have children, but rather she chose to adopt. She has an older sister who was adopted and she knows the blessing adoption can bring. Perhaps for her and Josh it was more about being parents than about biological parents and they decided to help already born children who don’t have a home, rather than having their own biological child.

Calling her names, saying she’s ugly or a bad actress is just childish insults- whether you like her or not is irrelevant. We need to focus on the bigger picture here- two children have a loving home, with people who dote on them and will do anything for them.

Maybe the world would be a better place if we stopped acting holier than thou or jumping on little, mundane things, but instead smiled at the fact that children are being loved and cared for rather than being neglected

Jane on

@Amy: It’s deeply offensive to label women in general as catty witches when it’s only some women who are doing that. No, women are not catty witches. There are a few people on here who are behaving in an awful manner. Kindly leave the rest of out of your sweeping assumptions about our entire gender.

Melissa on

This has nothing to do with the article, but I have been thinking this for sometime. She is a pretty lady but her hair needs to go. It makes her look 53 instead of 33. Glad she is enjoying being a mom.

A_Mom on

mountainmiss: Yes, she can have children of her own. She has two daughters of her own, through adoption!

js on

I have never, ever commented on this site, despite reading many idiotic remarks. But Cali Girl hit a new low. You are an idiot and your hurtful comments can affect many women struggling with infertility. You should be ashamed of yourself. Truly disgusting. Show some respect for the women who have tried so hard to be a mother, and the children who are awaiting homes in orphanages. I guess we should just let them stay there, since we weren’t meant to have kids! Idiot.

Julianna on

I’m single, but once I find the right person to start a family, I definitely want to adopt. There are so many children out there needing a family, so kudos to Katherine and all the celebrities for speaking publicly and openly about their decision to take that route. Naleigh Kelley is an adorable little girl, and I can’t wait to see pictures of Adalaide.

K10 on

The level of ignorance in some of these comments is astounding. Not only ignorant on the topics being discussed, but also ignorant of good manners!

norwegianrainey on

It is actually very common for adopted children to only bond or attach too one of the adoptive parents in the beginning, same thing happened to me, our adopted son attached first to my husband. Kudos to Katherine Heigl for being open about her daughter attaching to her husband first, and kudos to her for giving up her gig on Grey’s anatomy in order to spend more time with her daughter.

lulu on

I’m not sure why, but I just spent the last five minutes of my life reading these posts. Sadly, this is time I will never get back.

All I can say is I doubt Katherine gives a Sh$%t what any of you “real mothers” think. GET A LIFE. Seriously.

A. on

Katherine Heigl is such an uptight bitch and an overrated actress. She’s really starting to look older than she is. Maybe if she didn’t chain-smoke she wouldn’t look at least ten years older than she is. I seriously cannot stand this woman.

Sam on

That’s not a flattering picture, but she is still very young and beautiful. Congrats to her and her growing family, she has a great head on her shoulders!