Katherine Heigl’s memories of being a working mom with a baby are an emotional gut-punch

Katherine Heigl on the red carpet
Imeh Akpanudosen/Stringer

During an appearance on The View, Katherine Heigl—accompanied by her eldest daughter, Naleigh—recalled her early days of new motherhood with brutal honesty.

The co-hosts replayed a previous appearance Heigl made on the show when Naleigh was just a toddler. In the clip, she’s seen running from the audience up to her mama’s lap. After watching the clip, Heigl grew emotional and explained just how meaningful that particular moment was to her during those tough days of new motherhood after she and her husband adopted Naleigh in 2009.

“Naleigh came to us at nine months and three days later, I got on a plane and went to work in Atlanta,” Heigl admitted. “I never saw that baby. I was at work with three triplets who were playing my goddaughter and I spent more time with them than I did with my new daughter and she bonded with my husband. So, I was always afraid that I had missed that opportunity to really bond with her and that she didn’t love me.”

Whew. Talk about brutal honesty. I mean, she went there. And while it might be initially shocking to hear a mom admit those things out loud, those worries are universally shared by working mothers everywhere. The camera panned to the now-14-year-old Naleigh as she also appeared emotional watching her mom open up.

Heigl admitted at the time, she thought she would be able to handle everything and balance it all—work, adopting a new baby from a different country, and raising that baby—because we’re conditioned by society to believe we can. And we’re conditioned that way, particularly in the U.S., because a majority of mothers are parenting without a village or a safety net.

“At the time, becoming a new mother, I was just like, ‘I got it. I got it. I can handle this,'” she said. “You know, they’ve told us we can have it all. We can have careers and have families and it’s all gonna be great. It’s all gonna work out.”

It’s no wonder that one tiny moment where toddler Naleigh ran up to her mom was such a big moment in Heigl’s reality. Maybe she did initially share a stronger bond with Heigl’s husband, musician Josh Kelley. But that child knew exactly who her mama was on that stage.

Naleigh, who was born in South Korea, has two siblings: 10-year-old daughter Adalaide, who they adopted in 2012, and 5-year-old son Joshua, who Katherine gave birth to in 2017.

A version of this article was published in November 2022. It has been updated.