Becoming a mother is often the happiest event in a woman’s life. But nothing can prepare you for what comes next.
Even A-list celebrities aren’t immune to the stress and strain of motherhood.
In 2014, Nashville star Hayden Panettiere was thrilled to welcome a baby daughter, Kaya, with her fiancé, heavyweight boxer Wladimir Klitschko.
However, last year, the actress bravely revealed her battle with postpartum depression, shining a light on a very emotional topic.
“Nobody can ever prepare you to be a parent until you are one,” Hayden, 27, tells TV WEEK.
“You can conjure every scenario in your mind and what you’d do and how you’d feel, but you never really know until you are a parent.”
Finding it hard to cope, Hayden decided to seek professional help.
Coincidentally, while the actress was experiencing desperate lows, her Nashville character, Juliette Barnes, was also in the throes of depression after giving birth to her and Avery’s (Jonathan Jackson) daughter, Cadence.
“You weren’t sure for a second if it was life imitating art or art imitating life,” Hayden recalls.
“There were times where I felt the storylines were mimicking what I was going through in my real life.”
It meant Hayden was able to bring authenticity to Juliette’s plight.
“On the one hand, it makes it easier because you truly understand the depths of the character,” she explains. “But on the other hand, it makes it very difficult to play.
“I feel like the closer something is to you, the more that wall kind of goes up – you’re protecting yourself.”
Looking back on that time and reflecting on her experiences, Hayden now feels more comfortable.
“You learn how strong women can be,” she says. “[But] it takes you a while to understand what is going on with you.
“I felt like a phoenix, and I crashed and burned and chose to rise from the ashes and take the positive lesson I can learn from it. I feel stronger because of it.”
Now Hayden is in a happier place, she’s taken being a mother to two-year-old Kaya in her stride. She particularly enjoys watching her cute mini-me grow and develop.“She changes not only weekly, but daily, hourly,” Hayden says.
“And because Wladimir and I don’t live in the same country sometimes, there’ll be maybe a week that I don’t see her. And then when I see her, it’s like night and day.”
While Hayden is based in Nashville for 10 months of the year, boxer Wladimir spends a lot of time training in his native Ukraine and in Germany.
The constant travelling has paid off for young Kaya.
“She’s bilingual,” Hayden says. “She knows to look at her dad and speak Russian, and she knows when to look at me and speak English.
“It’s unbelievable to watch them change and absorb everything [so quickly].”
Hayden also looks forward to acting as a role model for Kaya.
“I want to show her what a strong female is, and what she can do and accomplish on her own,” she says.
That’s not to say Hayden doesn’t experience periods of self-doubt like any other mum.
“There are some days where I have to go to work before she gets up and I get back after she’s gone to sleep,” she says.
“Mummy guilt is no joke. No matter what you do, you always feel guilty as a mum.”
Looking back, Hayden smiles as she recalls life pre-motherhood.
“My life before was a blur!” she laughs. “I couldn’t imagine my life without her. Little kids are miracles, they really are.”
Despite the fact that her Nashville character, Juliette, has grown from her experiences with postpartum depression, much like Hayden, shooting the country music series is still an emotional experience.
This was no more evident than when Connie Britton left the hit series and her character’s death was an emotional one for all involved.
“It’s been really heartbreaking to see her leave,” she says.
There was a tender moment between Hayden’s character, Juliette, and Rayna just moments before her one-time rival died.
Finding the necessary emotion in the scene came naturally to Hayden.
“It was a difficult day at work and that last scene… My goodness, I almost can’t say it without crying,” the star says.
“To finally say to her, ‘I just want you to be proud of me,’ you really realised how much Juliette pretended she didn’t love Rayna, but she was a very special person to her.”
Hayden adds the loss of Rayna will be felt for a long time.
“It’ll be tough to go on without her,” she says. “Rayna will be sorely missed.”