Hayden Panettiere says giving up custody of her daughter was 'the most heartbreaking thing'

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Hayden Panettiere has often been called into question for giving up custody of her child — and now, she's facing critics head-on.

The "Nashville" star, 33, discussed her postpartum depression, alcohol addiction and relationship with her daughter Kaya Evdokia Klitschko, 7, on a new episode of Facebook Watch series "Red Table Talk," which aired Wednesday.

Panettiere says the most common misconception about her is "the idea that I'm a person who would just easily throw out my child … give away my child."

The actress adds that some of the backlash she's received surrounding her motherhood journey has been "heartbreaking."

The Most Misunderstood Thing About Hayden Panettiere

Actress Hayden Panettiere discusses the painful misconceptions about her journey as a mother. Tune in to Red Table Talk this Wednesday for exclusive details Hayden has never discussed before.

Posted by Red Table Talk on Tuesday, September 27, 2022

"People are like, 'How dare you? You're a horrible mother. I could never do that to my child.' So that was tough and it took me a long time to be able to talk about it," Panettiere said.

'Suffering mother narrative': Hayden Panettiere shows prioritizing your mental health can make you a better parent

In a joint interview with "Good Morning America" and People published in July, Panettiere opened up about sending her daughter to Ukraine to live with her ex Wladimir Klitschko in 2018 as her depression and alcohol addiction worsened.

"It was the hardest thing I could do," she told People. "But the best thing for my daughter was to make sure she was OK, take care of myself and make sure I could be a good mom to her. And sometimes that means letting go."

'I didn't want to be around me': Hayden Panettiere opens about addiction, postpartum depression

Hayden Panettiere addressed common misconceptions of her motherhood during an episode of "Red Table Talk."
Hayden Panettiere addressed common misconceptions of her motherhood during an episode of "Red Table Talk."

On "Red Table Talk," Panettiere gave more details about how the decision for her daughter was made.

"You thought this was an agreement that you came to, that you felt it was best for your daughter to be with her dad?" co-host Adrienne Banfield Norris asks.

"At first it was not (an agreement), because it wasn't a discussion," Panettiere replied. "It wasn't if (Klitschko) came to me and said, 'You know, I think because of where you're at right now and the struggles that you're having, it would be good for her to be over here with me for a while.'"

She said that if they had enough of a conversation, she probably would have said "OK, that makes sense" and made plans to visit Ukraine.  "Because of the way it was done, it was very upsetting," she told Banfield Norris, Jada Pinkett Smith and guest host Kelly Osbourne.

"It was the worst, signing those papers, like the most heartbreaking thing I've ever, ever had to do in my life," Panettiere said, clarifying the papers were to give Klitschko full custody of their daughter.

"I was going to to work on myself, and I was going to get better and when I got better then things could change, then she could come to me and I'd have my time with her, but that didn't happen," she said.

The "Heroes" actor also said she's never discussed the decision in detail because "it's scary," and she doesn't want to upset anyone, "especially the person who has control of your child."

Panettiere added while she has a great amount of admiration for Klitschko, a former professional boxer, she said he wasn't sympathetic toward her personal struggles at the time.

"I respect him for being such a driven human being and he's very positive. Athletes are very diligent," Panettiere said "but he's also a man (and) doesn't have any sisters, so he really thought that I was doing it to myself and that I could choose to snap out of it."

Commenters on Instagram riddled her December 2020 birthday post for her daughter with insults. But an expert in mental health, addiction and postpartum depression says successful mothering can vary.

Hayden Panettiere also opened up about her mental health and alcohol addiction which was exacerbated by postpartum depression.
Hayden Panettiere also opened up about her mental health and alcohol addiction which was exacerbated by postpartum depression.

"We just have to divorce ourselves from the assumption that a mother's care and love looks a particular way," Dorianne Mason, director of health equity, reproductive rights and health at the National Women's Law Center told USA TODAY in July. "We have to divorce ourselves from this suffering mother narrative."

Mason added that Panettiere's story "demonstrates that care and love may look like seeking support that you need to stabilize your life and thrive … maybe that means that your child is in another stable and loving environment while you do that."

Panettiere also spoke about Kaya's personality and how she's been coping with Panettiere's physical absence since the custody arrangement was put in place.

"She's a very stoic child," Panettiere said. "When she really gets hurt, you can see her try to hold it in and be like, 'I'm fine,' dust it off and not want to be held."

Panettiere also recalled a phone conversation with Klitschko, in which he shared that Kaya was "going around and asking other women if she can call them mommy."

"He was laughing. He thought this was funny, and it was horrifying to me," Panettiere said. "He didn't get it, as opposed to me who saw that's a trauma reaction: That's a cry for help."

While the future of Kaya's long-term living arrangement remains unclear, Panettiere says she remains hopeful that things will eventually change.

"I have to just keep the hope that one day when she's old enough for her opinion to be respected a little bit more and her wants are heard that there will be more proactivity on that side," Panettiere said.

Hayden Panettiere: Postpartum depression didn't make me a bad mother

If your or someone you know is struggling with substance use disorders, you can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357. The service is free, confidential and available in English and Spanish. 

Those looking for treatment for perinatal or postpartum depression should seek a women's health specialist with perinatal psychology training. Postpartum Support International can connect moms or loved ones with trained professionals. Connect with them online or by calling 1-800-944-4773.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hayden Panettiere talks daughter, custody backlash on 'Red Table Talk'