- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Reese Witherspoon's early experience with motherhood wasn't easy.
"I lived away from my mother. My mom had a full-time job as a nurse and I had a baby really young — I was 23 years old — and so I was raising her by myself," Witherspoon says. "I don't have any sisters, I don't have any aunts. I was alone in a new city, in Los Angeles, and I literally had no friends. I would cry."
"I didn't know what to do when the baby cried all night. I didn't understand what sleep training was," the star recalls. "Ava was up all night until she was probably 7 months old because I just didn't understand not to keep feeding her, because I thought she was hungry all the time."
Witherspoon gave birth to Ava, now 22, in September 1999, about two months after she and her ex-husband, Ryan Phillippe tied the knot. The pair would then go on to welcome son Deacon, now 17, in October 2003, before separating three years later in 2006.
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.
"I just want to say you're going to get through it," Witherspoon says. "It's so hard but try to find a network of friends. Reach out to people, don't be afraid. It's very hard. You can't do it by yourself."
"I did not have a lot of support with my first baby and I learned really early, like this is not going to work," she explained. "I tried to muscle through for five months with Ava, just not sleeping and I became delirious."
Noting that she "couldn't have worked" through the first few months she was a new mom to Ava, Witherspoon explained, "I was lucky enough to have money saved and I didn't have to work, but it's just not a one-person job."
"I would even say it's not a two-person job," the Big Little Lies star added.