06/11/2007 at 05:15 PM EDT
Keisha Castle-Hughes has opened up about becoming a mom at 17.
"I just didn't expect [the media attention]," the Whale Rider
Oscar nominee tells the New Zealand edition of The Australian Women's Weekly
"Absolutely everyone in the country had something to say about it. I thought, 'At the end of the day, I am going to be the one looking after this baby in the middle of the night and it doesn't affect you.' "
The actress, who turned 17 in March, and her boyfriend of four years, Bradley Hull, 20, welcomed daughter Felicity-Amore
in April. She admits: "Yes, I was scared when I found out I was pregnant. But if I got pregnant when I was 27, I would have been scared too because it is a huge step."
At a week past her due date, she began three grueling days of labor. But when she was finally able to hold her daughter, "it was just the most amazing moment," she says. "For the last three days I had been in the worst agony of my life and right then I forgot every single minute of it. I just thought, 'I'd do this all over again.' "
These days, she's like any new mom: sleep-deprived. "I'd be up checking, checking, checking, being paranoid," she says. "I remember when one of my friends had a baby she said it was like that in the first few weeks. And I said, 'If I had a baby I would just sleep the whole time and I probably wouldn't even wake up for it.' But it's so true because this little person relies on you and I know if anything happened, it would be my fault."
What's next? No more kids for a while – Castle-Hughes says Felicity-Amore can play with her own siblings, Rhys, 15, Liam, 11, Maddisyn, 6, and Qayde, 11 months – but she does hope to get back to work: "Just because I have a baby, it doesn't mean that my career is going to go kaput. I have a really ambitious streak in me. I want to do it now more than I ever did."