Katherine Heigl, Josh Kelley and daughter Naleigh
04/09/2012 AT 10:55 AM EDT
When Katherine Heigl
Josh Kelley adopted 10-month-old
Naleigh from Korea in 2009, the new mom expected the mother-daughter bond to be strong and immediate.
Not so, the actress admits in an interview with German weekly newspaper, Bild am Sonntag
. "People are always talking about the strong bond between mother and daughter, this magical connection – but we didn't have that," Heigl says.
She described the early days with Naleigh as "the hardest time in my life. ... I fought incredibly hard for my daughter to accept me as mother. Her rejection almost broke my heart."
Heigl found the rejection so oppressive that she threw herself into her work which, she admits, "made the already difficult process of getting closer take even longer. ... When I realized that, I immediately cut back on work."
That's when she left Grey's Anatomy
The child did bond with Kelley, which made Heigl wonder if she might be the problem. "At first I blamed myself and thought I was a bad mother. It took a while before I could admit to myself that the lack of trust had nothing to do with me," she says.
Now Heigl and her daughter have a tight bond. So tight that Heigl is unafraid to travel to South Korea with her now 4-year-old daughter. "I'd like to fly to South Korea with the family," she says, "to show her the country that she comes from."