As Katherine Heigl’s oldest daughter, Naleigh, celebrates her 15th birthday, the actor is reflecting on the difficulties and importance of motherhood.
On Nov. 23, the 45-year-old actor uploaded a sweet photo of her daughter to Instagram in honor of her special day. In the caption, Heigl penned a lengthy tribute to her “magical” teenager.
“15…Naleigh Moon is 15 today. It’s hard for me to find the words to properly express the depths of my love for this beautiful, tender hearted, thoughtful baby of mine,” she began. “No words feel profound enough to do this love justice. I will try.”
Heigl shares Naleigh, her 11-year-old daughter, Adalaide, and her 6-year-old son, Joshua, with her husband, Josh Kelley.
Here's everything to know about Heigl and Kelley's kids.
In 2009, Heigl and Kelley became parents when they adopted their first child, daughter Naleigh Moon, from South Korea.
During a 2012 interview with German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, Heigl talked about the adoption process and said Naleigh, who was 10 months old at the time, didn't really respond to the type of affection she was giving her.
“I fought very hard to be accepted as a mom by my daughter,” Heigl said. “Her rejection almost broke my heart.”
Heigl noted that Naleigh's response made her question whether or not she was a good mother. She also struggled because Kelley bonded with their daughter quicker than she did.
“I wasn’t exactly jealous, but I was a little bit envious (of his and Naleigh’s closeness),” she said.
Overtime, Heigl and Naleigh grew close, and on Naleigh's 15th birthday, the "Grey's Anatomy" actor revealed what it's like to prepare for motherhood.
“I mean sure, you can find guidance but that’s all it is. Guidance," she wrote. The actual experience is all that truly educates and that can be…difficult, when you feel you’re learning as you go to properly parent a child.”
The “Firefly Lane” star said there is no greater responsibility than motherhood.
“And there have been times…more than I care to admit, when I fear I have really messed it up,” she continued. “Never the love part. That part is easy. But the rest…well…that part is at times overwhelming, terrifying, confusing, frustrating, lonely. But even though I have failed at times to be the mother I expect of myself, I have somehow miraculously ended up with a daughter whose gentle spirit, sense of responsibility and goodness, beauty and patience astounds me.”
The proud mom further praised her daughter, describing her as a “magical young woman” with a “beautiful spirit.”
“Happy Birthday my perfect girl!” she cheered. “I’m so incredibly proud of you. I believe so much in you. No matter where this world takes you I’ve got you.”
Heigl added, “I love you with every fiber of my being, every cell in my body, from the very depths of my soul.”
Kelley left a sweet comment on the post. He wrote, “My baby,” with a red heart.
Adalaide Marie Hope
In 2010, Heigl and Kelley domestically adopted their second daughter, Adalaide, who is Black.
When the Black Lives Matter protests erupted around the country in 2020, Heigl said she struggled to talk to her kids about racism and the type of world they live in.
“I didn’t know how to say there will be people in this world that don’t like you simply because of the color of your skin,” she said on “The Kelly Clarkson Show.”
“I just didn’t know how to say that because my job as their mother is to build up their self-esteem and encourage self-confidence," Heigl continued. "...I just thought, ‘I’m going to take a piece of their soul with this.’”
After having some conversations with Kelley, Heigl said they decided to teach Adalaide about race by watching educational programs with her that focused on racism.
For Adalaide's 10th birthday, the "Ugly Truth" star shared some sweet throwback videos of her daughter as a baby. In the caption, she raved about the type of person Adalaide was becoming.
"If you are one of her people count yourself blessed. Her loyalty. Devotion. Care. Love. Is Boundless," Heigl wrote on Instagram. "We count ourselves very very blessed. Happy Birthday my beautiful Adalaide. I match your boundless love with my own…forever and ever. Mom."
In May, Heigl explained to TODAY.com how her show “Firefly Lane” affected how she parents her daughters.
“This show has informed how I talked to my daughter about female friendship when I find that there’s strife or drama going on and how much of it has to do with boys,” she said at the time.
She said the Netflix series, which concluded with two seasons in April, teaches the importance of an unbreakable friendship. With the show, she said she wants her daughters to understand that female friendship “is not not less important than a romantic relationship.”
In 2016, Heigl and Kelley welcomed their third kid, son Joshua Jr.
On her blog, Heigl revealed that she was pregnant with Joshua Jr. and said she was surprised to learn she was expecting a child.
“It was totally unexpected but thrilling nonetheless,” she said. “Naleigh and Adalaide are over the moon and can not wait to spoil their new sibling rotten and of course.”
"The whole pregnancy thing is new to me but the thrill of having a baby is not," Heigl added. "We’ve known for awhile that we wanted to add to our family and frankly didn’t really care how we chose to do that. We were considering adoption again, fostering, or pregnancy if possible. Seeing as I have never been pregnant and as my OB/GYN reminded me last year, I’m of advanced maternal age, I wasn’t sure pregnancy was even in the cards for us. Turns out it was very much in the cards!"
When Joshua Jr. turned 1 year old, Heigl reflected on her pregnancy journey and opened up about her experience getting a C-section.
“Joshua Jr. had been in the breech position for over a month and had still not moved an inch a week before his due date so I made the decision to have a cesarean and was incredibly nervous and a little scared this time last year," she wrote on Instagram.
“When (my doctor) finally pulled him out at exactly 12:33pm he didn’t start breathing and they worked quickly to get oxygen in him and start his tiny lungs,” Heigl added. “... That day, as I slowly came out of the morphine haze and clutched my tiny man to me I thanked the heavens for his breath, his life and for making me a mother three times over.”
In August 2022, Heigl celebrated her son's first day of kindergarten.
The "Knocked Up" star commemorated the milestone by sharing pictures of all her children, including a snap of Joshua getting ready to board his bus, on Instagram.
The “27 Dresses” star also shared a cute TikTok video of her and her husband following Joshua’s bus all the way to school.
“Back to school for these two and off to kindergarten for my last and final baby,” she wrote in the caption, in part.