The actress shares 7-year-old daughter Kaya with ex Wladimir Klitschko.
Hayden Panettiere is sharing more details about losing custody of her daughter, Kaya, amid her struggles with depression and addiction. During her appearance on Red Table Talk, the 33-year-old actress sat down with Jada Pinkett Smith, Adrienne Banfield Norris, and guest host Kelly Osbourne where she revealed that she wasn't aware she was losing custody until her now-7-year-old was already with her ex, Wladimir Klitschko, in Ukraine.
Panettiere was candid about struggling with alcohol addiction and postpartum depression during the episode, but said she had never done anything that endangered Kaya.
"I was trying to tell myself that if I'm not OK, if I'm not good, then I cannot be the best mom to you," Panettiere said. "I was going through such a hard time that I knew the most unselfish thing I could do was to make that hard decision and just try to work on myself."
"She was almost three, and it wasn't fully my decision," Panettiere continued of losing custody. "In fact, I didn't even know it was happening until she was already over there."
When Banfield Norris noted, "You thought this was an agreement that you came to that it was best that your daughter be with her dad," Panettiere explained the complicated situation.
"At first it was not because it wasn't a discussion," she said. "If [Klitschko] had come to me and said I think because of where you're at right now and your struggles that you're having it would be good for her to be over here with me for a while -- which if I had probably had enough of a conversation I would've said OK that makes sense, I get it, I'll come there to visit and stuff like that."
Penettiere called signing the custody papers "the most heartbreaking thing" she's ever done in her life, and said that she didn't expect her current situation.
"Because of the way that it was done, it was very upsetting," she said. "I mean, it was the worst signing those papers, the most heartbreaking thing I've ever, ever had to do in my life."
"I was gonna go work on myself, I was gonna get better, and when I got better then things would change and she could come to me and I could have my time with her but that didn't happen," she continued.
While she praised Klitschko as being "a fantastic father," she admitted that they don't always see eye-to-eye on big issues and that she was afraid to speak out due to his power in Ukraine. She also noted that his brother, Vitali, is the mayor of Kyiv
"[Klitschko] thinks he's doing the right thing. He's a fantastic father, he really is. But I don't think he fully grasps that as [Kaya] gets older... kids need their moms," she said. "Upsetting [Klitschko] -- as I've said he's an amazing father... but in this case we definitely don't see eye to eye. It's scary, you don't want to piss anyone off -- especially the person who has control of your child."
Panettiere recounted a conversation they had that upset her.
"I also remember her dad calling me and he said, 'Kaya is going around and asking other women if she can call them mommy,'" Panettiere said. "My heart stopped and he was laughing, he thought this was funny. It was horrifying to me. He didn't get it as opposed to me -- that's a trauma reaction. That's a cry for help."
Panettiere previously spoke out during an interview with People in July about hitting her lowest point of alcohol abuse ahead of Kaya's move to Ukraine to live with Klitschko.
"I would have the shakes when I woke up and could only function with sipping alcohol," she said. "It was the hardest thing I ever had to do. But I wanted to be a good mom to her — and sometimes that means letting them go."
Despite suffering from depression, Panettiere told People that she "never had the feeling that I wanted to harm my child, but I didn't want to spend any time with her." As for her relationship with Klitschko, whom she split from for good in 2018, she shared, "He didn't want to be around me. I didn't want to be around me. But with the opiates and alcohol I was doing anything to make me feel happy for a moment. Then I'd feel worse than I did before. I was in a cycle of self-destruction."
The actress later spent eight months in rehab, a place she credits to giving her the tools she needed to "get over the hump" of her addiction. "It's an everyday choice, and I'm checking in with myself all the time," she explained. "But I'm just so grateful to be part of this world again, and I will never take it for granted again."
During that interview, Panettiere admitted that she was only 15 years old when she was given "happy pills" to make her "peppy during interviews," noting she had "no idea that this was not an appropriate thing, or what door that would open for me when it came to my addiction."
"I put a lot of work into myself and I had to be willing to be incredibly honest," Panettiere said of seeking help in recent years. "This hasn't been easy and there were a lot of ups and downs, but I don't regret even the ugliest things that have happened to me. I feel incredibly accomplished. And I feel like I have a second chance."
Panettiere's entire Red Table Talk interview airs Wednesday.