“Those first couple of nights, it was wild,” the actress, 35, told PEOPLE at the launch of her maternity line for A Pea in the Pod on Tuesday in Beverly Hills.
“When they let us bring her home I said to [husband, actor Brian Hallisay], ‘To get your license you have to take a test. They check to make sure you’re a good human being to get behind the wheel of a car. They’ve given us no test! We just had a baby and now we’re going home.’ He was like, ‘I know, it’s terrifying!’”
Thankfully, Dad is up for the challenge. “He’s fantastic. He’s great at diaper changing and at the football hold, which she loves,” says Hewitt.
“It’s really 50-50. I feel very lucky that way! I do the stuff that I need to do as a mom and he does the dad part.”
Aside from his amazing fatherhood skills, Hallisay, 35, was a powerhouse in the delivery room.
“The labor was crazy. It was fantastic, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that that was happening,” Hewitt says. “[Brian] was the best during labor. He was a rock, never flinched. He got in there and was like, ‘I see the baby!’ I was looking at him like, ‘You should be a doula.’ I was really proud of him.”
The pair wed just a few days before Autumn was born with a simple, no-frills celebration. “It was just the two of us,” Hewitt reveals. “We went to our favorite Mexican restaurant afterwards, that was our reception. We loved it. It’s been fun to celebrate both.”
The couple rounded out the low-key affair with a visit to Bed Bath & Beyond, where they purchased a few items for their kitchen. “We’ve been through a lot already in our marriage. I’m really glad that it happened that way,” says Hewitt, who adds they are not planning a honeymoon.
“This was something I could do [during my pregnancy] that was super creative and sending good yummy vibes to my belly. It was so beautiful to be able to put my energy [in] to making [moms-to-be] feel comfortable and special. It was really fun.”
When it comes to her post-pregnancy figure, Hewitt is taking it slow. For now, her “number one priority” is nursing — and not counting calories. “The most important thing is [Autumn] getting food,” the actress explains.
But it has taken Hewitt some time to approach shedding the pregnancy pounds at her own pace.
“Having been somebody who has had to think about what my body looked like for 25 years, it was hard when it didn’t come off. I didn’t look like some of the girls in the magazines that I’ve worked with … who [the weight] does fall off for,” she says. “I was like, ‘What’s wrong with me?’ I had to have a conversation with myself.”
Ultimately, it was the realization that she had just given birth to a daughter that shifted the new mom’s views. “I had to look at her and think, ‘Would I want her to feel this way when she’s my age?’ I was like, ‘Get it together – your head’s in the wrong place.’”
She continues, “It took nine months to get it this way, it might take nine months to get it back. If I have an hour to go to the gym or an hour to lie down and take a nap with her in my arms, I’m going to lie down and take a nap.”
Now, regaining her svelte shape has become a team effort. Hewitt is easing back into workouts with swimming and Zumba classes with baby girl by her side.
“I hold her, we do squats, we dance, she listens to the music and she loves it. Or I put her in her little chair and she watches and thinks it’s really funny,” she shares. “[Working out is] really jarring to your body. I don’t know how people go back and do CrossFit a week later. It’s just not me. I’m slowly getting back into it. I’m not that worried.”
That leaves plenty of time for bonding with her daughter. Hewitt confirms the couple didn’t find out the sex ahead of time, but she had an inkling the baby would be a girl.
“I just had a feeling,” Hewitt explains. “My mom passed away not too long before we found out that I was pregnant. So the whole time I felt like it was a gift from her, that she’d send me our relationship in a way.”
And Autumn James — whose moniker comes from Hewitt’s wish to have a “feminine first name and a masculine middle name” — is taking after her own mom already.
“She’s a hybrid [of us],” says Hewitt. “She looks like Brian from the nose up, and when she smiles, she looks like me! It’s so cute.”
By Aili Nahas and Anya Leon