“I must confess I don’t know if this is a press photograph or if it’s one that my father, Richard Gregson, took. My mom and I are sat in my dad’s Mercedes outside the Cedars of Lebanon hospital [Los Angeles] the day after I was born. To me, it perfectly captures young motherhood – that moment when you have your child in your arms and you’re finally whole.
My mom desperately wanted a child and I can see how joyful she looks here. That’s what I love so much about it. It’s wonderful that her dream came true – she looks so proud and beautiful. I don’t think I’ve looked that good since having my daughter, let alone a day after giving birth.
She was incredibly maternal and full of love and support. I remember her being very intimate and always wanting to know how I was feeling and encouraging me to talk honestly about everything. That was who she was as a person, not just as a mother. She was somebody who found happiness in human connection and I feel blessed that I had that kind of relationship with her.
Being so close meant it was unbelievably painful when she died. [Natasha was 11 when Natalie died aged 43 in 1981]. I felt like my life was in technicolour, then she was gone and everything faded to black and white. We were so entwined with each other.
Having all the media attention on me while I was trying to grieve was really tough, too. I just wanted to mourn privately. It took me such a long time to come to terms with it all and I really only shared those feelings with my inner circle. We’re a close family. I’ve always had amazing relationships with both of my dads. My biological father, Daddy Gregson, and my stepfather, Daddy Wagner (Robert Wagner), both rallied around me and my sister – as did their families. They were completely magnanimous and just put all their needs aside to take care of us. We were lucky in that way.
However, I realised that I still had so much to say and figured out that sharing those things made it all feel better somehow. That’s why making the documentary and writing the book has been such a profound experience. Everything in the tabloids about my stepfather was so preposterous. I deal with all of that in these projects and it’s for the public – to answer any questions they have. I love my dad so much and he’s been such a protector of our family. I figured it’s my turn now to protect him. It was all so cathartic. Even though it was painful at times to relive things, like when I found out my mother had died, it was a hugely healing experience.
My mom always brought people together. Her childhood was lacking in certain ways, so she worked hard to create a bountiful and loving household where everyone was always welcomed with warmth and acceptance. Our home on Canon Drive in Beverly Hills was a hub of family when my mom was alive.
When you grow up with a larger than life parent like I did and then lose them it can take a while to forge any kind of sense of self. Once I had my daughter, Clover, that all changed. There’s no time to be a motherless daughter when you’re a mother. I had to push everything to the side and become whole for my child.
Motherhood came naturally to me because my own mom was this indelible example of maternity. I’ve inherited a lot of her maternal traits. For example, I’m a bit overprotective of my daughter. I think my mom felt guilty that she and my biological father separated when I was eight months old, so she over-compensated for that.”
Natasha’s memoir, More Than Love (Simon & Schuster, £20) is out on Tuesday. See Express Bookshop on page 69.
Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind is available on Sky Documentaries and Now TV.