“I’d had Sadie a month before this part came up,” Applegate remembers. “When we shot the pilot, she was 2 and a half months old, which was just so difficult — your body’s not recovered yet, and you’re just … not ready. In the final cut [of what aired], you didn’t see that Reagan was going through a great deal more angst about going back to work — panicking in the car or running to the bathroom crying. And that was how I was the first week of work: All I wanted to do was go home and be with Sadie.”
Eventually Reagan, and Applegate, worked out the kinks of new parenthood, but that doesn’t mean it was — or is — easy. “You do start to get used to it,” she says, “but it’s that initial shock of leaving your tiny, tiny baby at home … .”
“It was a little easier before, when she was so young,” she continues. “But now she’s a toddler, a speaking person who has feelings and memories and attachments. She’s doing new things every day, and I know that when I go back I am going to miss a great deal, and that part really rips my heart out.” In the same breath, she makes it clear how grateful she is for her career. Like so many working parents, she yearns for a life with her child but also yearns for a life outside of her. “Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. [Co-stars Will Arnett and Maya Rudolph and I] all feel this way. I mean, the three of us are always like, ‘OK, come on, let’s hurry it up, we’ve got to get home for bath time.’ ”
What makes her role as a mom and her role on the show all the more rewarding is that they’re happening at all. As Applegate knows all too well, things could have gone very differently when in 2008, she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 36. Armed with the knowledge of her mother’s battle against the disease as well as her own positive BRCA1 test result, which means that she inherited a genetic mutation that results in an increased risk of cancer, she underwent a double mastectomy and in the years since has taken on the role of public breast-?cancer-awareness advocate. In 2009, she established a foundation, Right Action for Women, which aims to educate and provide funding for MRIs for high-risk women under the age of 45. When asked why this advocacy is so important to her, she speaks even more passionately than she does about motherhood.