After Multiple Miscarriages, Hilarie Burton Says She and Jeffrey Dean Morgan Have Their Happy Ending
“It's a testament to taking risks and making that wish,” says the Christmas Wish star.
In her new holiday movie, A Christmas Wish, Hilarie Burton’s character dreams of having one simple wish fulfilled by Christmas — finding love.
Off-screen, the One Tree Hill alum will be spending her holidays living out her festive fantasies next door to a Christmas tree farm in Upstate New York with two beautiful children and her new husband, actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan. But while the 37-year-old actress may be living a picture-perfect holiday this season, her journey to get here was filled with heartbreaking setbacks. At times, she says, she felt like the struggling lead in a holiday movie, waiting for her happy ending.
“I wasn’t necessarily wishing for love, but I wished for a baby for a really long time,” says Burton, who suffered multiple miscarriages before she and Morgan welcomed their second child in 2018. “I've been very open about my struggle with that and I have a book coming out in March 2020 with Harper One called The Rural Diaries where I talk about a wish for a different life.”
“My life has mirrored these holiday films since I've been doing them,” Burton continues. “It was like life was imitating art because I started doing all these movies about a woman who leaves the unfulfilling life in the city, moves out to the country, falls in love with her life again and ends up getting her happy ending. In the birth of my daughter, that was the fruition of this whole wish I had for moving out here and growing my family.”
Burton and Morgan welcomed their first son, Augustus, in 2010, however when it came to trying for a second baby, they experienced five years of dreams dashed by pregnancy loss. “When I first met Jeffrey, he asked me where I wanted to be in 10 to 15 years, and I said, ‘I want to live on a Christmas tree farm.’ And, now we live next to a Christmas tree farm,” Burton shares. The couple relocated from Hollywood to a farm in Rhinebeck, New York, amid their years of difficulty conceiving, and soon after they ecstatically celebrated the arrival of their little girl, George, in February 2018. At the time, Burton shared the toll that her pregnancy struggles had taken on her daily life.
“Every morning of the five years it took us, I'd open my computer at the kitchen table and see the news and I'd grow bitter over the endless parade of celebrities showing off their bumps and babies,” she wrote on Instagram. “I'd weep out of jealousy for how easy it was for them. Didn't they know something could go wrong? Didn't they know that there were other women out there struggling?”
"Fertility is a fickle thing," her post continued. And the last thing she wanted was for her daughter's birth "to cause any other woman to weep at her kitchen table. If anything, my wish is that she would restore hope for others.”
Recalling her own dark days, Burton says she can relate to the shame that many women suffer while experiencing fertility challenges. However, she believes the increasing number of women speaking out about their struggles is helping shift attitudes.
“There’s a difference between personal shame and public shame,” she notes. “I think people speaking up has really helped remedy the public shame of infertility. Personal shame is an individual thing. I felt a great deal of personal shame, so I think the more this dialogue happens, the more women are freed up to process their feelings rather than bottle them up.”
She hopes to continue expanding public dialogue around the once-taboo topic through her book, The Rural Diaries, and thinks her husband's perspective in the storytelling can be particularly helpful for men experiencing this kind of loss. After all, it was a book that Burton turned to while trying to understand how Morgan was dealing with their first miscarriage.
“We had multiple miscarriages, and every time his reaction was very, very different,” she says. “There's a wonderful book that was given to me by a friend and it's from a man's perspective of dealing with infertility. Even though Jeffrey wasn't necessarily able to articulate his feelings the first time it happened, I was able to read a book of someone else's account,” she continues. “It helped me understand what he was going through, so if our book can do the same thing for people, then that's the whole reason for putting it out there in the universe.”
After tying the knot in October after a decade together, Burton and Morgan are now relishing newlywed life. The two shared their surprise nuptials on social media, with stunning images including one showing them signing documents with Augustus, and Burton’s One Tree Hill co-star Danneel Ackles, as their witnesses, while actor Jensen Ackles (Morgan's onscreen son on Supernatural, who officiated the ceremony) watched on.
Although Burton and Morgan have been together for more than 10 years, the actress admits that she has been surprised with how different it feels to be husband and wife, even just one month into marriage.
“Married life is fantastic — we’re still in love!” she says. “It feels nice to be Mrs. Morgan. It’s a comfortable feeling. It feels different; I didn’t think it would, and it didn’t necessarily at first, but now when I say, ‘My husband,’ that little nagging, dark cloud in the back of my mind that knew I was lying [previously] is gone. Now, I’m smug about it. I’m like, ‘Well yes, that is my husband,’ and no one can question it. I feel validated, so it’s fantastic!”
While Morgan had his Supernatural family there on the couple’s big day, Burton had her nearest and dearest One Tree Hill costars, including Sophia Bush, Antwon Taylor, Bethany Joy Lenz, and Colin Fickes. The cast have remained tightknit, which Burton owes to the show's North Carolina setting.
“When you’re isolated in the little coastal town of Wilmington, North Carolina, there’s a summer camp vibe to it,” she says. “You’re each other's community and family. You work together 18 hours a day, and on the weekends you hang out with each other, so a lot of us saw working on that show as like going to college — those were my sorority sisters.”
“That kind of bonding at that particular age, during our first taste of freedom, too,” she continues. “For a lot of us, it was the first time we’d been away from our families. Those are people that you cling to and you grow up with, and I’ll love those bastards forever! My husband teases me about how obsessed we all are with each other, but when you meet fantastic people, you keep them in your world, and they’re worth every effort. I just adore them.”
Although many of the actors established unbreakable bonds during their time on the series, it was two years ago that the strength of those relationships was tested. One Tree Hill staff writer Audrey Wauchope accused series creator and showrunner Mark Schwahn, of sexual harassment during her time working on the show. Many of the show’s actresses — including Burton and Bush — came out in support of the writer, signing an open letter backing Wauchope’s claims. Shortly thereafter Schwahn was fired from The Royals, the E! series he was working on at the time.
“Every family has their secrets, and it’s always a test of the family when that dirty laundry gets aired,” Burton says. “I personally appreciated the men of the show supporting us in a way that’s hard to articulate. They easily could have stuck their head in the sand and said, ‘Oh, I didn't see anything,’ but they didn't. They stood by us. This is a business where you can't trust everyone, and I’ve found the people I can trust — that’s why I want to continue working with them over and over again.”
That included the 2018 holiday film, The Christmas Contract, and this year’s A Christmas Wish, the Lifetime film which also stars singer-songwriter Tyler Hilton and his wife, Megan Park, which will air on Nov. 28. Burton says she created the whole film around Park, having wanted to play sisters with her for years. She then asked Hilton to portray her love interest since he was off tour.
The film sees Maddie (Park) convince her sister, Faith (Burton), to place a wish for love into their hometown’s Christmas wish box, but while a romantic opportunity presents itself, Faith finds herself questioning her feelings for her best friend Wyatt (Hilton) instead. Singer-songwriter Ryan Cabrera makes a musical cameo, too.
Burton notes that holiday films like A Christmas Wish are about more than feel-good festive fun and cute romances, citing her own transformative experience leaving Los Angeles in pursuit of a more fulfilling life.
“These kinds of stories empower women to take risks and, in my own life, it's a testament to that,” Burton says. “It's a testament to taking risks, making that wish, saying it out loud, and letting it happen.”