Jaime King has straddled the lines between model, actress, activist and music video queen, but the role she's fought hardest for is that of mother. Now, mom to two boys — sons James, 8, and Leo, 6 — the Sin City star spent years trying to conceive, suffering five miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy and undergoing five rounds of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and dozens of intrauterine insemination treatments along the way.
The difficulty, she tells Yahoo Life's So Mini Ways series, stemmed in part from her undiagnosed polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS. Though King had experienced heavy periods and excruciating cramps since her teens, it wasn't until she consulted her ninth ob-gyn, Dr. Randy Harris, that she, at last, got answers. Harris, who she says is "the only reason why I have children," diagnosed King not only with PCOS and endometriosis, but also found her to be carrying a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy.
A hormonal disorder that affects 1 in 10 women of childbearing age, PCOS can cause irregular periods and polycystic ovaries — both of which can pose a threat to egg production, ovulation and, thus, fertility. Coupled with painful endometriosis, it also made menstruation a terrible experience for King, who remembers having symptoms from the time she was 14 or 15.
"My bleeding was so heavy," she says. "I'd bleed through everything — through tampons, through my pants, onto the bed. Like, it was horrific."
At one point, King was flying back from a film shoot when she felt intense pain. After landing, she went to the hospital and learned she had a ruptured ovarian cyst.
"I never knew what was going on because as a woman, I was taught that we're just supposed to deal with pain," the actress says. "That pain is just the natural state of menstruating, and that's what women have to deal with and go through and to just basically suck it up."
Her own "extremely frustrating" experience in suffering these symptoms for so long without a diagnosis or support has inspired King to raise awareness. In January, it was announced that she had signed on to be an investor and director of impact for Allara, a chronic care platform offering comprehensive virtual care, including diagnostic testing and consultations with a dietician, for women with PCOS.
"When I realized how isolating and how painful and horrific it is and how broken the health care system is, I was like, something has to change here," says King, noting that women's health complaints so often go unheard, particularly if they are from a marginalized community or don't have health insurance and rely on under-threat Planned Parenthood clinics for birth control to help manage their PCOS.
"I'm so thankful for my doctor for literally going through every single option until he found what would work for me [to suppress her PCOS]," King says. "Most people just won't do that. ... And knowing that people that need this support and help and upliftment, that they will have someone like I had, is the biggest game-changer in the world."
As she works to help "reframe" how society prioritizes women's health, the former Hart of Dixie star is also passionate about being an advocate for the two sons she shares with ex-husband Kyle Newman.
"My main job is to keep them safe and secure and happy and joyful," she says.
"Most mothers know there are good days and there are days where you're just 'ahhhh!'" she adds, mock-screaming. "But [my parenting style is] definitely one where I allow the freedom for them to express themselves, to express their emotions, to create a safe space, to let them know that no matter what, I have them and they're safe. And that's really the most important thing — [especially] during these times — is preserving their innocence and really looking out for them after being on Zooms for basically two years for school. Children are such a gift and they show you how they need to be parented. They show you what they need."
As a mom, King says her "greatest joy" is that her boys "remind me what life is: to play, to be present, to have fun and to be real." Any challenges, she says, are minor.
"The challenges that happen are typically like, they both wanna talk at the same time to explain themselves, or both want something at the same time," the mom of two explains. "And it's like, 'OK, hold on. I wanna hear what each of you has to say. So let's do one at a time.' You know, it's a lot of negotiation."
One thing not up for negotiation? "How they speak to people— it must be with kindness and respect."
Being kind to herself is also important for the busy mom. King makes an effort to squeeze in some self-care, whether it's yoga or sneaking outside after the boys go to sleep to read or write.
"That really is like my therapy," she says. "That's really how I find this space for myself, is in those quiet moments in between."
Having endured so much in her years-long journey to become a mother, King is soaking up every second.
"There's no one perfect way to be a mom and or a father or anyone that's taking care of children, and everyone is on their own journey," she notes, adding that with motherhood has come a "reverence" and appreciation for all that parenting entails. It's an experience she describes as challenging, triumphant, joyful, brilliant, heavenly — and scary.
"When you have a child, it's like every fiber of your being is them," she explains. "And so when I'm moving through the world, I'm moving for them. There's just no way to describe the unconditional loving, that there is nothing — nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing — that I would not do to keep my children happy and healthy and well and joyful.
"And I thank God that I even have children," she adds. "I truly thank God after everything."
—Video produced by Olivia Schneider.
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