Mother Muse Cover Story
Exclusive interview with actress and activist Jaime King
What did you think of motherhood before you became a mother, and how has it changed you?
It’s biblical. It’s not even just motherhood, it’s just how I do life. My great blessing and curse is the depth of love I’ve always had. I think the blessing is that it requires intense strength and will to not let the heart shut down when you love that deeply, because it can leave you so vulnerable. I still believe vulnerability is our greatest strength. It’s something about children, something about the birth of children, that brings out the heavenly side of people. I’m co-sleeping and not getting a full night’s sleep. I have an event and I can’t always be there because, first and foremost, I need to make sure my children will be okay. I’m thankful my team is compassionate, but there are a lot of people who aren’t and don’t understand. I was raised by a hands-on mother and I am the same.
In the beginning I gave myself pressure of letting my team down – but my child comes first, everything comes after. I have to be a mother, an artist and extremely professional. You have to balance a lot as a mother. You don’t sleep at all, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. You’ll never sleep the same because your heart isn’t just beating for yourself. It’s beating for two other souls. Mom guilt is very real, Postpartum Depression is really real, that feeling of inadequacy is very real, but it’s coupled with this extreme joy and beauty where you see everything differently. I think my greatest way to explain being a parent is you will never experience more joy or more care in your entire life.
When you become a parent you lose this sense of self ego, does that make sense?
100 percent. It took me so long to have children and what I endured medically, emotionally, things like endometriosis, so much of what I went through was silent and quiet. I felt like something about me was broken, but inside I had this will. I remember when the doctor told me I had low to no ovarian reserve and I literally called my sister and asked if she would do a round of IVF with me. Inside my heart, I knew I was always going to have a child. I knew I was going to create. Even in the most challenging circumstances during this process, it’s taught me so much about having a child and going through that process of losing a child and coping with that grief. So to finally have a child was so sacred to me.
I was in labor for 26 hours. I was told the day I was due my husband wasn’t going to be there because he was filming his movie Barely Lethal but I wasn’t upset because I understand it’s our industry, thankfully he made the last four hours of the birth of our child. My son’s godfather Topher Grace and Lana Del Rey were there during labor to support me the entire time. Lana took me to nearly every appointment and Topher would take me to dinner and ice cream several times a week. To have that support system was so special and powerful to see how my friends really stepped up in a time where we most needed them. Here I was having this painful labor process, and I remember thinking to myself, ‘I’ve never had this much fun in my entire life.’ I wanted a natural birth but because I was so high-risk, I had to have an epidural. At the end of the day I just wanted a safe and healthy child.
I think it’s important for women to not put these pressures on themselves when becoming a mother by setting these expectations or planned births. Sometimes your children have a different plan, and you need to go with the flow.
Well, I learned a lot from the nurses by being in the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and became really close with them because I had to stay in bed rest for so long. They would take their lunch break in my room and the one thing that was really interesting to me was that everybody would come in with this game plan for the perfect natural birth. I said, ‘Okay I’ve been hearing this a lot and I noticed even with my own friends they had a birth plan.’ My birth plan was just to have a healthy happy baby. I noticed this pattern: If you get stuck on how you want to bring a child into this earth, are you really doing that for your child or are you really doing that for you? I think it’s really important to have a vision of a birth plan but most importantly in doing so that we are malleable in that experience. We can do our best at creating the environment and making sure it’s loving. I asked the nurses: ‘Out of all the women that come in with a birth plan, how many of them actually follow their birth plan?’ The nurses said over 80 percent of the women end up having a cesarean. I thought that was really fascinating, and I wonder if we just let go of the control, if we would then have our ideal birth plan. I also think it’s fucking ridiculous how in America we call a pregnancy a disability – we are creating life and doing the most incredible gift.
You struggled with infertility and are very open about your experience and vulnerability. During your time of infertility, did you put blame on yourself and why?
All the time. I attended the Global Moms event in New York on behalf of the United Nations. There was a 15-year-old girl interviewing me and her questions about endometriosis were so powerful. It was important for me to be honest because this happens when you are really young, and because menstruation is still “taboo” in our society, I needed to be open about my process. When I was going through it, no one else talked about it. I always blamed myself. I’ve always been a naturalist, since I was young, and I always thought I was doing everything right. I was living according to what I thought was the perfect version of being very healthy, I ate nutritionally, I ran, I meditated I felt like I did everything right. I remember when I posted what really happened on Instagram … After having James Knight, the press was releasing these images out publicly of my family and it was this perfect version of us and I realized the depth and complexity of our journey in which I never shared was a dishonest portrait. After all these years that I’d been suffering constant failed pregnancies, I was broken-hearted all the time. The one thing my doctor kept telling me was to keep working, because as an artist I was able to pour out my heart into my work. I wanted to be completely open then rather showcase a version that wasn’t revealing of our journey.
You give a lot of supportive advice to women about infertility. Going back into your experience what would have been the advice you would haven given yourself?
Love yourself, be gentle with yourself and nurture yourself. We are taught from the moment we are born as women, whether it’s conscious or not, that our value is dependent on whether we can have a child. All the messages society puts out is really about our worth – it’s based on the fact that somehow we have to create a child. That is engraved in us, and the more we start identifying with that and letting that go, the more it falls back to even why women are so competitive with each other. We don’t need to compete for an heir to the throne anymore. We can work together. There is space for all of us. We need to love and support each other.
You mentioned Postpartum. Do you feel that topic needs more awareness?
For sure! It’s so important. I was just thinking about how I struggled with prenatal depression. I felt like my whole pregnancy with Leo Thames, I was deeply anxious only a handful of people knew. At 22 weeks, I found out he had a serious heart defect. I was in the hospital for long stretches and we had to make many visits to the ICU to prepare us mentally for what could happen. My life was at risk and so was my child: Unless he was born at 6 pounds, he wouldn’t be able to have the surgery and he wouldn’t have made it, and I kept getting pre-labor and that was a real thing. I had this growing love with James Knight and with Leo Thames. It’s almost as if I disconnected with myself and the world. Because of my fear of losing Leo Thames if he were not to make it if I were to leave this earth, somehow I wouldn’t hurt so much. I don’t think I really got out of postpartum depression until only four months ago. I got that moment where I finally felt like Jaime again. Coming up the elevator just now, I felt like I needed to write a letter to all the people who didn’t understand what I was going through at the time and make amends, and then I was like, ‘Wow, why do I feel like I need to apologize to people for my emotional response to something that was deeply challenging and disturbing?’ I felt like the people that were around me that weren’t aware thought I was off my rocker, saying your hormones are off-balance, and it was such an intense and emotional process watching your child have to go to an open heart surgery and recovery. I was so exhausted and I felt like I had nothing for myself and the world, and it was a really scary feeling. I felt like I was swimming in open water and I couldn’t explain it to people because I couldn’t even explain it to myself. It wasn’t until after that I really understood and I worked through that process. I worked with therapists, acupuncture and I did everything I could to get back into balance. It was really, really intense.
I know my personal postpartum experience was because I couldn’t breastfeed my daughter for as long as I wanted. And there is so much pressure around that topic for women. Did you feel any of that pressure as well?
Oh my god, yeah. I felt so much pressure when I had to go back to work and had to breastfeed, and I felt like I was letting my cast down. I would have my six-week-old baby with me and It was so brutal. And with Leo Thames, what he was going through medically, and what I was going through medically, I held out as long as possible for the open heart surgery because we almost lost him at birth and I didn’t want my child not to know a world without loving. I would go every two to three hours after my emergency C-section to breastfeed him in the ICU, to hold him, while we were both in the hospital. I would get myself in a wheelchair and I was determined for him to feel loved and have skin-to-skin contact. I had to stop breastfeeding right away and had to put him on formula and I felt so bad. But, I’ve always been the person to say if you breastfeed, that’s great. If you don’t breastfeed, great. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t judging myself. I will always be supportive, because there is so much pressure for women. I don’t know if this is for all women, but I also feel breastfeeding can trigger postpartum. I know for me personally, I would cry when I breastfed Leo Thames, and it would trigger this emotion in me and it wasn’t oxytocin or that love hormone, it was a deep sadness.
I noticed you support a lot of non-profit organizations like Planned Parenthood, which is so wonderful. What are some of your other recommended non-profit organizations?
Global Moms is really important. And there’s Girls Up, which is this incredible group of young women within junior high and high school. It’s really empowering. There’s the American Civil Liberties Association. There are so many different organizations out there that are extremely necessary and vitally important right now. The fact that women’s rights and human rights are really under attack right now means it’s time to stop being political and start loving one another. I am a humanist, not just a feminist. We need to make sure we are all taken care of, I want that for everybody. As a mother, I want my children to be raised in that world. When I hear my 3-year-old say Trump is President, I don’t want to hear that from his mouth. I am looking outside this and seeing how we can unite my country and support people.
What is your favourite activity to do with your boys?
Oh my gosh, everything. I love bringing them on set, they love being around creative and fun people. We also love putting on soundtracks and we talk about music and how it makes them feel.
Describe being a modern mother.
Empowering, Complex, Challenging, Thrilling. It’s like a feeling of ecstasy.
What core values do you want your children to learn from you?
Kindness, compassion, empathy, perseverance, integrity, strong work ethic, gratitude, self respect and respect for others. And that they can be whoever they want to be and they will always be supported. I never underestimate my children, I don’t use simple terms. I am completely honest with my children and I talk to them about consent. Since my children have been born, I tell them when I’m picking them up, or when I’m changing them, because from my own experiences of not having people respect me emotionally, physically, there are many grey areas and it’s really important for me to respect my children. We meditate every night and since they were born, I play them ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon, because to me, it’s everything I believe.
I think it’s amazing you ask consent with your children. We now live in a day and age now where we constantly post about our children without asking them or asking ourselves would I feel comfortable if that was a photo of me.
Before they were born, I got their twitter names, their Instagram names, Gmails, etc. for them and put it in an envelope with their passwords for when they are ready. I know they are both very sensitive to getting their photos taken. Paparazzi will be outside James Knight’s preschool. So for me, I am very sensitive about their photographs and privacy and what I put out there about them. I think it’s so important to ask them. I will always make sure my children are associated with something loving, beautiful and kind.
Can you tell me what you think of Mother Muse?
I think we need more resources that are celebrating motherhood with honesty, openness, truth, beauty and acceptance.
Mother Muse Jaime King