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Jamie Otis may be best known for getting married at first sight, but six weeks ago, she faced an even bigger life change: welcoming a child.
“Getting married at first sight was not a walk in the park, but what was more painful for sure was having a baby,” Otis tells Babble in an exclusive interview.
With her newborn daughter Henley cooing in the background, Otis opens up about how motherhood is treating her so far. Like any new parent, she admits things are “not going so smooth” in the sleep department. Because she’s breastfeeding, Otis is up every few hours during the night nursing her daughter. It’s a bonding time she cherishes, but let’s face it, the lack of sleep is hard on all of us.
Aside from the sleep deprivation, Otis radiates pure joy when she speaks about becoming a mother for the second time.
Last year, Otis and her husband Doug Hehner suffered a loss when she was 17 weeks pregnant. Otis was honest with fans about the painful experience of losing her son Jonathan Edward, as well as the heartbreaking emotions that went along with it. Since then, she has continued to be candid about her journey to motherhood, including when she announced she was pregnant with her rainbow baby in January.
Now, holding her daughter, Otis says that while Henley’s birth has led her to focus on living in the moment, remembering her son’s short life has been just as important. “I didn’t ever want him to be forgotten,” she says. “I made this vow to him that I wouldn’t just forget about him and move on … He did exist and I loved him so much.”
Since welcoming Henley, Otis says that she has worked harder than ever to remember her son and do things to honor him. From planting a tree in his memory, to keeping a pair of angel wings in the nursery, the little boy’s presence is clear.
“I want to keep him a part of it,” she explains.
For Otis, experiencing a loss and becoming a mom again has changed how she looks at life.
“Everything has changed,” she shares, “but yet everything is the same.”
The experience has also impacted the way she works as a labor and delivery nurse. With her first shift after maternity leave scheduled in a few weeks, she is already realizing how her own experience of going through labor, birth, and the postpartum phase will guide how she now cares for her patients.
For starters, Otis plans on fully preparing new moms for how difficult breastfeeding can be. She notes that new nursing moms are often told that if they are breastfeeding correctly, it shouldn’t hurt — which can be incredibly misleading. She explains that in the first few weeks of nursing, as both you and your baby get the hang of it, breastfeeding can absolutely hurt.
“It [can be] painful, even when it’s done right!” she exclaims. “[But] there are other ways to tell if you have a good latch.”
Despite a few painful hurdles, Otis shares that she feels like her “real” life didn’t start until she became a mother and that she definitely plans to expand her family.
“I already want another one!” Otis laughs.
Otis explains that she has always wanted to be a mom and loves taking care of children — a passion that is evident not only from her job as a labor and delivery nurse, but from her experience of raising four siblings and becoming a foster parent in her early twenties.
Though Otis looks forward to welcoming more children one day, right now she’s simply focusing on her daughter. She’s in no rush to lose the baby weight, recognizing that not every woman has a flat stomach after giving birth. In fact, Otis is all about celebrating what her body has done.
“It is amazing what a woman’s body can do,” she says. “I mean, it’s absolutely incredible that your body not only helped create this baby, but nourished it for 9-10 months in your belly and then you just pushed it out. Like, give yourself a break. You’re allowed to take your time to get back to what you think is sexy.”
In addition to new motherhood, the accomplished author (she published Wifey 101: Everything I Got Wrong While Finding Mr. Right last year), is also focusing on her next book which will document both of her pregnancies. Despite the fact that she fears she will be met with criticism by those who might not understand what she — and other women like her — have been through in terminating a very wanted pregnancy, she believes that sharing her experience is not just important for her own healing, but for women everywhere who have been through similar situations.
“Before, I couldn’t do a thing to help my own baby … [Now] I just want to somehow see the good in it and try to help,” Otis says. “If I could help one other woman who’s gone through it by sharing how I’ve dealt with it and how I’ve coped, then that’s my goal. Nothing makes it worth it, but that makes it a little more easy to swallow.”