Even if I watched reality TV (which I don’t), a show called Married at First Sight would definitely not be on my must-watch list. But I’m willing to admit (and admit proudly) that I am a huge fan of Jamie Otis. Although Otis was first introduced to the world when she married Doug Hehner, a man she’d never met, she has since been an inspirational voice for women dealing with pregnancy loss.
Last October, Otis lost her baby boy at seventeen weeks gestation. She published a heart-wrenching photo of herself and Hehner cradling their son. The image went viral, in part because Otis was acknowledging her baby as a baby, rather than simply a fetus. (For more on that story, click here.)
But Otis is making headlines again, this time for a much happier reason: she and Hehner have welcomed their rainbow baby. “Rainbow baby” is the term given to a baby born after pregnancy loss. As a mom of a rainbow baby myself, who was deeply moved by Otis’ Instagram post, I was very glad to hear this news.
Otis gave birth this past August to Henley Grace, a healthy baby girl. But (and I admire her immensely for this) she is determined not to let the birth of a healthy baby cause her to forget her lost son. In an exclusive interview with Babble Otis said, “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.”
So often women are made to feel that the birth of their rainbow baby should cancel out the grief they feel for the baby they lost. But, once again, Otis’ public comments about her private life are validating the secret thoughts and feelings of many other moms.
A rainbow baby is special because of how much the baby is wanted, and how much the baby’s parents have been through to bring that child into the world. But a new baby doesn’t cancel out the new baby’s lost brothers and sisters. Once again, Otis bravely gives mothers everywhere permission to grieve.
If all this wasn’t enough to cement Otis’ place in my heart, she goes on to tell Babble what pretty much all mothers need to hear about breastfeeding: “It [can be] painful, even when it’s done right!” So often, new mothers — who desperately want to breastfeed — are told by lactation consultants, doctors, and friends that it’s only painful because the baby hasn’t yet learned to latch on properly. Once you’ve got the hang of things, the narrative goes, breastfeeding will be blissful!
But that’s not true for so many women, who then beat themselves up for not feeling the magical breastfeeding euphoria they’ve been promised. But Otis is absolutely right — it isn’t like that for everyone. It isn’t like that for lots of people! So let’s stop pretending it is.
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Today is our DUE DATE … 🤰🏼 We were scheduled for an induction on 8/29 & I really didn't think she'd come before then. I couldn't be happier to have my precious @henleygracehehner in my arms healthy & happy….at HOME!👶🏼 We were discharged today – tonight's our very first night at home together just us.☺️😬 Wish us luck! 🙏🏼💗 #sheshere #sohappy #learningaswego #parenting
Otis also wants to remind women to be kind to themselves after they give birth. Her advice to new moms is to not worry so much about losing the baby weight, counseling that they focus, instead, on the amazing thing their bodies have just done. “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,” she tells Babble.
For someone who married a guy she’d never met, Otis has a lot of common sense. And, while she could have used her weirdly acquired fame to simply add to all the meaningless chatter, she is, instead, helping thousands of women cope with some of life’s most challenging and heart-wrenching issues. I’ll never watch Married at First Sight, but Jamie Otis, I’m a fan.