Jamie Otis recalls losing son Johnathan in 2016 at 17 weeks, saying she "instantly felt like I failed him"

By Benjamin VanHoose
July 13, 2021 02:24 PM
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Jamie Otis
Credit: Jamie Otis/Instagram

Jamie Otis is reflecting on what would have been late son Johnathan Edward's 5th birthday.

The Married at First Sight star, 35, and husband Doug Hehner lost their first baby in 2016 when Otis was four months pregnant. In an Instagram post Tuesday, Otis marked what would have been Johnathan's 5th birthday and recalled her complicated emotions about suffering the loss.

"Happy birthday to my sweet boy who made me a mommy. I only got to hold him briefly before he was taken away from me. Johnathan would be 5 today if he had survived," she wrote. "I've lost a lot of pregnancies, but losing him tore my world apart. I think it's bc I birthed him naturally and held his tiny, perfectly formed body in my hands. I looked at my baby who was so broken & bruised. It was like all that was stolen from him - from me - was laid bare for me to see."

Otis wrote that she "instantly felt like I failed him," adding that while she tries to "tell myself the way his short life ended isn't my fault," part of her "always wonders if maybe it is some sort of karma from decisions I made when I was in college and had custody of my siblings.⁣ We lived in a small trailer w leaky ceilings and holes in the floor. We had to put a board over the holes so animals didn't get in & we wouldn't fall through."

"I was the first girl to graduate high school so I was determined to 'be somebody.' ... I was saving up for college and I was determined to go.⁣⁣ But then I got pregnant by the guy I lost my virginity to. I was just a teenager," wrote Otis, adding that her "younger siblings were looking to me for everything."

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Otis said she had two abortions during that time when she was raising her siblings, adding that this is a topic she "never ever" talks about. She admitted that in the moments after losing Jonathan, she apologized to him, linking the tragedy to her past in her mind.

"While I held my baby boy I whispered to him 'Mommy's so sorry' over and over again. I promised him I'd spend my life honoring him & I'd never let anyone forget him. His life matters," said Otis. "I will keep this promise til the day I die and I get to hold my angel again. ⁣⁣Happy heavenly birthday sweet boy. Mommy loves you so much!"

Otis and Hehner also share son Hendrix Douglas, 14 months, and daughter Henley Grace, who turns 4 next month. She has also previously opened up about experiencing both a chemical pregnancy and a miscarriage.

Back in 2019, the pair opened up about losing Johnathan during an episode of their Hot Marriage Cool Parents podcast at the time, with Otis saying, "I never, in my wildest dreams, would've envisioned that I would be delivering a 17-week-old baby who went immediately to be in heaven."

Hehner remembered the aftermath that included a period of questioning, when the couple would "look for reasons of why it happened" while they were grieving: "Even when the doctors tell you that it's more common or it's kind of a fluke, you don't necessarily want to believe that. You want to find a reason. You want to at least make sure that this wouldn't happen again or shouldn't happen again."

"You realize," he added, "that there's just a lot of things that are out of your control and as much as you want things to go right, you start to prepare for all situations."

In a personal essay for PEOPLE in 2019, Otis reflected on her abortion story, writing that "my abortions still torment me and I hate that I had to have them. However, am I thankful? Of course."

"I wouldn't be able to be a good mother to my daughter right now or have been able to be a good parent to my siblings back then," she explained at the time. "The cycle continues because there's not enough education about sex and birth control, and not enough support. There's not enough constructive discussion about abortion. It sucks. It really sucks. But the truth of the matter is it is a necessary option."