Jamie Otis On Post-Baby Chemistry With Doug Hehner, Plus What It's Really Like To Find Love On Reality TV - Exclusive Interview

We all watched — and cringed — as New York City registered nurse Jamie Otis failed to connect with Bachelor Ben Flajnik in 2012 (Season 16). We cringed again when she started crying at her wedding to her previously-sight-unseen groom on the pilot season of Married at First Sight in 2014 — she didn't feel any initial physical attraction when she saw him standing there at the end of the aisle. But in the months that followed, Jamie's growing romance with Doug Hehner inspired hope in all of us who've wondered if you actually can find happiness with a stranger. Jamie and Doug continued to share their marriage on follow-up episodes, social media, and on their podcast, "Hot Marriage. Cool Parents."

Now, Jamie and Doug are parents of a two-year-old girl, Henley Grace, and recently welcomed a baby boy, Hendrix — via homebirth during the coronavirus pandemic. We sat down with Jamie for an exclusive interview with The List to ask her about how her relationship with Doug has fared since they became parents. She also gave us the details on what it was really like to look for love — and not always find it — on reality TV.

The real experience of being on Married At First Sight and The Bachelor

Is there one thing you can tell us about being on Married At First Sight that maybe wouldn't be obvious to people who watched it religiously?

Oh, my goodness. That's a really good question. I would say that probably one thing that people don't necessarily know for sure is how real it is... It's so real. I remember when we were shooting Married At First Sight, I was a nightmare. I was working nights in the labor and delivery unit at Columbia Presbyterian and I would work nights and then I'd get home and there was a camera crew in my house and I was just exhausted. Every minute felt like we were filming.

So they captured everything. It's just very raw and real. What you see is what you get. And then sometimes, I've watched it back myself and I was like, "Jeez Louise, Jamie!" I had really high expectations, [was] really hard on my husband, but that's just because I really wanted it. I really wanted true love and marriage. And I wasn't sure if he was as serious as I was, and as committed as I was. And anyway, so it's very real. I think that's probably one question people ask all the time. It's just like, "Is it just for TV or is it real?" It's definitely real!

Was Married At First Sight a lot different from being on The Bachelor? Did you feel like that show was less real?

100 percent. I mean, it's obviously... I guess "real" as well, but when it comes to finding true love and true marriage, I don't know how serious my bachelor was. I never really got to know him that well, to be very honest. But either way though, it was like, how real is it that I'm going to be the one that he matches with or whatever? There was so much money and traveling and exotic locations and fancy foods and all these things that are not like real life. And it's so cool. And I wish I could go back and just have fun with it because I took it very seriously. I obviously was looking for a real relationship and I almost feel silly to say that out loud now. I should just have fun. That's so cool that I got to go to all these places, but I was always stressed and worried about if we even had a connection and if I really liked him, if he really liked me. Man, I should've been like the other girls and just had a good time.

Whereas [with] Married At First Sight, it's not that... you're coming back to the real world and you're going to see if the marriage works and it's a legally binding marriage. So yeah, entirely different. But both good experiences, I guess. I learned an awful lot being on The Bachelor. So I mean, I can't complain about it whatsoever.

Do you feel like The Bachelor changed who you were or what you brought to the table as someone looking for love?

Oh, my God. The Bachelor — so the interesting thing about The Bachelor is that even though I was talking to producers, which would then have a camera on them, about where I came from and my circumstances in my life — hav[ing] custody of my siblings and [the situation with] my mom — I never peeped a word of any of that to the Bachelor, to Ben, who was my bachelor that time. Or to any of the girls. I think it was [finally] in Panama... that I actually shared with one girl. Because I didn't tell anybody about that: I was so embarrassed about living in a trailer, having custody of my siblings, my mom's a drug addict. I don't know who my father is. To me, I was like, "Who would want to marry a girl like that? Who wants to be in a relationship with all of that baggage?"

And so I didn't want to share it, because I was embarrassed of who I was and where I came from. And the one thing that The Bachelor did for me that I will forever be thankful for, is it's taught me that it doesn't matter that my mom is a drug addict and that I have custody of my siblings and that I've been on welfare to raise my siblings. That doesn't mean that I'm a bad person and those aren't circumstances that I chose. I had no choice but to kind of fight to provide, really. And I shouldn't be ashamed and embarrassed.

And the kicker of it all was I remember I was on a train in Manhattan. I was going downtown to do something. And this young girl, she must have been in high school, tapped me on the shoulder and she said, "Are you Jamie Otis from The Bachelor?" And I was like, "Yeah." And I didn't get recognized an awful lot. But this little girl said, "Oh, I saw that you were a nurse and now I want to be a nurse." And I was like, "Wow." I just never realized... It just meant so much to me. And I was like, "Oh my goodness, I can potentially help someone in some sort of way. I can connect with that young girl and be a good role model, maybe." I don't know. And so it really taught me to not be ashamed of where I came from and to just own it and be proud of who I am, the fact that I fought my way out of that.

Also, it would be a shame if a little girl was ashamed of where she was from, because she's in the same situation. It's nothing to be ashamed of if you live in a trailer park, maybe you can't afford a fancy home. It doesn't mean that you're not a great person and you don't have a lot to offer someone. And the same thing goes for if you happen to be on welfare. No one wants to be on welfare. And it was always very, very embarrassing to my mom that she was on it. And then of course I had to be on it when I had custody of my sisters. So I was in school. I was so embarrassed. I didn't want a soul to know. And I wouldn't tell a soul because I just felt, I don't know, little, because of it.

But truth of the matter is that if that little girl who stopped me on the subway happened to be on welfare, I would've been like, "Girl, be proud of yourself that you have aspirations to get out of this situation." I guess it just really taught me that it's okay that you come from different circumstances than others. And that they're maybe less fortunate, but you're still a good person. And so essentially, I want to be able to share that with other little girls that are in the same situation. Entirely different person because I was very open.

Jamie Otis' advice to other girls going on reality TV

Speaking of little girls who might watch the show, what would your advice be to any girl who was thinking about going on a reality TV show, like The Bachelor or Married At First Sight?

Well, I would give different advice for both shows. So for The Bachelor, I would be like, great if you have a connection. That'd be awesome — run with it and try to nurture it. But if not, just enjoy the moment. You're traveling to these amazing places and doing things that people will just beg to do, so just enjoy it. I really didn't enjoy it. I stressed so much over if he liked me and if I liked him, if we could work out and it's like, just have fun! Because that show, I don't know how serious the bachelor even is. Obviously for some it was very serious and that's evident, but maybe others aren't. So who knows what you're going to get? Just have a good time. I wish I would have known that for myself for The Bachelor.

But for Married At First Sight, I would say have zero expectations. Be very honest and raw and vulnerable in who you are so that you get matched with the person that fits you really well. I mean, even if I had been hiding who I was to the experts, then I probably wouldn't be married right now because they wouldn't have known to match me with someone that would be really loving and accepting of the fact of my mom and my background, I guess. So I would say the advice is entirely different for two different kinds of shows. 

But on a personal level, first and foremost, be very honest about who you are and what you're looking for. And don't get shallow, or feel bad about of any of the baggage that you have to bring in because everybody has baggage. And also, then when you're at your wedding day, don't have expectations. I had these expectations that I would have some sort of chemistry and some sort of romance and that's really far fetched. I mean, he was a complete stranger and it really kind of ruined... not ruined, but definitely put a little damper in our wedding day and it could have been just a fun day. I think I just needed to chill out a little and just get to know the dude before I just decided that, "Nope, I didn't have any sort of chemistry. So he can't be the one."

That would be my advice.

Jamie Otis' experiences as a new mom

Congratulations on your baby. What was it like to have a baby at home in the middle of a pandemic in your house?

Oh, my goodness. I mean, one word would be wild. It was wild. If I could give three words it would be magical and painful all at the same time. It was every single one of those words, all mixed into one.

You changed the baby's name from Hayes to Hendrix. Why?

Yeah, so we really couldn't decide on a name for a really long time. I mean, we really could not figure out what his name was going to be. Because I wanted something meaningful. We wanted something cute, too. And we wanted something that would have a nickname... I mean it's really hard naming a baby. It's the first thing you give your child that lasts them for their whole entire lives. You just want it to be perfect for them.

And so we had a few names we were talking around and then we narrowed it down to Hayes or Hendrix. And then we decided Hayes was the name. We really liked it. We called him Hayes. We have a pillow with Hayes on it. We have a plaque with Hayes on it. And then he was born, and the minute I held him, I almost blurted out Hendrix. And I was like, "Oh my goodness, that wasn't the name we chose." And then later on my husband did call him Hendrix. And I was like, "Oh my God, I almost called him Hendrix." I was like, "I can't believe that."

And then my husband took that as a sign, I guess. Or I don't know, I guess we just really connected with Hendrix. And so he was instantly like, "It has to be Hendrix." I was like, "Well, wait a minute. We can't just change it to Hendrix. We have this plaque, we have a pillow. And we told everybody. Everybody's expecting Hayes." and he was like, "But he's such a Hendrix. And I was like, "Are we sure we want to do this? I'm not sure about this." And my husband, he was just dead set on it. Like, "He's a Hendrix." And I was like, "Okay." But we love that name. And now I can't imagine calling him, Hayes. He's such a Hendrix! It just fits him better, I guess. So, no regrets with that whatsoever.

Now that you're parents with babies — and sleepless nights — has your chemistry changed at all?

Oh my goodness. I think that in marriage or in any relationship, the evolution of your relationship, it's going to go up and down and all around and throwing kids in the mix, it definitely adds an extra element that you almost can't prepare for. But I would say, it's funny, when you're trying to have a baby — and we were trying for a very long time — we were having an awful lot of fun at night in the bedroom.

Then after I got pregnant, I was terrified to lose the baby. So we really weren't that intimate. And to be very, very honest, it's been six months since we've been intimate. So obviously the chemistry changes, but the love is there for each other a hundred percent... The thing about it is that when you're... for example, when the baby's fussy... that's like a moment where you're both talking, you're both trying absolutely everything you can do to kind of calm your baby. And it's just nice when you have a partner by your side. At least it's nice for me that I have to Doug and I can just be like, "Go grab the Align Baby Probiotic Colic Relief... give it to him so he can calm down," or, "Go get me a diaper."

No joke, I had him putting my pump together so that I could pump milk because I was going to be unavailable for a couple hours this afternoon. So if he needed to get the baby some milk, it's just nice to be able to have that. So the chemistry obviously does change but the love is just... It's the love and support and the partnership is always there. But when it comes down to feeling sexy after having a baby, that's not there right now. But it's the love and support, so that's nice.

So since you've gone through this yourself, when your children are adults, would you want them to court in the traditional way people meet and fall in love? Or would you actually want them to meet the way you and Doug met on Married At First Sight?

Honestly, I would prefer that they meet someone naturally and organically and not need help. But there are thousands and thousands and maybe even millions of people in this world who haven't had success finding love that way. And if modern technology helps them find love, whether it be a website or something as radical as getting married to a stranger on TV... if that's how they find the one person that they are absolutely in love with and build a future with, I will stand behind my children 100 percent. I don't care how they find love. And I don't care who it is that they love. If they are in love with this person, then I want to be there to support them. And I don't care how they found it or what color their skin is or what religion they are as long as they're happy and loved. And that's all that matters.