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Josie Bissett: Her Most Important Job

Josie Bissett may be best known for her role as Jane Mancini on Melrose Place, the popular FOX-TV yuppie drama that ended its seven-year run in May 1999. But what most people don’t know is that Bissett, who has been married to Melrose co-star Rob Estes for 13 years, was pregnant when the show ended. The ending of the series was the beginning of Bissett’s most important role ever: Mother.

Bissett’s First Pregnancy
Now pregnant with her second child, Bissett gave birth to baby Mason Tru Estes in July 1999 after an uneventful pregnancy. “I only had two weeks of feeling sick,” she says. Her labor and delivery went equally well. Two days before her due date, Bissett’s water broke at home in the morning “after a full night’s sleep.” After she and Estes arrived at the hospital, Bissett “asked to be hydrated and then asked for my epidural right away.” By 12:30 in the afternoon, she was dilated to 9 1/2 centimeters. One hour of pushing later, Estes, who served as labor coach, cut the cord. “He was perfectly calm and supportive; he was right there,” Bissett says.

But they weren’t alone in their joy. “We had other people in the room: My mom, my dad, Rob’s mom, my sister, Rob’s sister, my 8-year-old niece, a couple of girlfriends,” she says. “My sister was doing the pictures until my niece fainted, then my sister was out of the picture. A girlfriend videotaped it.”

The couple didn’t plan to have so many people in the delivery room, but friends and family members were all waiting outside and had come in to check on Bissett when she began pushing. “It just kind of happened that way, but I felt totally supported by all of them.” This time; however, things will be different. “It will be smaller,” Bissett says. “Everyone’s not jumping on a plane to get here. They live in Seattle, and my sister has had two babies since then.”

Bissett’s Second Pregnancy
This time around, the delivery might be different, too. Bissett has been diagnosed with placenta previa, a condition in which the placenta lies very low in the uterus, so that the cervix is partially or completely covered. Depending on the specific position of the placenta, a Cesarean delivery may be necessary. Bissett will have to wait and see, but is preparing herself for a Cesarean. She is fortunate not to be on bed rest, but that could change if she begins bleeding. “They don’t want me to go into labor, so if I’m still pregnant at 38 weeks, that’s when the delivery will happen.”

It hasn’t been easy for this active mom to slow down her activity level during pregnancy. “I like to work out, so it’s been hard,” she says. Bissett, who usually works out four to five times per week on the treadmill or Stairmaster, or by hiking or boxing, has reduced her workouts to two to three times per week doing sit-down weight lifting with the help of a trainer.

And that’s not all that has been different with this pregnancy. “I had all-day sickness for the first four months,” Bissett says. “I never actually got sick, I just felt sick all the time. I also had migraines.”

Bissett thinks the change in pregnancy maladies could be because she is now expecting a girl, named Maya Rose. “Mason is so excited; he’s ready to meet the baby,” she says. “He tries to put his pacifier in my belly button, and he puts his arms around my belly and calls her by name.”

Bissett’s Birth Plan
The couple took Lamaze classes during their first pregnancy and found it helpful. “Whether you use it or not, it’s good to prepare yourself for anything that can happen,” Bissett says. “It’s great for the husband because women read so much during pregnancy and men don’t read as much. It helped him feel more secure that he could help me.”

And security is a big part of their relationship. Their secrets to a happy union include not allowing more than two weeks to go by without seeing each other and “working on making it work. It’s not always easy.” But the baby did wonders for their relationship. “Before the baby, we tended to argue over things that didn’t matter as much,” she says. “Now, things are more important and our priorities are different. We want to do our best raising him. You can’t nit-pick.” And, she notes that when one of them isn’t working, the baby gives them a sense of purpose.

While nothing is certain with placenta previa deliveries, Bissett’s birth plan calls for music in her hospital room to calm her nerves. “I will be nervous if it is a C-section,” she says.

Her biggest anxiety during childbirth is the fear of the unknown. “There’s nothing I can do to control how it’s going, and that’s scary,” she says. “I just have to trust that everything is going to be OK … Every night, I said a prayer for a healthy pregnancy and baby, and an easy labor.”

Wellness During Pregnancy
Bissett says it’s best to start out pregnancy in shape so you’re already in the habit of eating well and working out. Calling herself an “all or nothing person,” she finds it difficult to give in to a craving, since she will want to eat more and more of it. “I don’t know about other people, but I want to eat 10 cookies,” she says. Her current indulgence is frozen yogurt with Reese’s peanut butter cups sprinkled on it, which she says has got to stop. She gained 50 pounds with Mason, but this time, she won’t gain that much. “After I finished Melrose Place, I laid around a lot and didn’t exercise as much. I was nesting, and I didn’t have a toddler,” she says. “This time, I am working out, being consistent about going to the gym. I’m trying to eat a lot of salads, protein, oatmeal and smoothies. I’m eating the best I ever have.”

A typical breakfast consists of Country Choice organic oatmeal, purchased at Trader Joe’s, to which she adds slivered almonds, raisins, ground up flax seeds and vanilla soymilk. One of her favorite snacks is a smoothie made with New Spirit’s Green Magic chlorophyll and Meal in a Glass protein supplements, mixed with ice, strawberries and orange juice. Her favorite dinner is a salad topped with barbequed or blackened salmon. “I always carry a Balance bar in my purse,” she adds.

Bissett is spokesperson for Neutrogena Cosmetics, but she says she uses many different kinds of products. Her beauty regime, however, includes Neutrogena self-tanning foam. “I’m not a sun person, but I like to have a healthy glow.” She also tints her eyelashes black, so she never needs mascara.

Postpartum Plans

Bissett feels fortunate that her career is now aligned with her parenting goals. Her current projects allow her the flexibility to spend most of her time with her children.

After Mason’s birth, she compiled a book, Little Bits of Wisdom (Compendium, 2001), which contains tips from parents all over the world. She is hard at work on her second book, You Never Know When You’re Making a Memory, which will contain tips for creating rich family memories. She also hosts the half-hour television series Parenting & Beyond for PAX-TV and Bravo, a magazine-format show offering parents solutions to everyday problems. Bissett is also developing a line of educational toys for babies and toddlers, in conjunction with babystyle.

On the home front, while Bissett exclusively breastfed her son for five months, she plans to breastfeed and bottle-feed Maya because she knows she will be extra tired with two kids to care for. “Breastfeeding was demanding with Mason and I was so tired,” she says. “I don’t do well when I don’t have enough sleep. I’m going to play it by ear.”

Bissett is looking forward to her daughter’s arrival, which will likely complete their family unit. Together, the family will continue to attend the local farmer’s market each weekend, enjoy horses and visit family members who also have children. Bissett also looks forward to adding Maya into the routine she has with Mason: “We have [a babysitter] at the house all day, but I’m pretty much around all day. I work out in the morning; we attend a class together, either gymnastics or Mommy and Me. Then he takes a nap and so do I. He’s with his dad when I’m not with him.”

Motherhood has changed Bissett in many ways, including making her more patient and selfless. “Having the focus come off of myself and onto a child has made me happy,” she says. Admitting that the life of an actor is “a very difficult business” because “you get rejected a lot and that’s hard,” Bissett is proud of where she is right now in her life and what she has accomplished. “I look at Mason and can’t believe he’s my child,” she says. “It still feels so new. It’s hard to believe I’m a mom; that he came from me. I’m proud to be a woman and be able to do that.”

Enjoying her life as it is, Bissett isn’t looking too far into the future. “Young kids keep you so busy and focused, it’s hard to think too far ahead,” she says. “I’m taking the work I’m getting and trying to enjoy it. We’ll just take it day by day.”

This interview took place while Bissett was pregnant with her second child, Maya Rose, born April 14, 2002.