4th Trimester Bodies Project
Photographer Ashlee Wells Jackson’s The 4th Trimester Bodies Project proves that stretch marks, scars and other changes don’t mar a mom’s beauty — they help tell her story.
The project, which was born out of Jackson's difficult pregnancy experience, has been a two-year labor of love. A long way from its humble beginnings as a Facebook page, the compilation is now available in book form.
Here, some of the amazing women who got in front of the camera to share their experiences from pregnancy and labor to motherhood.
Her story: "This project was born out of a general experience, but also of the very personal and difficult story of myself," Jackson, the project's founder, tells The Bump. "It didn't feel right to ask other women to share something so bold and brave and beautiful without doing it myeslf."
Ashlee gave birth to her first son, Xavier, at 28 weeks, forced to abandon her homebirth plan for a 36-minute hospital birth. After 46 days in the NICU, Xavier came home healthy and breastfed through age 3.
The second time around, Ashlee learned she was expecting twins on the morning of her wedding. But her joy was cut short two weeks later when her girls were diagnosed with Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS). The babies were delivered via emergency c-section at 24 weeks.
Ultimately, Ashlee lost her daugther Aurora. Her other daughter, Nova, spent 100 days in NICU, and underwent two brain surgeries. Five months after Nova came home, Ashlee launched the 4th Trimester Bodies Project.
Her story: Amber worries about “bouncing back” after baby because of her job in the Air Force. She says she weighs less than she did pre-pregnancy, but that her body is “different.” Still, she says she wears her stretch marks proudly.
Her story: Carolyn didn't think she'd be able to conceive quickly because of her weight. And when she did, she came to her doctor with a list of all the risk factors she thought she'd face. But her fears were unfounded; her pregnany with Violet was smooth, along with her vaginal delivery.
Her story: As a preemie herself and a NICU nurse, Catherine was determined to have full-term babies. Her first son, Taylor, was born at 37 weeks and needed to be transfered to the NICU. But after seeking out a birthing center and midwives, her second baby, Andrew, was born healthy at 39 weeks.
Her story: After dealing with infertility, Christina had two remarkably easy pregnancies. Both of her babies were born in the water at a freestanding birth center at the exact same time, down to the minute.
Her story: After four pregnancies, Davie's experiencies run the gamut. She was a teenager when her first son was born. Not knowing her options, she had an epidural and vaginal birth. After a placental abruption, her second baby was born via emergency c-section. He was born very sick, and taken off life support at 4 days old. Baby no. 3? Another c-section. But her fourth, a girl, was born in an incredible two-push VBAC delivery.
Her story: With babies born just 11 months apart, Jennifer opted for two different birthing facilities. Epidural and all, she deems the second experience better than the first.
Her story: Even though Jennifer's OB was the doctor she'd been seeing since age 17, she found her birthing experience and unwanted c-section traumatizing. Now, thanks to breastfeeding, she says she has a great relationship with baby Cara.
Her story: After an induction that needed two and a half days to take, Julia had the vaginal birth she'd hoped for. But she didn't initially have the breastfeeding experience she'd hoped for. A support group was able to change that.
Her story: This mom of four suffered mulitple miscarriages and even lost a twin during her last pregnancy. She pushed for a homebirth for the surviving twin, and was even able to live-stream it.
Her story: Kim lost her eldest, Emma, to SIDS at 8 months old. Her four subsequent pregnancies were smooth homebirths. Then Zachary, pictured, came along. He wasn't breathing; a midwife had to perform CPR for 9 minutes to resuscitate him. Now, he's alive and well (and adorable).
Her story: After a miscarriage, MaryEllen proudly holds her 'rainbow baby.' Born at 36 weeks, Aaron spent some time in the NICU learning to keep his temperature up.
Her story: Rachel became a single mom during pregnancy and didn't feel ready to be a parent at all. But now that Ayla's here, the pair is getting along just fine.
Her story: After a stillbirth, Sandra was terrified when she got pregnant again two years later. But the support of her health care providers offered her the reassurance she needed to safely deliver Ava via c-section.
Her story: After a difficult upbringing, Sara swore she'd never be a mom. And it seemed hormone problems were going to prevent that anyway. Then, a surprise pregnancy. She says Roman has completely changed her, and taught her how to show emotion, love and cry.
Her story: Because of blot clot concerns, Toi's husband needed to administer daily shots to her during pregnancy. She didn't create a birth plan and just went with the flow: three epidurals and an ultimate c-section.