Paging through a family photo album, the image of a woman in a bikini holding a baby caught my eye. She looked amazing! Hollywood sunglasses, a flashy smile and perky breasts. As I admired the image I suddenly realized, that woman was me holding Willow.
Seeing myself externally is so different than what I usually experience when I face my reflection in the mirror. I round my shoulders hoping they’ll cast shadow over my sagging, worn breasts. I dress in oversized shirts to hide the bump that once bore my children. I grimace at the sight of the extra flesh that hangs from my chin.
I often remind myself that I am that practically flawless woman I see in the photo. The worn breasts, baby bump and double chin were earned, and they are beautiful.
Ashlee Wells Jackson and Laura Weetzie Wilson, the 4th Trimester Bodies Project duo, have given over 1,000 women the opportunity to see themselves as beautiful since the launch of their project back in 2013. They’ve created a movement that challenges our culture’s questionable beauty standards by showcasing and celebrating mothers, their bodies and their raw, real stories.
4th Trimester Bodies started when Wells Jackson stood on the other side of the camera with her daughter Nova months after the tragedy of losing her twin sister Aurora to Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome. Wells Jackson shares her deeply personal journey here.
Mothers from all over the globe identified with Wells Jackson’s grief, frustration and guilt; support for 4th Trimester Bodies continues to grow.
Creating a community of mothers is something Wells Jackson says she is most proud of.
“Women are very often pitted against each other instead of bonded together,” she explains. “Yet the experiences of other women is something we cling to.”
The 4th Trimester virtual community offers a safe and validating space for mothers to share themselves.
“We work with women from all sorts of backgrounds who make all types of decisions for their families along the way,” Wells Jackson says. “Most of these women would never be part of the same community. Because we are open to all presentations of Mother, we are able to forge that community. That has been amazing.”
Weetzie Wilson says she’s never had such satisfaction in a career. “I get to be there to see a woman feel transformed,” she says.
Wells Jackson says she was shocked.
“As art, as honesty, as true stories, why would that be something to censor?” she wonders. “It speaks volumes about our societal need to continue to share these stories and photos and not be afraid.”
A 4th Trimester Bodies Project participant commented on their Facebook page in response to censorship issues: “I have never been more proud of myself and my actions. Thank you, Ashlee for letting me be a part of this amazing movement. It has changed me in ways I would have never imagined.”
Wells Jackson and Weetzie Wilson made their way overseas this summer for their first European Tour.
The duo released the first edition of their 4th Trimester Bodies Project book on September 1. You can still pre-order it here.
Imagine the impact of a beautifully bound book “dedicated to embracing the beauty inherent in the changes brought to our bodies by motherhood, childbirth and breastfeeding” sitting on a coffee table for everyone to see.
To celebrate motherhood with 4th Trimester Bodies Project, click here.
If you’d like to participate in the movement, click here.
Credit: Ashlee Wells Jackson, 4th Trimester Bodies Project, 4thtrimesterbodies.com