May 3, 2014 at 7:20 AM ET
Ashlee Wells Jackson has long photographed women for a living. But her latest project, the Fourth Trimester Bodies Project, is a series showing women in a more revealing light: They are shown nearly baring it all, while holding their babies.
The idea for the project came after Jackson, who lives in Chicago, suffered a tragedy. Her pregnancy with twin girls ended at 24 weeks, when Jackson went into preterm labor. Only one twin, daughter Nova, survived.
"I felt broken and damaged, and at a point in my life where I wanted to be celebrating my body for creating life, I was dealing with the fact that it took it away,” says Jackson.
Five months after bringing Nova home, Jackson took a photo of herself naked and scarred, holding her baby.
"I wanted to put a picture of myself out there to help myself cope and to hopefully help other women," she said.
From that photo, the Fourth Trimester Bodies Project was born. Jackson posted on Facebook looking for other moms who would be willing to bare their very real post-baby bodies for photo documentary. And many did.
Said one mom who was photographed: “[This project] has changed my life...I no longer immediately look in the mirror and say my stomach looks terrible, my hips are enormous.. I say, ‘I am a woman...I am beautiful and I had a child.”