Jessica Bottenfield-Biehn (42), Quinn (19), Milo (13), Jonas (11), Ezra (4 - pictured), and Mavis (2 - pictured)
Des Moines, IA
Jessica shares -
“My 4th pregnancy between Jonas and Ezra ended in miscarriage. It hit me so hard physically and even though I had worked with pregnant women for so long I was shocked that it could happen to us. I knew the statistics of 1 in 4, I knew how to talk to women about loss. But personally experiencing the loss of our dream, the loss of our baby, ultimately made me a better midwife for the understanding of what women go through.
When I was 22 and having my first homebirth I didn't realize how much it would impact my life. Over the years I became part of a community of women who supported other women and recognized the beauty and sanctity of pregnancy and breastfeeding. I learned about treasuring and honoring the amazing sacrifices of the female body. I became a midwife so I could support families on their individual life journeys. I've personally had my ups and downs with gaining weight or feeling like I can't compete with our rabid gym culture and our obsessive compulsion to idolize perfect bodies. Sometimes I feel like I need to turn away from social media to not feel down about how much I weigh or how few sit-ups I have done this year. But when I truly think about my body and what it has done in this life, it doesn't matter to me what it looks like on the outside. I know I give strong hugs, and have a soft lap, and warm breasts that nurtured my children. I am still amazed and grateful that 5 humans literally came from inside my body, nursed for years at the breast, and continue to grow into these actual giant people. They are my most amazing accomplishment.
I have had 6 postpartum experiences, 5 births and 1 miscarriage. And I still don't feel like I ever got postpartum quite right. Each one mostly got better but never perfect. There was the amazing joy of getting to know a new baby and the bliss (mostly) of nursing, but postpartum is freaking HARD and we still don't do it right in our American culture! We need midwives and home health nurses doing home visits and postpartum doulas for everyone! We need paid maternity and family leave for partners and more support for women. Too much of our postpartum cultural focus is on the baby and we are too quick to expect brand new Super Moms to return immediately to DOING IT ALL. So many times it's even us super women putting this pressure on ourselves. I was lucky to have a supportive partner and great friends and midwives taking care of me but I still wish postpartum women could be cared for and nurtured and not expected to take on so much physically and emotionally in the early weeks and months. I'm so passionate about this and work to teach women that postpartum is a not a time frame, it is a mindset.
I love storytelling through photography and have been a long time fan of the 4th Trimester Bodies Project. I am thrilled to be able to participate and to have our children look for truth and body positivity everywhere. I want them to look at people differently. I want them to see the beauty in all. To see the humanity everywhere and to see themselves reflected inside another person when they look them in the eyes. When I see Ashlee's photos I don't see any flaws or lumpy bodies I just see gorgeous interesting humans, and that is how I want my kids to see themselves.”