Sharing her relentless journey to motherhood & becoming a single parent
Updated: Nov 25, 2020
I first met Shannon when I did her maternity shoot. I love getting to know my clients, they often become friends of mine as I capture intimate family moments year after year. Shannon had shared some of her journey with me during her maternity session and I remember being amazed at her strength. Fast forward about 6 months, I got to meet her beautiful baby girl and capture a mommy and me session for her. Shannon had a unique journey to motherhood and when she had asked if I can help share her story, I was honoured.
Shannon is ready to share her journey to motherhood in hopes that her experience may help bring comfort to someone going through a similar situation and as a form of self healing. This is a happy story, one of perseverance, resilience, forgiveness and love. A story of how a family of two came to be.
Shannon always knew she wanted to be a mother. For her, there was no other option. Growing up, she had the most amazing maternal role model, her mom Christine. Christine passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2016, and never had the chance to guide Shannon during her pregnancy, meet her granddaughter, or see Shannon become a mother. Even though Christine is not alive to support her on her journey as a mom, she is so much a part of Shannon and the root of her strength through this journey.
Shannon and her husband got married and began trying to get pregnant immediately. They tried for four years before having any success. It was a long journey, but one they agreed was important to them. Their first challenge came only a few months into their marriage when Shannon was diagnosed with Stage Two Endometriosis. They knew they were headed down a difficult road to grow their family. Anyone who has experienced infertility knows how emotionally and physically exhausting this process is, and for Shannon, it was all consuming. She made major lifestyle changes, mind, body, and spirit because she wanted to be as healthy as possible when she began her fertility treatments. Then more test results revealed that both she and her husband suffered from infertility. Another challenge placed in their path. It was recommended they begin IVF as their first course of treatment, something they had never considered when dreaming about their growing family. Leading with her heart, and the surety that she was to become a mom, they ventured down this unpredictable, and difficult path. They would have three failed IVF cycles, one of which was a biochemical pregnancy. Shannon was crushed. For over two years, she put her body through unimaginable treatments, procedures and tests, and they were no closer to becoming parents. She began to fear that this advanced, yet invasive method of fertility treatment wasn’t going to work and her dream of becoming pregnant began to fade. The emotional and psychological toll was exhausting, so they agreed to reset and take a year long break, allowing them time to reconnect with each other, regain joy in the day to day, and give Shannon’s body time to heal. Hoping that there was a chance to conceive naturally, Shannon underwent a laparoscopy to remove the endometriosis. Unfortunately, it did not make getting pregnant any easier, and the struggle to build the future she grew up envisioning grew greater every day.
As the months turned into years, Shannon began to fear the worst. Yet she remained optimistic that one way or another, she would become a mother. Considering new pathways forward, she and her husband began looking into adoption. The process, they would learn, was long and daunting, but they were open to it if their next and last attempt to conceive failed. After much reflection, and more research they agreed that their next step would be to try IUI, using a male donor. Together, they searched through the donors as you would a Christmas catalogue, shopping for the one that would perfectly match the characteristics of her husband. Once the donor was chosen, they began yet another new round of treatment. The first two IUI cycles were unsuccessful. More disappointment. More heartbreak. More fear. More feeling like a failure.
They started the third cycle feeling hopeless and defeated, but Shannon was not willing to give up. She was filled with anxiety awaiting her blood test to see if the cycle had been successful (known in the infertility community as the dreaded Two Week Wait), so she took a home pregnancy test. She was elated when it came out positive. However, in a matter of seconds her excitement turned into trepidation as the memory of her failed cycles and biochemical pregnancy entered her mind. She refused to celebrate this pregnancy or to even share this with her husband until she knew for sure. She did not want him to have to experience yet another rollercoaster of emotions that had accompanied each previous failed cycle. For the next four days she took tests every morning, all of which showed positive results. She was finally ready to share the news with her husband.
But here’s the plot twist: After all that they had invested, all the ups and downs they had experienced together on this journey, to Shannon’s surprise his reaction was less than ecstatic, in fact, it was non existent. From that moment on, he recoiled and began shutting Shannon out. She had never felt so alone. This was supposed to be the happiest time of her life, what she had been sacrificing and working towards for years. Instead it became clouded with doubt and extreme isolation. Time soon revealed that Shannon’s husband was struggling to accept the fact that the baby was not biologically his. She tried everything she could to support him, but he refused her help. He continued to withdraw. When Shannon was four months pregnant, she learned that he had been cheating on her, and he chose to walk away from her and the life they had been building together for fifteen years.
Now, at the age of 36 Shannon was faced with the reality that she was about to become a single mother, separated from the person whom she had spent almost half her life with, the person she had chosen as her partner, father of her child, and best friend. At what was supposed to be the brightest and most exciting time her life, Shannon was faced with the darkest, and most debilitating feelings she had ever known - She lacked all motivation, she couldn’t sleep or eat, and most days she struggled to get out of bed. She couldn’t imagine a life without her husband, let alone raising her baby by herself. Her family and close friends rallied around her and it’s through them that she regained her strength. Once Shannon overcame the shock, denial, and devastation of her husband leaving, she began to slowly regain her strength, independence, and self worth. Being a mom was all she ever wanted. Sure, it looked different than anything she ever pictured for herself, but she was finally going to get what she always wanted, to be a mother!
Shannon spent the rest of her pregnancy celebrating the arrival of this baby. She spoke to and sang to her baby every day. She told her unborn child how loved she was and spoke of the many people who were eagerly awaiting her arrival. She memorized the feeling of each and every roll, hiccup, and kick - and there were many. And with her sister Sarah by her side in the delivery room, they welcomed Addison Christine Spencer into the world in April of 2020.
Addison is now 7 months old and these two make the most amazing duo. They certainly have tough moments, as all new parents and babies do, but there’s something to be said about unexpectedly becoming a single parent. It makes you see parenting differently and appreciate every single moment spent together. In their short time together, Addison has already taught Shannon so much; how to be present in the moment, how to relinquish control (difficult for a Type A like Shannon), and to accept that sometimes things don’t go as you planned, but if you give it time, they can turn out to be even better than you ever imagined possible.
When Addison was born, Shannon wanted to be able to tell her daughter that she chose love, understanding, and forgiveness above all else. She wants Addison’s birth story to be one of pure joy and happiness. In the past year, Shannon has learned a lot about herself, her capacity to love, her inner strength to survive, and her ability to forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t come easy, and it shouldn’t. But what Shannon has realized is that forgiveness isn’t about pardoning the person who hurt you, it’s about offering forgiveness in order to heal yourself. That’s what Shannon is doing - healing. She is owning and accepting this experience as her own truth because it led her to the life she is living now. The life she has with her beautiful daughter, Addison.
This is about Shannon’s strength.
The strength of a woman.
The strength of a mother.
Written by: Shannon Spencer
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