Most of us know that life doesn’t play out like a Princess movie. But even though we may be cognitively aware, our emotions don’t always play along. For some, the longing of finding their Prince and having a family doesn’t quite go away. This is not an argument for what a woman should be or hope for nor, is it a debate for or against female empowerment. This is just a story of a girl who wants to be a wife and a mother.
When you read this, do not pass judgment. We all want different things and everyone has a struggle that is real to them.
This is real to Shannon.
When Mommy Doesn’t Happen
Shannon is a 1st grade teacher. Her job is educating children, but anyone with school aged children knows that your child’s teacher is much more than an educator. The good ones aren’t caught up in curriculum and test scores alone, they are concerned with the character development of their students and they have a keen eye for the ones who seem to be struggling with burdens too large for their little shoulders to bear. They care for our children during school hours and no doubt think about them and talk about them long after the school bell rings. Good teachers are the mommies or daddies when our kids are away from home.
For Shannon, being a teacher was an extension of the dream she had as a little girl, to be a mother. When she was six, Shannon’s parents divorced, turning life into a confusing and complicated place for the little mommy-in-waiting. She was not interested in Barbie dolls or stuffed animals; in fact, she limited her play to her baby dolls as the main outlet to satisfy her natural maternal instincts. Her mother remarried when she was twelve, but it wasn’t happily ever after. Wounds that hadn’t quite healed from her parents’ divorce were amplified during her pre-teen years and the tumultuous relationships in her home only made things more challenging for Shannon.
She was sixteen when her little sister was born-the beginning of a sisterly relationship that at times felt almost maternal. Shannon spent a lot of time taking care of and trying to protect her little sister from any kind of harm.
“I told myself over and over during that time ‘It’s okay, it’s okay, because I’m going to do it right. I’m going to have a loving husband and children, and we’ll love them and protect them.’ That’s when my anorexia began. Eating was something I could control in my otherwise out of control life,” says Shannon.
Just one week after her 25th birthday, she married her boyfriend of three years and began living her childhood dream – she had found a way out of the chaos and fear that had become her life. But vows that are committed on shifting sands often give way under the pressure of the tide. Shannon’s new husband became overwhelmed with her feelings of fear and despair; meandering the deep waters of depression and anorexia became too much and her husband was drowning. Shortly after it began, the marriage ended-sending Shannon into one of the darkest periods of her life.
“I think I mourned the loss of that dream more than anything. I felt hopeless and depressed, like I had failed. Those feelings are what led me to the place where I felt like I had no future and no hope. I felt so far away from God and confused about everything…and just decided I couldn’t go on,” she remembers.
Saved by Grace
In a very dark season of her life, Shannon made a decision to end hers. One night, she took a few handfuls of pills and left her therapist a voice mail. But God had a bigger plan for Shannon. By force of God’s grace, her therapist, who rarely checked messages after office hours, had checked voice mail to confirm another appointment when she heard Shannon’s message. She picked up the phone and called her house.
“I don’t remember what she said or how she intervened – and at the time I didn’t see it as much, but now I know there is a reason that my plan to end my life didn’t work. I feel like God wants me here for something. It’s not my decision to make anymore,” says Shannon.
Through therapy and a still-growing relationship with Christ, Shannon has worked through a lot of those feelings since that night. She has learned her worth and value, even when it isn’t easy for her to see in herself. When she struggles to understand why she still doesn’t have the family and children she longs for, she stands on God’s promises and believes in his plan for her life.
“I can still be pretty angry with God sometimes, and I even talk to Him about that. I didn’t then, and still don’t now, understand why my deepest desires haven’t been fulfilled. But I am learning to trust and believe there is purpose in my pain,” she adds.
Victory in the Struggle
“I’ve been in some very dark places. I know what it feels like to believe that things are so hopeless that even one more day, one more hour, is too much to bear. But letting go isn’t an option. I have to tell myself that I don’t know (his plan), but God does. I can’t, but He can. That doesn’t make it go away or make it all better, but I know I can handle this – in this moment, right now – I can do this right now,” says Shannon.
In the meantime, she continues to teach and to pour into the lives of her students during the school year. She has had opportunities to use her gifts to help teach children in Africa, and to write curriculum for a mission trip to South East Asia for special needs children ages 3-18.
What she wants you to know is that her life isn’t a clean, everything’s-worked-out-perfectly happy ending. She still struggles, cries, and feels the very real pain and disappointment of not being married and having children, but Shannon chooses to cling to the hope that God has promised her. She chooses to believe that God has a plan for her life that, although it may not match up with the one she dreams of, has both purpose and fulfillment.
“It’s important for people to share their stories and their struggles, because sometimes it seems that everyone else has this wonderful, happy life. When we are open about our struggles, maybe we can help others. Maybe my pain and struggle can help someone else. Maybe I can offer comfort, even if it’s just that someone knows they aren’t alone. I still question God, but I know he is not apathetic or angry or absent. He can use me where I am with what I am dealing with. And He loves me right where I am…loves me enough to help me see purpose in my pain, and to offer hope in the meantime,” says Shannon.