Possible womxn 6/12 Shannon – Traumatic pregnancy loss and elective weight loss surgery
Shannon-my 6th lady for the Impossible Boudoir Project. So many beautiful and powerful realizations were made for me with this session. Shannon is just like many of us, she has quite the story. We all do and we all experience our pain differently. But at the end of the day, it’s not about who has the bigger burden to bear, who hurts the most or who has walked more miles through hell. Everyone has their own story, their own pain, their own journey. And we as friends, bystanders, family, colleagues, co-workers and strangers, need to realize that every person is fighting their own battles. I use to be the kind of person who would make fun of others when I was younger and maybe even not so long ago. We all do it, it’s natural, but it’s also unnatural. It is cruel, harsh, mean and unnecessary. We were always taught, or maybe just even predisposed to judge a book by its cover. We do it constantly in our minds, sometimes to our friends and even online. First off rhyme, second off referring to hurtful trolls.
If I have one learned one very important and powerful thing from this session, it’s to check yourself. As Shannon so eloquently put it. Check yourself before you say or think anything negatively about others. It’s time for us all to recondition our brains, thoughts, patterns, and flip the script. We now will love, admire and judge only when we know what’s inside. All of this is just an illusion anyways, right? Life. It’s not real. We will all be gone one day and what will we want to remember when we’re gone? How much we judged people when we saw them in short shorts on a sunny day? No, we won’t, because that doesn’t matter. Your body is your body and I don’t care what it looks like. All I care about is if you love yourself and if I love myself. Life matters because it is short. So let’s live it IN love.
“I felt empowered to feel good about my body and myself and you helped with making me feel that way.” -Shannon
From an early age Shannon’s body was always criticized. She filled out very early; had her hips and her period when she was nine and was at a C cup when she was thirteen.
“I had red hair and freckles too, so I had a lot of things going against me.” -Shannon
She loved having her red hair and freckles but hated how big her chest was at such a young age. Catching the attention of the young, juvenile, stupid little boys- she was not a fan. She would get made fun of all the time for being a young, fuller woman. It really makes me wonder how kids in middle and high school are these days. I mean, middle school is the worst, but I just would be blown away if making fun of kids’ physical appearance is still the norm…
When she wasn’t tiptoeing around school dodging the harsh words from kids, she was tiptoeing at home, around her father. When she was seven, her father started monitoring what she ate in fear of having a fat child. He didn’t want her to get big and throughout the years Shannon struggled with her relationship with her father.
“He called me fat when I was at 130 pounds. He would body shame me for years and years and of course at the time, I didn’t know what it was.” -Shannon
Her mother, on the other hand, was always a constant love and support to her and her body. In fact, Shannon said that her mother would always get in between her father and her and she would help “battle” him so to speak. Shannon said she felt like she was at a completely normal weight given the fact that she had her period at nine, C cups by thirteen and a breast reduction at the age of fifteen. In two years she went from a C to an F cup. Her Dad always made it known how she looked to him in his eyes- which was fat. #SMH
Shannon tells me that her father was adopted and abused physically and emotionally growing up. “He didn’t stop the cycle because he didn’t know how. I used to blame him for a long time, but as I got older, I have had a better understanding. We’ve had it out several times but we’re now at a place of forgiveness.” -Shannon She tells me how much she does love her Dad and how much their relationship has changed today for the better and how she is so thankful for it.
So back to that, yes. Shannon got a breast reduction at the age of fifteen. Ladies- I want you to pause for a minute and imagine what it would be like to have an F cup at the age of fifteen… in middle school… where teenagers and boys suck. Bless you, Shannon.
“Your shoulders and your back, it hurts. Having large breasts is extremely painful and it’s uncomfortable to have that attention at a young age when you didn’t want it and were not asking for it- it’s difficult….” -Shannon
Moving forward with her breast reduction wasn’t really a choice for Shannon. She had to do it. They were getting too large; already causing her insane back and shoulder pain at such a young age. It also prevented her from doing sports and other activities. At the time she didn’t really understand what was happening or why she had to get the surgery done. I asked Shannon what was going through her head at that time. She said, “I felt grateful because I knew I wouldn’t be made fun of anymore for having too large of breasts but I was scared at the same time. I was fifteen and this was a huge surgery.” -Shannon
She goes on to say that her parents actually had her go into the hospital a few times before the surgery to donate her own blood in case she needed it during her procedure.
“I’m very thankful I had it done.” -Shannon
“When I started getting older, I got rebellious in a way and started putting on weight. It was the thing of- you can’t control what I eat and what I do. I’m an adult. I’m going to do what I want to do so screw you. I wasn’t trying to hurt myself but I felt free of everything my Dad would do and say while being under his roof and I started to eat more and more.” -Shannon
She would hear all the time how she had a pretty face, but still was too big. Navigating her body in her early adulthood was proving to be more difficult than when she was a kid.
At her highest weight Shannon was 328 at 5’4. In her early adult years Shannon said her weight went up and down. “I did Weight Watchers, I took pills, I went to the gym- I tried, but nothing helped the food addiction. I even took up smoking hoping it would help.” -Shannon
Around this same time Shannon was in her second marriage, to a man, and Shannon went through a very traumatic pregnancy loss, so she ate more. I have no idea what it’s like to have a living, little being inside you, then all of the sudden not, that you’re never going to meet. I stress eat when I get a parking ticket. I would eat an entire Trader Joe’s if I suffered from losing a child.
“I had a couple early miscarriages with my first and second husband, but nothing like this.” -Shannon
It was the furthest she had made it with a child thus far. She felt her body changing, saw what was happening to her boobs, felt the hormones, heard the heartbeat, thought this was going to happen. She actually was supposed to have twins initially, but one absorbed the other and she was just thrilled to have one stick. Shannon was on fertility treatment at the time to help her get pregnant. She always wanted to be a mother and she finally thought this was her time.
Shannon had what you would call an ectopic pregnancy. Her fallopian tube burst and she started bleeding out internally, fast, which then caused her to go into shock. When Shannon went into shock she was with her now wife Angela, who at the time, was one of her closest friends. When her tube burst she was rushed to the hospital and remembered hearing Angela’s voice and her doctor’s voice and knew she had to fight to stay alive. By the time she got to the hospital, Shannon was immediately rushed into surgery to stop her internal bleeding to save her. It was unfortunately too late to save her baby, a little girl she had already named Elizabeth.
After her surgery she was left with a cesarean scar, but no baby.
“I always wanted to be a Mom. I’ve always wanted to be a Mom. It was very, very difficult for me to accept it. That it happened. That I couldn’t undo it. That I didn’t do anything wrong and that I wasn’t going to be able to have a child ever. I am a Mom now, but in a very different way. I think this is what God had intended for me.” – Shannon
Shannon then pointed out one of her many beautiful and colorful tattoos to me on her leg. It is a tree branch with her son’s name, her daughter’s name and a butterfly. Ian is her son and is 17 years old and is her wife’s biological son. Elizabeth, her daughter who was not born; but instead turned into a butterfly. A perfect and beautiful piece to represent both of her children.
“I struggle every single year around my due date. But this tattoo was something that I knew I needed to do for myself and for her. We still talk about her and what she would be like today. It hurts sometimes, but I also know it makes me feel better too.”- Shannon
After experiencing the loss of her child, Shannon then took to eating again.
“I ate and I ate and I ate. I was in so much pain physically and emotionally and had no support from my husband at the time, so I ate.” -Shannon
She was unhappy, in a marriage she didn’t want to be in anymore and just lost her child. After divorcing her husband she married her wife Angela. Her husband at the time looked for another spouse to bear his children while they were still married… while she was still grieving. She decided to move on and fell in love with her soulmate. When she met Angela years ago, she knew.
“I had fallen in love with someone and I had never felt those feelings before. Being married not once but twice already, I never had those feelings. I never felt what I felt for them like I do with her. For the longest time I didn’t understand those feelings, so I ran away from them.” -Shannon
Coincidentally enough, Angela was also married at the same time Shannon was- to a man, and was also in an unhappy marriage. Shannon was looking for a partner, someone to back her up in all areas and knew that she needed to leave her husband. She knew being gay wasn’t socially acceptable so she tried to not like her for the longest time until one of her best friends told her to leave her husband and follow her damn heart! **Snaps for the BFF!** So one thing led to another and they were finally together, finally happy, both finally having found their soulmate.
Shannon was confused at first. For her whole life she had been with men but also knew she was attracted to womxn. “Had Angela been a man, I would be with a man.” -Shannon Something that surprised her and myself to be honest, was that when she was making her changes; leaving her husband; getting the divorce and choosing to be with Angela, her Dad was her number one support system thought it all. “His best friend it a lesbian!” -Shannon She thought her Mom would have been her advocate, but her Mom wasn’t as supportive as Shannon would have liked.
“She tolerates her, she’s accepted me… I think she’s accepted that this isn’t a phase, because everything else in my life was a phase up to this point. But this is now who I am. I’m authentic. I’m one hundred percent me.” -Shannon
“I’m married to my best friend. My lover, my soul mate, my rock, my everything.” -Shannon
After finally finding the human of her dreams, her love and her life… she started evaluating her own life and health. She was beginning to be pre-diabetic, was still struggling with her eating addiction and started working out in the gym. I knew that I needed to do something or I was going to die.” “I made the decision to do something drastic because nothing else was working so I had gastric sleeve surgery.” -Shannon
Shannon decided to go for the gastric sleeve surgery instead of the bypass because of the fewer complications and quicker recovery time. The difference between bypass and sleeve is this- Bypass surgery is a more invasive surgery that helps shrink your stomach to be smaller. There are more risks with bypass for people who have bigger health issues and a higher chance of malabsorption. Gastric sleeve is a less invasive procedure and one that Shannon felt the most comfortable with undergoing after all she went through with her own health scares.
“I made the decision. I went through the entire process. At the time Angela wasn’t on board. She was scared that it would change me and change our marriage and who I might become.” -Shannon
Once her surgery was done and her body was on its way to healing, she started to feel better. She got the surgery back in 2015 and has since lost and managed to keep off over 100 pounds. She also feels so much healthier in her body. She’s also on a new journey to loving her body in this new way. With a large amount of weight loss, as some know, you deal with a whole new body. That body can be thinner yes, but the skin, breasts and other areas can pose as new problems. Overall, Shannon is healthier and feels so much better being in her body. Her wife Angela, also suffers from diabetes and two years later got the same surgery Shannon did to help with her health.
“She’s happier and healthier and it’s been really great for the two of us to go through this together.” -Shannon
I finished off our session by asking Shannon what parts of her body she loves and dislikes the most. Both answers were her stomach, which I love. Having that cesarean scar, losing weight, gaining weight and dealing with her new skin. It’s hard for her to look at her stomach at times, but she also does it because it’s the thing she loves most about herself.
“I survived that. That is huge for me even though it’s my nemesis. I have sadness around it but I also survived that when the doctors told me I shouldn’t have.” -Shannon
“I’m a work in progress and I am proud of myself and love myself where I am at today.” -Shannon
My final question was this, “If you can tell the world one thing about what it’s like to be in your body what would you say?”
“We all have a story. We don’t know what anyone has gone through or what they’re fighting. Everyone has their own story so don’t judge, don’t make assumptions, ask questions, be sensitive, be empathetic, be compassionate, be loving because we have to live with one another in this world. Also, check yourself before you start to judge someone even in your own head. Think with love and kindness, not hate.” -Shannon
HOT MAMA. Are you inspired because I am? Now go out and love your damn self today okay? <3
Above: her tattoo for Ian and Elizabeth <3
“I felt very empowered in my photos and sexy and beautiful just as I was even if I am not where I yet want to be with my body. I am learning to just love who I am today and know I am a work in progress. I felt silly and sexy and fun but also took it very seriously and in many of them you see the serious side of me vs my comical self. The ones that make me giggle the most is when the boa is around my head, I love the one of the boa up to my face, I look a little naughty but also it reveals my fun personality behind it. The one of me looking out the window with the cop car is GREAT! I am smirking in that photo a bit because of the cop car that just happens to be rolling by at that exact time. HA HA Growing up with a cop, it just made it that much more hilarious to me for whatever reason. I just felt so proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone and feeling so incredibly vulnerable to do what I did.
It is not easy when you have always been a pretty face but NEVER good enough because of always being heavy. What mattered to others what was on the outside it always seemed, not who I was on the inside. There was always more to me than just a pretty face! I have felt so unattractive for years, it was always hard to look at myself in the mirror and when I did I lied to myself and said you look pretty good. I could never see myself for who was truly in front of me. Someone unhealthy and unhappy! My life is so different now, I have a ways to go but proud of the changes I have made and what I have overcome! I am so blessed to do this all with wonderful friends and my family. Most of all I am truly blessed by my amazing wife who supports me in ALL I do and LOVES me unconditionally and unequivocally for who I am all those years ago and who I am today. To have a healthy loving partner has been one of my greatest gifts. A partner who made me part of a family when that is all I ever truly wanted was to be the best wife and mom I could be. I was meant to be Ian’s mom because God had other plans for me! I will always love and remember my Elizabeth, I will see her again someday when we are meant to meet again.
Kendra, I cannot thank you enough for what you did for me. Another amazing woman who empowered me to love myself for who I am today and let go of the yesterdays and tomorrows. Life is about today! We are all amazing and bad ass men and women taking a stand to share ourselves with the world, it is about self acceptance and not continuing to feel shame for decisions or mistakes we made in our lives. Letting go and feeling free and realizing I am beautiful, Damn it! One more thing, I dedicate what I did that day to my Aunt Linda who always taught me about being gentle with myself and being loving and forgiving. She was the most kindest woman I have ever had the pleasure of loving and knowing and who accepted me at all times, I hope she sees me now and the change and growth I have gone through since she has been gone. I really believe she would be proud of the woman I am today because she helped shaped me through all of the years she was living.” -Shannon