The stunning and strong Shaneen Belcher with her sons Ashton (7), Greylin (6), Jevan (4) and Bryden (2). Shaneen's pregnancies and births have all been very different and she says that they have progressively become more of what she's wanted them to be. She had a partial placental abruption with her first which led to bedrest and induction. Her next two were also born in hospital but with progressively less hands on and interventions and her last baby was born at home. Shaneen has successfully breastfed all of her boys, her first two for 4 years each, Jevan for 2 (he weaned while she was pregnant with Bryden) and Bryden is still nursing today. There was a period of about 6 months when Shaneen was nursing all three of her older boys, a time she recalls as wonderful and well, busy.
Shaneen's story, however, spans more than her journey to motherhood. Soon after she met her husband and her sons father, they conceived Ashton. What had previously been yelling and name calling became physical abuse during this first pregnancy. The abuse continued and progressed over the years and when Shaneen's eldest two boys were very young she found the strength to leave for the first time. She soon discovered she was pregnant with her third and ultimately, after being told that her husband had been through anger management counseling and promised to change, she and the boys returned home. Things went very well for a few months and they even found happiness as a family for awhile. Inevitably, the abuse continued and with it more isolation socially and financially. She didn't have access to her ID, green card or money and she couldn't drive. Just as she began to build a network of friends and mothers with similarly aged children, he moved them all to a city where she was isolated ever further.
The abuse continued and Shaneen did the best she could to protect and provide for her boys while enduring the tough nights with her husband. While the bruises were often hidden, there became more frequent occasions when they were not. Shaneen was terrified of being a single mother to her four boys and with no identification or financial resources she didn't seem to have much choice. That all changed, however, when she walked in on her husband harming one of her sons. This occurred on a Friday and when he left on Monday morning, she left with her boys. It has only been one month since Shaneen and her children set out on their own. In that time she has found shelter, got her boys into counseling and worked with the authorities to protect her family and prosecute their abuser. Shaneen says that they still have a very long way to go but she is nothing short of a survivor.