We were asked by a friend of our birth photographer if we were interested in sharing our story in a magazine. Kimberly Whitaker-Enderle, owner and editor of Peekaboo magazine in Northwest Arkansas messaged me and told me about the February birthday issue. I thought it sounded awesome to be able to share our story to even more people, so I started writing. Of course the writing brought the emotions and tears. It was so lovely to be able to share both my happiness and heartache to anyone who was interested to read. You can read the full story that was published here.
Along with my own story, I got to read and share the stories of not only Joel and Shannon, but also Joel’s best friend, Thomas. They all wrote a special little story and letter to me and I will always hold these words so near and dear to my heart. Since they had to be shortened for the article, I wanted to share them in their entirety here so I have them to look back on any time…
I know that you are getting back to your old routine with some added pumping time ;). So I wanted to send as short of a message as possible and hope that my crybaby babble comes across as coherent words of praise and thanks. Joel and I, as you know, have been on this journey to build a family and it did start to wear on us. There were times of doubt and times of deep sorrow that made us want to just throw in the towel and say ‘it just wasn’t meant to be’. Somehow we dusted off our tattered jeans and stitched together our broken hearts and continued to search for the beautiful soul (that we knew was out there) that would help us accomplish our dreams of becoming parents. Somehow through all of the ups and downs fate was on our side. That one in a million beautiful giving soul was placed in our path and all we had to do was take that leap, we found you Charlise. Words really cannot describe how you have made us feel… you are a beautiful soul with such a big heart. You are that silver lining, that ray of sunshine in our family journey. Every time I look at our precious baby girl, Laken, I think of you and how you made this possible. We are tremendously blessed to have you in our lives. From the deepest parts of my heart and soul I want to thank you for giving us the best gift ‘our baby girl’!
With oceans of love and gratitude,
Shannon and Joel”
“At the age of 35 I knew without a doubt in my mind that I wanted to be a father. Coming from a family of seven, I knew the endless joys/happiness that parenthood would bring to me and my partner. I suppose for most couples this goal would seem pretty realistic and easy, however, for me and Shannon it was anything but easy because we’re gay. Regardless of all the adversities that lay ahead of us, in 2007 Shannon and I decided to pursue our dream of becoming parents. However, in November, 2012, our journey came to an end after two heartbreaking “missed” miscarriages. At the time we couldn’t have asked for a better surrogate, however, due to the two heartbreaking miscarriages we decided to no longer pursue our journey. About a year later after doing some deeper soul-searching Shannon and I decided to resurrect our journey without telling any of our family members or friends. In August, 2013, we had the pleasure/honor of meeting and speaking with a real-life angel named Charlise Grisham. As luck would have it, our timing was off seeing how we had just signed a contract with a different surrogate who didn’t measure up anywhere close to her. Charlise was definitely heaven sent and a blessing from god so we decided to ask her right then and there if it would be okay to call her back in the event that it didn’t work out with the other surrogate; she said absolutely Towards the end of August, our journey was once again put on-hold. On August 20th, 2013, my 1st partner’s son, Adam, had passed away at the age of 28. My beautiful little boy Adam was the closest thing that I had ever known to a son therefore his loss was extremely painful/heartbreaking to both of us. Despite all of these heartbreaks about a year later Shannon and I decided to give it one last try. We contacted Charlise and 16 months later on January 9th, 2016 at 2:03 am she gave birth to our beautiful little daughter Laken. Some stories do have happy endings We’re now living the “modern” family that we were so desperately seeking, and instead of sad tears we now cry happy tears! Charlise, words cannot fully express how eternally grateful we are for the ultimate and priceless gift that you’ve given us. Where there was once darkness/sadness in our hearts there is now light/joy; our lives would truly be incomplete without you!”
“I am Thomas Davis. I have been friends with Joel for almost 30 years. When Shannon & he made the decision that they wanted to be parents, I journeyed with them in their six years of excitement and sorrow. Because of the sorrow, they silenced there communication and planning with my husband and I.
“I will never forget the morning of June 26, 2015: SCOTUS had just approved gay marriages for the U.S. Joel called me to share this historical timeline we were experiencing. It was at that moment when he said, “We have found a new surrogate and she is almost at the end of her 1st trimester.” They would be parents in late December. It was at this time he reminded me that Ambioris & I would be godparents, a position that we accepted and have been honored to hold.
“The joy and excitement for the next 6 months was filled with will it be a boy or girl, having baby showers, the name assignment, Shannon showing his decorating skills/born to be super dad and will she be born on my birthday Jan. 6. Joel & I have traveled domestically/internationally, worked together, partied together, lived together and I have seen him at his happiest. On Jan. 9, 2016, a bar was raised to height of happiness I have never experienced for Joel. His True North Laken has breathed happiness into Joel like I have never seen. My husband Ambioris & I are happy to be a part of this truly modern family.”
I am so thankful to be a part of such a huge group of outstanding people. The friends and family of Joel and Shannon are so loving and welcoming. It’s really what’s made this journey the most amazing that it could be. I can’t wait to do it again!