"Shaylin held me as if I was the child," Shawnda said. "She knew I didn't remember the birth of her, nor remember those videos of her being so young."
When Shaylin was in the second grade, she wrote in class that when she grew up, she wanted to find a cure for multiple sclerosis.
Helping Shawnda was a mother's impulse, Marsha said, but part of that was born of a burning need for Marsha to redeem herself to her daughter.
When Shawnda was 8, years after her biological father had disappeared, Marsha was in an abusive relationship. Her mother, Shawnda's grandmother, decided to take Shawnda, and Marsha relented. But Shawnda's troubles didn't end there.
"She would beat her," Marsha said. "Mom was cleaning the commode one time and made her eat a rag she had cleaned the commode with. My mom was really an abusive person. I mean, she did it to me."
Shawnda, though, doesn't blame her mother and says she forgave her grandmother long before her death in 2009. Shawnda gave the eulogy at her grandmother's funeral.
"I think we're still very close, and I know that she'll help me in anything," Shawnda said of her mother. "And I'd do the same for her."
I told him I would like to stay b/c of Shaylin, her room, toys, etc., and maybe he could just find a place to stay for a while.
He didn't say anything.
— June 5, 2005
Shawnda was improving, but her marriage continued to struggle. Shawnda says her husband sometimes admitted that he had never loved her. In June 2005, Shawnda told him she wanted a separation. The following February, their divorce became final, and the house was sold.