A 23-year-old woman became a mum of seven almost overnight after her own mother tragically passed away days after falling ill.
Shannon Ellis is now the legal guardian for her brothers and sisters, in addition to caring for her own two young children.
She celebrates Mother’s Day today, not just with her own biological children but the five siblings she has bravely taken on responsibility for.
Shannon, from Hartlepool, lost her mum Shelley Ellis to a rare disease last January, just nine days after she was diagnosed.
She now lives with her expanded family and her partner Kieran Ferguson, and will today pay tribute to Shelley by visiting the tree where they spread her ashes.
“I always wanted to be a mum, but I never imagined I’d have to fill my own mum’s shoes and go from a mum-of-two to a mum-of-seven overnight,” she said.
“But I promised mum I’d look after my brother and sisters.
“She’d have hated to see them split up or in care, I never would have let that happen.
“We have our moments, but we’re still one big, happy family – just as mum wanted.”
The Ellis clan, who range from in age from two-year-old Rowan – Shannon’s youngest son – to 16-year-old Mia, her oldest sister, will also mark Mother’s Day by visiting the tree they spread Ms Ellis’s ashes.
For many years Shannon and Shelley were inseparable, as they grew up by themselves because her father was not on the scene.
Seven years later, Ms Ellis began a new family when Mia, Neve, Bracken, Keevie and Blaine were born.
Shannon said the family had a happy childhood.
“Mum was just brilliant,” she said. “She did everything to provide for us – despite being a single parent and raising us all on her own.
“She’d take us on family trips to the seaside and would muck in with us playing games.
“On a Saturday night she’d always rustle up a huge home-cooked feast.
“We had an amazing childhood and always felt very loved and protected by her.”
When Shannon began her own family with Kieran, she moved just around the corner to stay close to her mum and younger siblings.
She would also help out as the oldest child, getting her younger brothers and sisters ready for school along with her hard-working mum.
“”Not a day went by where I wouldn’t see my mum,” she remembered.
“She helped look after the boys if we were busy and taught me the tricks of the trade.
“She was besotted with her grandchildren, the same look I’d seen when my siblings were born all those years earlier, and I was so happy to have her help throughout their early years.
“I always thought she’d be there for me to give me guidance and to watch her children and grandchildren grow up.”
But tragedy struck in January last year when Shelley was rushed to hospital after being taken suddenly ill.
Doctors discovered she had a rare disease and sadly would not live much longer.
Despite her trauma, Shannon promised her mum she would look after her younger siblings herself.
Just nine days after falling ill, Shelley passed away, leaving Shannon bereft but determined to keep her promise.
“When she passed away, it didn’t hit me straight away. I just felt numb,” she said.
“But the one thing that kept me going was my brother and sisters and my own boys. I knew I had to get up each day to be there for them and to look after them.
“I can’t believe how strong my brother and sisters have been. They are coping really well and I’m really proud.
“We talk about mum all the time and constantly get photos out and laugh about the joy she brought to our family.
“She will always be the head of this family, and I am trying every day to follow the incredible example of motherhood she set.”