It’s like a scene out of a romantic comedy: Boy spots girl at a party and falls for her instantly. She’s standing with a mutual friend, whom he had just been catching up with a few minutes prior. He feels compelled to talk to her but wants to be smooth.
So he approaches, pretending to have just noticed his friend, and launches into the same conversation they’d already had—he couldn’t think of a better excuse to introduce himself to the blonde who had captivated him.
It works. She quickly ditches her summertime boyfriend, and they live happily ever after.
In this story, the she is Sheleena Doney. He is NBC 5 sports anchor Pat Doney. Their meet-cute took place during their days at Liberty University; they married shortly after graduation.
Daughter Barlow, now 7, was born while Pat was anchoring sports at a station in Louisville, Kentucky. Son Hudson, 4 ½, arrived after Pat’s career took the Doneys to Dallas-Fort Worth. Visiting with Sheleena at their home in North Richland Hills, it’s easy to see why Pat adored her right away.
Tell me about your first date with Pat. He called me the day after we met. He was like, “I want to take you out, whatever night. But can you pick me up?” I had a car at school, and he didn’t. So he thought, She’s going to pick me up and then I’ll drive.
Well, I pick him up, and I had a stick shift, and he didn’t know how to drive it. So we spent the whole sophomore year with me driving everywhere. I give him a hard time about it now.
How has parenthood changed your relationship? I always tell people when they get married, “Wait [to have children] if you can, a few years, because your life totally changes.” In a good way, but it definitely changes. Before, Pat and I used to watch a lot of TV together, and now we choose our time differently.
In what way? Last night, he was home, and we just talked because we have such limited time. I feel like we kind of pass each other a lot because we’re tag-teaming with the kids. If we’re going to get a babysitter, I want to go out to dinner or go do something; I don’t want to sit in front of a TV.
Things like that have definitely changed, but parenthood has also changed my love for him. Watching him with the kids—I mean, he’s the best. He’s so hands-on.
You’re a bookkeeper and a Stitch Fix stylist now, but you took a few years off work after becoming a mom. What was that stay-at-home experience like? We moved here in April 2013, and I joined a moms group that wasn’t going to start until September. The summer was rough with a 4-month-old; Pat was working, and we had one car at the time.
So when he went to work, I was just hanging out at home with the baby. I was desperate for friends. I was like, “I have to get out of the house. All we do is walk to the park and nap.” The moms group was the biggest blessing. All the people I met, they are still my best friends here.
Hudson is adopted. Is adoption something that always interested you? I’ve wanted to adopt since I was probably in middle school. There was a family at our church who adopted, and it kind of just always stuck with me.
So when things were getting serious with Pat, I was like, “I just really want to adopt, and I don’t know if that’s something you’ve ever thought about.” It was not on his radar at all. But being the reporter that he is, he did his research on adoption and he was all on board.
What was it like to see Hudson for the first time? We got a phone call on a Saturday morning, and they were like, “We had a baby born last night. Can you come to the hospital?” No notice. So we packed up and went to the hospital.
We saw him about 20 hours after he was born. It’s hard to explain; you walk in the nursery and there’s a baby there who a minute ago wasn’t yours, and then he’s yours. It was very emotional. You’re like, “Wait, I didn’t even know about you three hours ago, and now I’m holding you and you are my son.”
When did you realize Hudson was different than Barlow in terms of his development? I remember going to his well visit when he was 6 months old and saying, “I think he’s a little behind.” When you’re a mom, you hold your kid on your side and they hold their head up. Other babies the same age could do it, but Hudson wasn’t holding his head up. I was like, “Why?”
The pediatrician thought he should start physical therapy, and the physical therapist said, “You do the therapy, and if it doesn’t work, go see a neurologist.” I’m like, “No, I want to go see a neurologist now.” I don’t do well with lingering waiting.
So we went to a neurologist to present our concerns and ask her to order an MRI. She looked at Hudson a bit and said, “I can tell you right now he has cerebral palsy.” The technical term for his brain malformation is schizencephaly. It is like the second most rare brain disorder there is. That caused his cerebral palsy.
How did you react to his diagnosis? Pat and I got in the car and looked at each other and started crying. It was just so sudden. Then, about a week later, we did the MRI and got the actual results. It was shocking. I mean, seeing the pictures and seeing what’s missing. He is probably missing about 30% of his brain.
How did you learn to meet his needs while also meeting the needs of Barlow? It definitely took a while, because there was a really big grieving part where I was probably not the best mom to Barlow and him—but honestly, thank God for Barlow. She is the best with him.
She already is like, “Can I put his medicine in?” She wants to help. Every night she prays for him. “God, please be with my brother. His arms and legs don’t work very well.” She has a good heart. That’s made it easier.
We also do one-on-one things. I try to be very present. I’m room mom at her school. I want her to see me doing those things, knowing she is important.
What does your family do for fun? I started running last year, and I enjoy that. I started pushing Hudson in 5Ks. He’s on a racing team, Team Hoyt. That’s been fun, and it’s a stress reliever.
Barlow plays tennis; Pat plays a little, and they’ll ride their bikes to the park and play on the tennis courts. Barlow enjoys that, and she does gymnastics.
Is it important, as a mother, to take time for yourself? Yes. I just feel like it makes you a better mom. If I’m constantly working and doing for everyone else, it kind of drains me. So on a Saturday morning, I’ll say, “I’m going to Target.” Pat will say, “Oh, you want to take Barlow?” I’m like, “No, I want to go to Target by myself. I need to get some groceries, but I also want to walk around and do nothing.”
Tell me what you see for your family’s future. I don’t even know what I’m doing tomorrow, so thinking about the future is like, aagh! But I want to travel and enjoy things with them. I obviously see us staying here.
I always tell my daughter she’s never allowed to move out of Texas. She’s already saying, “I’m going to get married and leave you.” I’m like, “Stop. I don’t want to talk about this.” I think Hudson’s diagnosis has made us super close. We call ourselves the four musketeers. I don’t ever want them to leave, but no, I do. I want Barlow to grow up, get married and have babies, but live close to me.
Lives in North Richland Hills
Hails from Virginia Beach, Virginia
Significant other Husband Pat, NBC 5 sports anchor
Offspring Daughter Barlow, 7, and son Hudson, 4
Alma mater Liberty University, where she earned a degree in business
Profession Bookkeeper for a CPA (primarily from home except during tax season), Stitch Fix stylist
Dream job as a kid Firefighter (“I have no idea where that came from, and I definitely would not be cut out for that job now!”)
Hobbies Reading, running
Photo courtesy of Nick Prendergast.