As an ambitious young woman in love with a high-spirited New Yorker, Doreen Sternkopf pictured the happy life ahead: marriage, children, a home full of laughter and music. But the realities of motherhood rarely meet the expectations of the uninitiated.
“Living so far away from family is hard,” explains Doreen. With her extended family in Zambia and her in-laws in New York, she dedicates her life to caring for her two young children in Parker, Colorado.
Ivwa, the eldest, is a gifted student. She excels at ballet, sings in the Young Voices of Colorado, plays chess, writes poetry, and has a great many friends.
Yande, the youngest, is a quiet soul. As a baby, he suffered frequent, debilitating seizures. After years of tests, treatments, surgeries and agonizing research, the seizures are under control, but Yande’s condition has never been identified. He cannot run, play or talk, and has limited control over his body. He has a feeding tube, that attaches directly to his stomach, and a wheelchair.
Yande smiles when listening to music and laughs at his sister talking in funny voices, revealing a sweet and happy personality. It is these small things that fill Doreen’s heart with joy.
“The stress piles up, but I don’t worry,” she says softly. “At the end of each day, I submit to the Lord. Also, it helps to have an understanding husband.”
Doreen turns as Ivwa clatters into the house, grabs her cycle helmet and darts out again. Yande relaxes peacefully on the couch.
“I love motherhood! I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”
On a sunny Memorial Day nine years ago, Sheyna and James Marshall, and their three small children, were waiting at a red light in their Oldsmobile. Little Makenna was two years old, Justin was five and big brother Christian was almost seven.
Suddenly, a teenaged driver, racing his friend, lost control and violently smashed into the Oldsmobile, flipping both cars. As the Marshall family helplessly spun upside down in the road, another street-racing youth plowed into them.
Makenna suffered broken legs, and Justin was critically injured, with gasoline burns, a broken leg and a crushed skull, requiring numerous surgeries. He was in a coma for months. Sheyna’s “beautiful boy,” Christian, was killed instantly.
Sheyna helped Justin slowly learn to function with brain damage, a paralyzed left arm and an impaired leg. She nursed her daughter back to health and was blessed with another baby girl, Brooklyn. The military family was transferred from Washington, D.C. to San Antonio and on to Colorado Springs, where Sheyna continued to raise her three happy, resilient kids.
In 2010, Sheyna put her immense courage, strength and fiercely protective instincts to good use, serving her community as a police officer in Fountain, Colorado. She also volunteers with Drive Smart Colorado, educating high school students about the devastating consequences of speeding and distracted driving. She introduces Christian through videos and stories, so he can inspire the teens to drive responsibly.
Two years ago, the American Mothers organization named Sheyna the Colorado Young Mother of the Year, in recognition of her dedication to saving lives. Her advice to new moms:
“There will be some very good times and some very low times, but ultimately it’s a beautiful ride.”