Always find joy in the Journee
It was summer of ’08, I was 17 and I finally ended a unhealthy relationship. I went to South Dakota to clear my head and I met a guy, Dan Menk. He was the driver of 19M, 10 years older than me, and he had just ended his marriage. He has a daughter, Lauryn, that just turned 1. After talking, hanging out, etc., he asked me to be his girlfriend on Feb. 1st, ’09. Everything was going better than expected and we were just happy.
That summer, I started to have some medical problems and I got diagnosed with epilepsy. He was there for everything and kept telling me “you got this babe!”
I was determined to go to college and get a degree. I moved to college in August, but my epilepsy took a turn in February ’10 and had to drop out. All the seizures I was having, I lost my license and couldn’t live alone. Dan insisted I move in with him and he would take care of me. He knew it wasn’t going to be easy but was set on giving me the care I needed.
Life was just “happy”. I remember asking Dan, “Would you ever get married again!?” And his response, “NEVER!” I left it at that and never asked again.
Now is when I started having stomach issues. I was diagnosed w/ IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). It wasn’t something that was just going to go away so started doctoring weekly. After many procedures, medications, etc., the doctors came to a conclusion that I needed a colectomy done. I was afraid, anxious, but said “if that’s what it takes, do it!”
On Jan. 30th, ’14, I had my surgery done. They took my whole large intestines. The doctors said it is usually a few days in the hospital and should be back to work after a couple weeks.
The surgery went great! Everything went as expected. But, the next day, my health took a turn for the worse. I was gone! I got put on life support, but my “Journee” wasn’t over! I was a fighter! I was weak but I wasn’t going to give up that easy. After a few days, I told my doctors “something just doesn’t feel right.” I was right. They found a cyst in my stomach. They did a procedure, got the cyst out, and I was then, again, put on life support. But, remember, I’m a fighter! I came back to life stronger than ever! During my whole “Journee” in the hospital, not only was my family always there but Dan and Lauryn as well! Everyone was there fighting w/ me. I kept reminding myself how lucky I am to be surrounded by my loved ones.
On Feb. 28th, 29 days later, I was finally on my way home!
Few years go by and we again got devastating news. Dan’s best friend and role model, his mom Becky, lost her battle to cancer. Her “Journee” came to an end but not without a fight. She will always be the strongest woman I ever met! Dan and I stuck together. We were determined to get thru the good times and the bad!
Things were finally looking up for us when we got good news in Sep. ’17. Our dream house in Franklin was coming up for sale! We started packing little by little and had a serious talk about starting a family. This new house was perfect to start our “Journee” as a family of 4!
On Nov. 17th, ’17, we moved into our forever home!
We were trying for a baby. We knew this was our only chance to have one. My health isn’t good, let alone for a baby. But we were determined and I’m a fighter, right!? The doctors reminded us it wasn’t going to be easy, not only to get pregnant but on the baby and my body as well!
We got settled into the new house and we were just “content” and everything just felt right! This newly remodeled home was just made for us!
On Feb. 1st, ’18, (our 9-year anniversary) I was having some stomach issues and figured I’d better go in and get it checked out. I went in and had some tests done. Come to find out, I was PREGNANT! I was beyond ecstatic! Finally, our life was going somewhere, right!? But wrong. 5 minutes after I found out I was expecting, I got a phone call in the doctors’ room, my grandma had just passed away! I went from being on cloud nine to an emotional wreck. Why!? Why does this keep happening to not only me, but us/my family!
I went to meet Dan, where he was having lunch to give him the good and bad news. I was an emotional wreck, but he needed to know. I remember getting out of the car and running to squeeze him! “Babe, I’m pregnant! You’re going to be a daddy!” He was crying tears of joy!… “But my grandma just passed away!” He just comforted me and took the rest of the day off to spend with me.
During my pregnancy, I was really starting to worry. Is my body ok for our growing baby? This is all I ever wanted for us and it’s happening! During my pregnancy, my body wasn’t reacting well to my hormones or Kicker (we called the baby Kicker because we weren’t finding out the gender). I had 3 seizures while pregnant and doctors were hoping Kicker was getting enough nutrients because of my colectomy. But Kicker was a fighter like its mommy! It was doing great and impressing all the doctors! My seizures seemed to not affect the baby at all. As a mom and caring your unborn child, all you ever want is for it to be OK and healthy! I had double the amount of appointments, procedures, etc., but that didn’t stop Dan from coming to every single one! He was more than just Kicker’s dad; he was my best friend and my love! He made time for me and his unborn child and that right there is true love!
The doctors were in awe how well Kicker and mommy were doing so they decided not to induce me early UNLESS something wasn’t right w/ me or Kicker.
On Sept, 25th ’18, it was a Tuesday, and I was 39 weeks and 2 days along. I was feeling incredible, Kicker was moving, and it just felt right! I went to work that morning and left early for my appointment. Dan was busy at work (he is a farmer, so harvest was in full swing) and I told him “I’m fine, just stay at work!” He knew baby was coming soon and reassured me that he would take off work. “No, no. Stay! It won’t take long.” I left work and headed to my doctor’s appointment. My adrenaline was in full swing! Is today the day? How far am I dilated? I pull in, do blood work, and wait for my doctor. I was only dilated to a 1. I told the doctor “Everything seems to be going great and I feel terrific!” He puts the baby Doppler on my stomach to hear Kicker. And nothing. “Oh, Kicker must have turned to its back”. He went and grabbed the portable ultrasound. Starts going everywhere on my stomach and still nothing, literally NOTHING! My heart is racing and I’m starting to panic and cry! Doctor tells me, “Just stay calm. We are going to run to radiology!” His eyes were in terror. I’m crying hysterically, running with the doctor, doorway after doorway, hallway after hallway, exit after exit! I’m a hot mess! What’s going on!? What is happening!? What do I do!? The ultrasound tech hooked me up and the doctor found Kicker instantly. But… no heartbeat! “I’m sorry, your baby is gone!”
NO, NO, NO! WHAT!? HOW!? YOUR MACHINE IS WRONG! LOOK AGAIN! PLEASE, SAVE MY BABY!!!
I call Dan as I’m full of tears, bawling! He answers, “Hey babe, how’s it going!” I couldn’t talk. How am I supposed to tell him I lost our child!? Our kicker is gone! He is going to hate me FOREVER! I was crying, literally hyperventilating. He knew by the cry something was wrong, something was terribly wrong! All I said was, “Please… come… and HURRY!” Just me, doctor, and the tech in the room; crying, sobbing, weeping!
Dan gets there in 15 minutes. He runs to me and we just hug, cry, and share our love for each other. Minutes after minutes go by in silent, only cries can be heard. After an hour, we went back to the doctors’ room. What do we do? How does this happen? Where do we go from here? We sat with the doctor and he tells us all our options. This wasn’t in the plan. We were ready for Kicker to be in our arms, hearing it cry, bringing it home, and being a happy family of 4. Clothes, rocker, crib, carrier, everything! I had everything ready for our bundle of joy! We were going to be parents, together!
Instead of planning to be parents to our newborn, we had to plan our still birth and the funeral. I was weak. Weaker than ever! Life is horrible, my life to be exact. What the hell did I/we do to deserve this kind of outcome!? We left the hospital hand in hand. As we left together, we knew we had to call our families and tell them the devastating news! We were horrified and didn’t even know where to start. We knew we had to stay strong not only for Kicker but for us and our families as well. We get home and our families arrive shortly after. In shock, full of tears and sadness! Telling Lauryn though, soon to be big sister, was SO heartbreaking! She was devastated and was internally destroyed. Weren’t we all!
We scheduled to deliver Kicker that Friday (yes, 3 days later!). Those were the longest, most emotionally draining 3 days of our lives! We didn’t know what to do yet where to start. We read books the doctor gave us, and they were a life saver! From planning our delivery options, naming our child, setting up funeral services, having a photographer that would be willing to capture those moments with a stillborn, informing our distant families, and so on. We were beyond exhausted and fatigued but we knew it wasn’t going to get any easier any time soon as our baby still needed to be delivered.
We left Thursday night to the hospital and our families joined. How was I going to deliver my baby? I’m not strong enough for this! I’m a horrible mom already! I wanted a “C” section, but I had a 5% chance of surviving due to my colectomy. Wait, what!? Dan told me, “I just lost my child, I can’t lose you as well! You can do it babe. I believe in you!” I had no other option but to deliver my first born. I didn’t know how I was going to find the strength to do this but I had no other choice. They induced me Thursday night and Kicker was soon to arrive.
Friday morning, I wake up and they started labor. Within 5 minutes, I was having contractions. It was real! We were having a baby! The doctors wanted to start the epidural, but I said no. I insisted I wanted to feel the pain. I was still a mom! I carried our baby THIS long and I want to embrace these moments of motherhood! The contractions are strong, harsh, awful, horrific, unbearable but yet a feeling of satisfaction and comfort as my body was preparing to deliver my first child! It was 9:00 am and I was in full labor. The pain was excruciating so they started the epidural. The doctor soon arrived and checked me. I was a 10! Time to deliver! It’s time! I was panicking, crying! We were going to be a family of 4! We were going to be first time parents! It’s finally time to meet our Kicker! I wasn’t even pushing yet but Kicker was ready to meet his mommy, daddy, and big sister! Dan looks at me, eye to eye, during delivery and says, “You are the strongest woman I have ever met! I love you SO much!” That instantly gave me the strength I needed to overcome this obstacle I was about to tackle! I push 3 times and Kicker was born! We cried, kissed, and embraced in the moments of love! Lauryn announced in the room with all our family watching, “It’s a BOY!”
Journee William Menk was born on September 28th, 2018 at 9:37am. 7lbs and 1 ounce. 22 inches long! He was absolutely perfect!
All we did was love our sweet angel! We did what any parents would to do their born child; Dan put him in his “little brother” outfit, we took TONS of pictures, gave him a haircut, had a bath, took his hand and foot prints, and we all held him and loved him all day! That day was the most beautiful experience of my life! I’ll forever be grateful and cherish the day I became a mom! We were a family of 4 and nothing will ever change that! We couldn’t be happier and were proud of our son, Journee!
We had the local funeral home come to the hospital. He took Journee so we could head home. I was released that night and we headed home.
Later that night at home, the funeral home showed up at our house with our baby boy, Journee! Mommy and daddy showed him around his home and took him to his room. We rocked him in his rocking chair and mommy read him his first book. Without reading those books for the doctor, we would have never known we could bring our baby home! Dan and I were at peace knowing he got to come home, see his room that we put together, and be together as a family!
On Sunday, we had a gathering for Journee at the cemetery. He was buried by Dan’s mom. All our family and friends showed up and we were just blessed! Journee was loved by so many and will forever be loved by all! He was truly a miracle I’ll forever cherish! As his headstone states “A moment in our arms, forever in our hearts!”
With all the love and support (all the extra hugs), my milk was starting to come in and reality hit. Yes, I am a mom and I did just have a baby! I had to start pumping or I would have gotten an infection. After the first-time pumping, I just had a feeling that I should be doing this! It just felt “Right”! So, I decided to start pumping and would eventually donate all my milk to the Children’s Hospital! It wasn’t easy by any means but the feeling of accomplishment and the satisfaction knowing you are helping save another baby was worth it in the end! An ounce a day will keep a preemie a live a day! If I can keep a family from going thru what we just went thru, it would mean the world to me! I donated a total of 247 ounces of milk; that’s 247 preemies lives! If it wasn’t for Journee, I would have never been given the opportunity to give the gift of milk.
Journee has brought SO much warmth, triumph, and strength to our lives. He has taught us that sometimes, in life, that things just don’t go as planned. But if you stick together, you can get thru anything and everything. Remember, “Always find joy in the Journee!”
Love, my family of 4,
Dan Menk, Tasha Zieske, Lauryn Menk, and our angel Journee!