Grammar, Punctuation, Spelling, & Misuse of words

Grammar, Punctuation, Spelling, & Misuse of words

May be emailed to: hopealyssabryley@yahoo.com

Reading tip: When you get to what looks like the end at the bottom of the page, you’ll have to click on the view “older posts” button to view the next chapters.

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Table of contents

Table of Contents

Disclaimer

Special Thanks

Introduction

 

Chapter 1: My first night at Riches Ravine

Chapter 2: Mitchell

Chapter 3: Wedding Day

Chapter 4: Medical tragedy and a wreck

Chapter 5: Hard times and a dream come true

Chapter 6: Spending time with Mama

Chapter 7: The yellow folder

Chapter 8: I’m in love with someone I’ve never met

Chapter 9: The day my identity changed

Chapter 10: Excitement to fear

Chapter 11: Colorado

Chapter 12: The night that changed my life infinitely

Chapter 13: I am a single mom

Chapter 14: Icy Roads

Chapter 15: Blue drapes and a gas mask

Chapter 16: Going home

Chapter 17: Disarticulation

Chapter 18: Sealing our fate forever and moving forward

Chapter 19: A new dawn

Chapter 20: Miracles in the making

Chapter 21: Questions and learning thew truth

Chapter 22: Life keeps moving

Epilogue

DISCLAIMER

DISCLAIMER some material may not be suitable for children. May contain strong language and sexual content. Some names have been changed to protect the writer legally and to protect the subject’s identity in some cases. If you know the actual names, please DO NOT comment them publicly.

Special Thanks

Mitchell– Without you, I wouldn’t have this incredible girl.

Aunt Deedee– Standing by me through the good and hard times, being my example of what a phenomenal mother looks like. “Every day you save my life.”.

My Family– for loving us and never quitting on me though I disappointed you many times. I love you all.

Beth– my best friend, my rock and my diary. Thank you for reminding me that it is darkest before the dawn. Thank you for encouraging me to write this story and helping me make it available for others to read.

Kevin– you are the epitome of a husband and daddy. I am so grateful god gave us you. I wouldn’t want to do this life beside anyone else.

Kevin’s family– for loving Hope and I as your own from the start.

Johnnie– Just for being who you are. You’ve become a very close friend to me. Your love for Hope is incredible.

Introduction

Perhaps you are in the midst of a journey you never could have prepared for or maybe you are about to embark on the wildest ride of your life and you still don’t know. My wish is to inspire you, to expose the raw, real, stripped away heart inside my chest and to share with you Hope.

My name is Stormi Boland on October 26th 2006 my world was shattered, flipped upside down, and was given purpose. I gave birth to my first child, a baby girl I named ‘Hope’ long before I knew she would inspire it. This is my journey, Hope’s journey in my words. These are my inner most thoughts and the way I have felt in every moment along the way.

My First Night at Riches Ravine

Every story has its beginning…On October 4th, 2004 I was 19 years old and had just started a brand new job as a gaming clerk at Riches Ravine Casino in Davis, Oklahoma. As I walked in the atmosphere smelled of cigarettes, the smoke so thick it made my eyes burn; the machines were so loud- sounds of reels spinning, coins clanking, a plethora of cartoon and childlike music.  I was wearing black slacks with a white collared shirt, my face absent of make-up, my long brown hair pulled up into a pony tail. My training began at 1500 hours. I was paired with a lady named Suzanne she had a distinctive laugh and shoulder length flowy white hair. Suzanne spent several hours showing me how to enter customer information into the computer, then how to print player’s cards and prompting customers to choose a personal identification number. Around 1945 hours a tall slender figure sprinted faster than what seemed humanly possible in front of the desk where Suzanne and I were sitting. I’m not even sure I caught a glimpse, fire ignited immediately inside of my soul. Without thought the words “who the hell was that!?” darted from my lips. Suzanne replied, “That is our MOD (manager on duty) Mitchell.” I regained my composure and to keep from sounding like a fool I simply said, “Oh, okay.”

Mitchell

I didn’t know anything about him, only that his first name was Mitchell. Within a few weeks I learned that his last name was Smith. The next 51 days raced yet crawled by all at the same time.

I worked on the floor bringing customers non-alcoholic drinks, emptying trash bins, and dumping ashtrays for about a week. I loved being near the MOD’s as they communicated with the other MOD’s via hand held radios. I would smile inwardly when I would hear Mitchell respond to his peers with a “10-4 good buddy” or “Okie dokie artichokie ” it was music to my ears! My third week I was moved to the concession stand as a cashier.

I remember the first time Mitchell spoke to me ‘outside of a simple hello’ he walked to the end of the counter and said, “Can you make me a coffee?” I replied, “Sure.” He said, “Half water and half coffee.” The 30 seconds I spent making that Styrofoam cup of coffee, I must have said silently “Coffee, water.” fifteen or more times. I turned around to hand him the cup and time stood still. He said, “Thank you.” I looked up into his piercing blue eyes and I saw so much farther then I can adequately describe; you see… I saw into his soul.

Without seeming obvious, I studied him. His dirty blonde hair was firm with hairspray, neatly combed back, and he had deep dimples in his cheeks when he smiled. He was wearing black slacks, a white long sleeved button up shirt, a dark colored tie, and black dress shoes. I inhaled. He smelled amazing, inviting even. I quickly exhaled and said, “You’re welcome”. He walked away. That was the moment my mind and heart decided it would anticipate seeing him and smelling his cologne every minute of every day.

I was completely captivated. I would wish away my days off. I could not get enough. He was intoxicating. I couldn’t wait to work with him. While working the concession stand I had my own hand held radio, I would hear his voice regularly. Those brief moments he would key up to speak to his peers became my heaven. He began stopping and asking for coffee more frequently. The brief moments he stood in my area, I could not concentrate and my hands refused to cooperate! I spilled an entire bucket of ice on the floor, and nacho cheese all over the counter. I would overfill Styrofoam cups with coffee or cappuccinos burning my hands.

One night I remember clearly, I was preparing mop water when the faucet in the mop sink stopped working. I grabbed the hand held and asked for a manager to assist me. Mitchell walked up and went into the mop supply closet. He began turning the knobs on the sink when all at once there was a loud POP! Water was spraying ALL over the closet and Mitchell stood there fighting it as though it were an 8 ft bear. He was drenched, his undershirt visible underneath his white button up shirt, hair dripping with water. He looked at me laughing and said, “I normally take my showers at home before work”. A serious look washed across his face as he said, “You really should let me take you out after what I’ve put myself through tonight.”. I couldn’t speak immediately. I thought to myself, “Take me out… like a date? I don’t know HOW to date?!?” I responded, “I can’t… my mom is expecting me home after work.”

Over the course of the next week, occasionally while walking down the hidden hallway to the break room I would smell his cologne. I remember thinking, “Mitchell has been here.”. We never had breaks at the same time.  One evening after requesting his usual cup of watered down coffee he sat down on the left side of a rectangle shaped, wooden table in a metal chair.  An ashtray was upside down in the center of the table, his coffee directly in front of him, steam drifting from the top.  Mitchell looked straight at me and said “So when are you going to let me take you out?”. I was once again breathless, and without words.  I bumped a cupful of disposable knives with my arm that were sitting on the counter top.  The cup fell toward the table where he sat.  “You’re throwing knives at me now?” He chuckled. He stood and began picking up the knives. My cheeks were rosy, and warm. I was embarrassed.  I walked around the counter, and knelt down to help pick up the knives. I looked him dead in the eye and quietly said “Sorry”.  We gathered all of the knives and discarded them.  I walked behind the counter and he stood in front of me, the counter between us.  As a female coworker walked up behind him, he looked at me. He asked “How old do you think I am anyways?”. Behind him, Kendall held up three fingers on her right hand and five on her left.  I responded “I don’t think, I know…  You are 35.”. On my own I would’ve guessed him in his mid to late twenties.  He walked away.

I thought to myself “15 years older, he’s way out of my league, I graduated high school six months ago, I have very little life experience, I am 19 there’s no way he would be interested in someone like me”.  I didn’t care that it may never go anywhere; I didn’t know where it was going.  All I knew was his smile was as bright as the sun, his laugh contagious, he was the most beautiful soul I’d ever laid eyes on, and I could not be in his presence enough.

November 30, 2004 the air was crisp and it was cold, I wore a jacket over my white collared shirt into work that evening.

At 2000 hours, Mitchell came to concession and said “You have a phone message, your mom wants you to rent her a room next door or something like that.” About 15 minutes later, during my next break I called my mom. She said “You get half price rooms at the hotel next door to the casino right?” I said “Yes.” Then she said “Stormi, the roads are icing over.  I really don’t want you trying to drive home, would you please use some of your tips and stay in a room there tonight?” I said “OK” and hung up the phone.  I returned to the concession. Mitchell walked up and without thinking I said “You were wrong, my mom didn’t want a room for her, she wanted me to stay because of the roads.” He said “Oh, I have a room over there tonight too.  I’m sorry I couldn’t hear her very well.” I said “Okay.” Then he swiped his key fob, opened the heavy wooden door leading to the break room hallway and exited the concession area.  I continued with my duties in the concession.  I remember thinking “I don’t believe that is the end of THAT.  What have I got myself into?” approximately 2215 HRS I heard the beep unlocking the wooden door to the hallway, I looked up to see Kendall and Mitchell standing at the end of the counter side by side.  Kendall’s eyes appeared to be glowing, they were a radiant green, her eye shadow sparkled. She smiled “Me, Chuck and Mitchell are going out after work.  You should come too.” I said “Where?” She replied “Silk’s”. I didn’t know what “Silk’s” was.  I said “I don’t have anything to wear.”. Mitchell piped up “I wear my work clothes every time I go out.” I said “OK, I’ll go.”. After they walked away, the next 40 minutes were torturous.  The following is the dialogue that took place inside of my nervous brain.  “Stormi, what have you got yourself into?  What excuse can you come up with?  None.  No excuses, you’ve exhausted them all.  You already said you would go.  Go.  Enjoy it, you never have to go again.  Wait.  What is “Silk’s ”?  A restaurant, a bar?  What if it is a bar?  I’ve never been to a bar.  Ready or not.  No backing out now.  Shift is over.  Time is up.”

Mitchell walked up to the concession counter and handed me a bank bag.  I gathered all of the bills and coins from the register and tucked them safely away in the bag.  My relief appeared with a bank bag, a manager beside her and began putting the money in the register to prepare for her shift.  I smiled, and said “Have a good night.”. I walked around the counter, with the bag clutched tightly in my hands.  Mitchell was on my left side and a security guard was on my right; we walked all the way to the vault.  I counted all of the money from my register, it was perfect, not a single penny short or long.

Kendall, Mitchell, and I walked north in the wide hallway that conjoined the hotel to the casino.  I approached the clerk at the counter.  I handed her my gaming license, $15.00 and told her I needed a room for the night.  The clerk handed me a card style room key and said “All the way to the third floor.” The three of us entered the elevator; Kendall reached over and pressed the button with the number three displayed.  The elevator dinged, the door slid open.  The three of us walked to find the numbered door to the room I had been assigned. I mentally noted that my room and Mitchell’s room were only separated by a single room in between.  He pushed his card into the slot above the handle of the door to his room, it beeped, the lights flickered green, he turned the handle and pushed the door open.  Kendall and I followed behind him.  Once inside the room Kendall said she was going to the restroom to clean up before Chuck arrived.

The next moments Mitchell and I shared were so pivotal.  Mitchell sat down in a chair leaving about five feet between him and a desk.  I stood leaning against the desk facing him.  His eyes met mine, and locked.  No verbal words were spoken in that moment.  I am unsure what was being said but, our hearts, our souls were communicating.  The eye contact between the two of us never broke.  He took both of my hands in his and gently pulled me to him.

Next he slid his hands up where one rested on either side of my face.  He pulled my face to his where our lips collided. Then he kissed me.  He didn’t just kiss my lips.  He kissed my soul, my heart, and my brain.  Every part of my being that could be kissed, was kissed without his lips ever abandoning mine.  This kiss was passionate, earth shattering, and soul awakening.  The kiss felt like it lasted hours, in reality the moment only lasted 60-120 seconds.  He and I withdrew at the same time, or gaze still unbroken.  He smiled, I smiled.

The moment that followed is where I had the clearest realization I had experienced in my entire life.  I realized I had inevitably, irrevocably, undoubtedly, 100% fallen completely in love with him.  I surrendered into whatever it was inside of me that kept me running, and making excuses.  I was his, and though he didn’t say it I knew he was mine.

He laughed, then referencing the tongue ring in my mouth said “You know you’re going to have to take that out, it is not allowed at work and now that I’m aware of it I would be required to write you up.” I looked at him and said “Okay.”

Just then there was a knock at the door.  Kendall walked out of the bathroom, and opened the door for Chuck.  The four of us were standing.  Mitchell spoke “Let’s go!” I followed Mitchell to his truck, a black 1985 Chevrolet S10.  We split at the bed of the truck, he walked around to the driver side, and I walked to the passenger side.  I opened the door and sat down inside.  As we drove eastbound on highway 7, I inquired “What is Silk’s?” he responded “It’s just a little beer bar.”. My mind began racing (a bar?  I’ve never been to a bar!  What is a bar like?  Keep calm Stormi, it is going to be okay.)

He turned the truck south bound onto highway 77, I cannot remember what we talked about as he drove, I only remember there was no awkward silence.  We arrived at a small white building on the east side of the road.  We parked behind the building in the dirt parking lot to the north of a large tree.  Mitchell enveloped my left hand in his right. As we walked I could hear the loud music resonating from the building.  I looked up at the building and noted that it looked like it was built out of cinder blocks.  We walked through the door.  Juanita the bar owner approached me within 60 seconds.  She wasn’t too much taller than I, her hair almost white pulled into a pony tail, her teeth were symmetrical and white.  She smiled “How old are you honey?” (“Oh no” I thought to myself, am I not supposed to be here?”) I looked at her and said “I am 19.” she responded “Okay, let me see your hand.” She pulled the cap off of a black sharpie marker and drew large black X on the back of my hand.

I remember the music being so loud that you had to yell very loud to be heard.  Cigarette smoke permeated the room.  Dark brown tall, slender glass bottles sat on the tables.  The back left corner of the room housed two green felt covered pool tables.  Directly to the south of the pool tables stood a solitary, silver pole bolted to the ceiling and the floor.  A tall, slender blonde lady wearing a brightly colored spaghetti strapped shirt, faded blue jeans, and a thong styled bright colored panty peeking out of the top of her jeans caressed, spun around, and danced with the pole.

Kendall, Chuck, Mitchell, and I walked over to a small table with two chairs on the north wall of the building.  I sat down in the chair on the west side of the table.  Mitchell drifted to the bar on the south wall of the room.  He returned with a can of Dr. Pepper in one hand and a brown glass bottle in the other.  He handed me the red can of Dr. Pepper, he took a drink out of the bottle then sat it down on the table in front of me.  Mitchell pulled quarters from his pocket; he stacked four of them on the side of the pool table closest to where I sat.  He walked back toward me, picked up a pack of cigarettes, pulled one from the pack and lit it.  He took another drink from his beer, and then a man who had been playing pool looked at him and said “You’re up.” Mitchell placed the quarters in a metal device on one side of the table; he pushed forcefully then pulled it back toward him.  He walked to the west end of the pool table, pulled a plastic triangle out and laid it on the table.  He arranged the cold, solid balls inside of the triangle.  Then used his fingers to push them all together tightly, lifted the triangle and returned it to the slot at the end of the table then stepped back.

As he shot pool, I visited with Kendall.  I can’t remember what we talked about.  I’m not sure I even made eye contact with her as we spoke.  I observed that Mitchell was shooting pool left handed (I am left handed).  I was mesmerized, I could not take my eyes off of him, and I must have traced his body from his hair to his shoes with my eyes hundreds of times.  The single thought my brain presented over and over was “He’s beautiful.”

While Mitchell’s opponent was taking his turn, Mitchell came and sat on my legs temporarily.  My stomach was in knots, I could smell his aroma stronger than I ever had before; I couldn’t breathe but, I was breathing.  Around 0155 hours we decided we were ready to leave.  We got in his truck the same way we had hours earlier.

We arrived at the hotel.  I don’t believe either of us wanted that night to end.  Mitchell asked me to hang out in his room for a while, I did.  I believe we were awake till 6:00 or 7:00 AM.  We communicated all night with and without words.  Somehow the topic of children came up in our conversation.  He looked at me, sadness in his eyes and said “I had a son 15 years ago that the mother murdered before his first birthday, and I just had a son last month.  When I arrived last month for his birth, his mother had me escorted out by security because she didn’t want me there.  I am not having any more children.” I glanced at him, then down of my hands.  I said “I may be the wrong person for you to be with.  I don’t have any children.  I was sexually abused at the age of two and I am unsure if I can have children.  I’ve always dreamt of being a mom.  Having children is probably one of the most important things to me, it’s my greatest dream.” I could tell by the look on his face that he wasn’t letting me go.  He looked at me and said “You will be a mom.”

I don’t remember every single conversation we had that night.  Something that Mitchell said to me just before we fell asleep side by side has always been burned in my memory.  He nonchalantly said “I hope you’re ready to be a mom in about nine months.” I don’t believe I responded to his statement, but I remember the thoughts that cascaded inside of me.  I thought “That was a bold statement, what the hell?  Did he really just say that?  Maybe he’s crazy and has no idea what he’s saying.”.

We awoke around 1400 hours; I got ready for work, removed the jewelry from my mouth, gave Mitchell a quick kiss and went to work.  He went home; I didn’t know where home was for him.  I remember going to the break room where our personal lockers were before beginning my shift.  A female coworker was sitting in the break room.  She said “What happened to you?” I responded “Nothing” while my brain silently opposed my answer.  I thought “Mitchell did.” I wondered what made her think something happened to me.  Did I look different?  Did my eyes say something?  Did I smile differently?  I’ll never know.

By mid-December, I had been moved from the concession area to a cashier’s cage.  The cages were where customers collected their winnings, got change, and jackpots were paid out.  I assumed I was reassigned to the cage because the higher ups believed I was responsible enough with excessive amounts of money that I could be trusted.

Outside of work, Mitchell and I were nearly inseparable.  He was my paradise.  I still lived at home with my mom. I drove my mom’s car, a 1990 gray four door Geo metro.

One night Mitchell and I decided to stay in a room at the adjoining hotel after our shift ended.  We were watching TV when an infomercial came on.  I can’t remember what the product was but Mitchell had to have it.  He called his sister that he lived with to get the address.  I only heard his side of the call “Hey shitface!  Can you give me our address?” my face must have said it all, after hanging up the phone, he said “It’s just a nickname; I’ve called her that since we were kids.  You’ll call her Sharon.” He told me she wouldn’t take shit from anyone, she’s a mean bitch, and she makes the best steak tacos.  A few days later, very late at night Mitchell decided he had some things at home he wanted to show me.  We pulled into the dirt driveway; a single wide gray mobile home was in front of us without a single light on inside.  We got out of the truck, walked up to the door and he unlocked the door.

The house was pitch black inside, I could see nothing.  Mitchell grabbed my hand; he led me to the right down what I believed to be a hallway, then almost immediately to the left through a doorway.  Once the door closed, he turned on light.  I noticed a twin size bed against the wall in the left corner of the room; a metal coffee can had change inside to the right of the bed, a closet on the wall to the right, and a television against the wall at the foot of the bed.  I fell asleep with him in that twin size bed that night.

I woke the next morning, and the sun was shining brightly through the window next to the bed.  I felt so uncomfortable.  I was in a house full of strangers.  I needed to use the bathroom, but I was afraid to leave the bedroom.  My mind painted a picture of a monster when Mitchell told me his sister was mean.  I waited until my bladder felt like it may burst; the pressure was so great that it hurt.  I finally asked Mitchell where the bathroom was.  I opened his bedroom door, and went.  I finished in the bathroom then walked toward Mitchell’s room.  Before I opened the bedroom door, I looked up and there she stood.  She was adorned with morning hair, wearing a gray T shirt, and facing the kitchen counter making coffee.  She looked at me and I said “Hi”. Her facial expression was not one of excitement, she grumpily said “Hi”.

I walked into the bedroom.  I looked at Mitchell and said “She’s awake; I think she’s angry that I am here.” He laughed and said “She probably doesn’t care that you’re here she just takes some time to wake up in the morning.” He took me into the living room.  She was sitting with a cup of coffee on the table in front of her with a cigarette in her hand.  He introduced us “Shitface, this is Stormi.  Stormi this is my sister Sharon.” She smiled and said “I have already kind of met her.” She shifted her eyes toward me “It’s nice to meet you, I’m sorry I just have to get awake.” I said “Nice to meet you.”

I asked Mitchell if I could take a shower, he said “Yeah.” I went to the bathroom and showered, I was probably in there for 30 minutes.  We both got ready for work, and then headed that way.  We didn’t walk in together; our coworkers couldn’t know we were seeing one another.  I didn’t know if it was against the rules to date your boss, but we were concerned about others thinking he was showing favoritism towards me in the work environment because of our relationship.

Mitchell turned 35 on December 19.  Around Christmas day, as I was getting ready for work my mom said out of the blue “Maybe you should take a pregnancy test.” I didn’t acknowledge her.  On one of my days off a few days later I had taken my mom’s car to Wal-Mart for an oil change.  While I waited for the car I walked around the store and looked.  I walked down the pharmacy aisle. I stopped where the pregnancy tests were on the shelf.  I picked up a box that said “Clear blue digital” I went to the register and bought it.  I didn’t feel like I was pregnant, I only bought the test to show my mom I wasn’t pregnant.  I proceeded to the automotive area of the store.  I paid for the oil change and picked up my keys.  I drove westbound on highway 19 toward Maysville, I didn’t feel nervous at all.  My mom was at her god mother’s house alone.  I called her godmother “Grandma” and her granddaughters, my cousins.  I walked in and showed my mom the box.  She told me how to use it.  I walked into the bathroom.  I opened the foil pack, pulled the white plastic device from inside the box, and removed the blue cap from the absorbent end.  As I emptied my bladder I held the pregnancy test in my stream of urine and counted to 30 slowly.  I recapped the test and laid it flat of the bathroom counter.  I washed my hands. Before I left the bathroom I glanced down at the test and saw a flashing hourglass.

I walked into the kitchen, my mom said “Well?” I said “It had a flashing hourglass, I don’t know.” She stood up and walked in the direction of the bathroom.  Only a few seconds passed when I heard her squealing.

She returned to the doorway of the kitchen, handed me the test and the sat down across from me.  I looked down.  The word “Pregnant” was displayed on the screen of the test.  I said nothing.  I was shocked, I couldn’t believe it.  My mom said “You should probably call Mitchell.” That is when I felt uncertain, I felt sad, and afraid.  He just told me three weeks ago that he didn’t want any more children.  I swallowed hard, and then dialed his number.  The phone rang two or three times, Sharon answered.  I asked if Mitchell was home.  She told me he was asleep.  I told her it was important and asked her to wake him up.  He sleepily said “Hello”.  I nervously said “Mitchell… I’m pregnant.” He confidently said “I know.  Let me get awake and I’ll see you at work in just a little while.” We both said goodbye and hung up.

In the few hours I had before work; I calculated our babies due date. He or she was due September 3, 2005.  Thoughts swirled in my head.  I had an overwhelming feeling that our baby was a girl.  I even had names I really liked that I decided I would suggest to him when I was further along.  I liked Chase Mitchell for a boy and Alexandria Hope for a girl.  When I arrived at work, everything was the same.  Mitchell and I didn’t act any differently toward each other; he was still my boss after all.

Three or four hours into our shift I was sitting on a barstool in the cashier’s cage.  Business was pretty slow when Mitchell walked up.  He bent down, clutched his hands together in the open area on the counter underneath the metal bars.  He put his face as close as he could.  He looked at me, with tears in his eyes and then said quietly “Everything is going to be okay, we’re going to make it through this.” Knowing I had to keep myself together, I only said “Okay”.

The days ahead were bliss.  I was still in shock, feeling mostly numb.  Mitchell’s excitement, excited me.  He told me he wanted to be with me every day of my pregnancy. I wanted to be with him every day too.

We talked to Sharon and her husband Crawford.  We asked them if I could stay there with him until we could find an apartment.  They said it was fine.  We were happy.  I remember riding in his truck one afternoon, it was sunny. We were southbound on I 35 headed to a store in Ardmore.  Mitchell switched the song on the CD player; he looked at me intently and began to sing along with the music “Save all your love” by Great White.  My breath escaped me.  I trusted that he meant every word as he sang it to me.  I turned 20 on December 31.

January 2, 2005 I hadn’t been at work very long when I went to the bathroom and discovered that I was bleeding heavily.  I called my mom and asked if it was normal.  She told me I needed to take off work and rest.  I called Mitchell next, I told him that I was bleeding and asked him to please come pick me up.  He told me he was on his way.  I returned to work and requested a manager.  A male manager walked up. I told him I wasn’t feeling well and needed to go home.  He told me that they really needed me there, and they couldn’t afford to let me leave.  I looked him in the eye and said “Look Dave, I think I may be having a miscarriage please let me go home.” He said OK.  I left.  Mitchell was waiting outside in his truck behind the building for me.

I called my mom to let her know I left work and was going home.  She told me that grandma was taking my cousin to the OBGYN in the morning.  She was going to stop by and I could go with them.

I laid around a lot that evening. Outside of going to the bathroom, Mitchell did everything for me.

The next day came.  Grandma arrived to pick me up at 900 hours the next morning as promised.  We drove to Ardmore.  Once at the doctor’s office we didn’t wait in the waiting room long.  The doctor came in and examined my cousin.  My grandma told her what was going on with me and asked if she would go ahead and see me also.  She examined me.  She said that I was definitely bleeding and my cervix was open.  The doctor sent me to the hospital for an ultrasound.  I remember laying on the bed in the dark room watching the computer screen.  I felt hopeful when I saw flickers of red and blue coloring.  I asked the tech what she found and if she saw the baby.  She told me she couldn’t tell me anything.  The tech said my doctor would review the results and call me.

Late that afternoon, I received a call from a nurse at the doctor’s office.  She told me it appeared I had an early miscarriage.  There was no baby seen on the ultrasound.  I felt sad, but the shock of being pregnant hadn’t worn off yet.  It was almost like I couldn’t process what happened.  My inner thoughts raged.  Why?  Was there something I did wrong?  What if this was the only chance I had to have a child with Mitchell?  Maybe I really couldn’t have children?  I told Mitchell the same things the nurse told me.  He hugged me.  I could tell he was devastated but he only asked “Why?”. I said “I don’t know.”. I think we both wanted to wake up and find out that it was a bad dream.  This was our reality.  We lost a child just one month after our first date.  We carried on each day as we had the previous month.  We laughed, we talked, and our connection was just as intense as it was the first time our eyes met.

Life was beautiful.

I cannot remember the date, one morning Mitchell left the bedroom.  I assumed he went to get coffee from the kitchen.  Sharon was playing music loudly in her bedroom.  Mitchell was gone for what felt like forever.  About 20 or 30 minutes later he opened the door, looked at me and said “Come here.”. I followed him to Sharon and Crawford’s bedroom.  Sharon was sitting on the left side of the bed.  She picked up a remote, then “Can’t fight this feeling” by REO Speedwagon began to play.  Within the first count of eight, Mitchell said “This is your song”.  He sat down on the right side of the bed next to Sharon.  I sat down in front of him.  His eyes were misty when he took both of my hands in his.  The words that fell from his lips next gave me butterflies.  He looked at me intensely and said “Stormi I am so in love with you.” I responded “I love you too.” As the song played it felt like he and I were the only two people in the world.  He must have mouthed the words “I love you” 20 or more times as the song played through.  When the song ended, Sharon looked at me with a smile and said “What do you think?” I said “I am happy.”

Later in our bedroom, Mitchell and I were sitting side by side on the bed when he said “I am going to love you for the rest of my life, I’m going to marry you.” I said “Okay let’s plan on it.”

One night at work, Mitchell walked inside of my cage to do a jackpot payout.  I reached for the handle to open the door, he laughed as he pressed his foot against the bottom of the door.  I tugged on the handle and he moved his foot while I was still pulling on the door.  The door opened so fast it hit him right in the head.  He whispered “I have to write you up for that.” 1 hour later Mitchell and another MOD came inside my cage.  Mitchell said “I need you to come with me.” I followed him to a hallway just outside of the vault.  There was a small table, two chairs and a piece of paper laying on the table top.  Mitchell sat down in one chair, I sat in the other.  He said “This is a write up for horseplay, I need you look it over and then sign it.” I found myself lost in his eyes.  I said “I don’t even care about this write up, are you OK?” He responded “I’m fine.” I smiled and looked into his eyes and said “Since you pulled me away for my cage, you could at least keep me back here and make it worth my while.” His eyes widened, he slid the paper toward me and muttered “Stormi, sign it.” I signed it.

Around the end of January we rented an apartment on sixth street in Davis, Oklahoma.  The apartment was two bedrooms and had a tiny kitchen.  We only had a bed and no other furniture when we first moved in.  The next couple months we paid on cheap indoor/outdoor wicker furniture for the living room.  We bought a tall dining table with a bar stools from a coworker and got crib for the spare bedroom.  We intended the second bedroom to belong to his four month old son when he came to visit.  Our house was slowly becoming a home.  Mitchell was in the midst of a court battle with his child’s mother.  Times were hard but, we had everything in each other.

Mitchell chose our wedding date.  Monday, July 4, 2005.  We had four months to plan.  I began looking for another job.  Mitchell and I didn’t want to be secretive about our relationship anymore.  We wanted to invite our coworkers, that we’d become friends with to our wedding.

On April 5, 2005 making 50¢ more an hour I started as a dispatcher at Davis police department.

Days were busy, I worked 0000 – 0800 hours, and I slept most of the day away most days.  Mitchell worked evenings at the casino.

During my downtime I would work on things for our upcoming wedding.  I made the boutonnieres and bouquets myself with deep pink and white roses.  I folded 50 invitations, addressed the envelopes, stuffed and sealed each one, then mailed them all.

I watched American idol from the beginning to the end the season.  Carrie Underwood won American idol that year.  One evening Mitchell was off work and watched the show with me.  That night Rascal Flatts performed “Bless the broken road”.  At the completion of the song Mitchell said “That’s it. It’s perfect; I want that to be our wedding song.” I agreed with a smile “It is perfect, we will use it.”

We were stressed with all of the tasks to be completed, but excited as the day grew near.

On Thursday, June 30, 2005 we applied for and received our marriage license in Murray County.  They allowed us to choose the color of the foil seal for the license, we chose blue.

We did not spend the night before our wedding day apart.  When we woke the morning of 7/4/05, it was raining outside.  I prayed the rain would stop as we had an outdoor wedding planned.  I was marrying Mitchell that evening rain or shine.  After eating lunch, Mitchell went to his sister’s house to get ready.  My Aunt Deedee took me to Moore, Oklahoma where I had an appointment to have my hair fixed.  The hairdresser, a longtime friend of my family wasn’t at the shop.  The door was locked.  Deedee called the lady who said she had forgotten and would be on her way.  I was flustered, the minutes felt like hours.  The hairdresser arrived, she fixed my hair beautifully.  My aunt and I headed back to my apartment.  She and I got dressed and she did both of our makeup.  My grandfather arrived at about 1700 hours to pick us up.  On the way to Sulphur he noticed the dodge truck needed gasoline.  We stopped at a gas station on the south side of the road and filled up.

Wedding Day

Monday, July 4, 2005, 1730 hours.  Chickasaw national recreation area, Pavilion springs in Sulphur, Oklahoma.

The weather was gorgeous, very hot, muggy, the sun was shining, and the sky was blue with very few clouds in the sky.

The covered pavilion was constructed out of brick and wood, a few concrete steps led down to the floor of the pavilion.  There was a natural spring in the middle of the pavilion, cold water flowed constantly.  Metal folding chairs were sat in rows on both sides of the spring.

Many of our family and friends sat in the chairs.  Some were standing.

I pinned my grandfather’s boutonniere on the left side of his shirt just over his heart.  “Inside your heaven” by Carrie Underwood began to play.  Mitchell and Chuck stood to the left of the Reverend. My Aunt Deedee walked slowly down the steps, then immediately left and stood to the right of the pastor.  When the song finished, I walked to the left side of my papa, and locked my arm with his.  A family friend stood behind me straightening the train of my dress.  The wedding march played as my grandfather and I walked gracefully in sync. My eyes met Mitchell’s, they were misty.  He smiled bigger and brighter than I’d ever seen before.  As we stood in front of the preacher, my grandfather placed my hand in Mitchell’s and gave me away.  I stood there, my eyes glued to his.  We promised to love each other until death that day.

The wedding was short and sweet.  We chose a hay ride as our exit.  Crawford and Sharon drove a black Chevrolet truck.  Two square bales of hay sat against the cab of the truck in the bed.  The words “Just married” were written in red bold, large letters on the back window.  As we rode through the town of Sulphur cars honked and people waved as they drove past.  My veil blew in the wind as the truck traveled along the two lane highway toward Davis.

Our wedding reception was at Sharon and Crawford’s house.  A table set along the north wall of their living room.  On the left end of the table, our small wedding cake sat on a pedestal with a lighted fountain underneath.  My grandfather baked and decorated our wedding cake.  It was two tier, heart shaped, with white icing and pink and white roses around the edge of both layers.  On the right end of the table, was a large chocolate on chocolate sheet cake.  Friends and family stood around the open kitchen, and lined the furniture.

Our song “Bless the broken road” played.  He had his arms wrapped around my waist; my arms were loosely draped around his neck.  We held each other close, and danced in the middle of the living room until the song ended.

After our first dance, I changed into jean shorts and a white shirt.  He wore jeans and a T shirt.  We sat the front yard with our friends and family for the majority of the night.  Some set off fireworks; others just sat around and visited.  We didn’t plan a honeymoon; instead we stayed in a hotel room in Paul’s Valley.  We were both so exhausted that we fell asleep almost immediately.  I looked at him just before my eyes closed, smiled and said “We’re married.” He said “Good night my beautiful wife.”

The next months were pretty close to perfect.  We just lived.  We worked, cleaned house, went to the laundromat, paid bills, and cooked.  We would disagree occasionally; we always made up pretty quickly.

In August Mitchell tried to teach me to drive his truck, it was a standard.  I grew frustrated because he thought it was hilarious when the truck would roll backward or die at stop signs.  I finally told him I would drop him off at his sister’s and teach myself to drive a standard.  We spent many days at Sharon and Crawford’s house.  We would smoke cigarettes, laugh, and play video games.  I loved his family.

Medical Tragedy and a wreck

Late September 2005, Christi Morris, my mother was flying along the open road with Mike, her husband of 2 1/2 yearsWracking pain stole over her body, causing her to seek immediate medical attention; not unprecedented, as mom had been diagnosed with diverticulitis twice within the previous year.

The graveyard shift is exhausting. One afternoon, as I was attempting to capture much-needed sleep, unexpected pounding on the door awakened me. Upon arriving at the door, I found my coworker, who was a police officer.  The officer informed me that my mother had attempted to reach me many times. He told me my mom had tried to call my home phone multiple times and that I needed to call her. I thanked him, closed the door and then called her. She told me her husband had taken her to the hospital in Chicago, Illinois. Her voice cracked when she said “I have cancer.” She explained to me that it was in her stomach and that she would know more when she got home.

A few weeks later, I was awakened again by beating on the door.  This time my friend. Kendall stood outside my door, who urged me to call my mother immediately. That phone call was the hardest of my life. Mom shared that she had stage four Leiomyosarcoma cancer and that it was terminal. The doctor told her she had eight months to live. I felt my heart breaking inside of my chest.  What do you say in a moment like that?  I can’t remember what I said.  A couple hours later, Kendall and I sat outside for many hours.  She asked how I was doing. I responded “I don’t know how I’m doing; I can’t fathom my life without her.”  She cried with me, she laughed with me.  We talked about God and heaven.  We marveled at the stars.

Mitchell came home from work that night. We didn’t talk about it at all. He wrapped his arms around me and held me. He loved her too.

The next time I reported to work I walked into my boss’s office.  He was sitting at his desk working on reports.  I looked at him with teary eyes and said “My mom has terminal cancer, and she’s been given eight months to live, she’s going to die.” He said “I am so sorry, let us know if there’s anything we can do.  This whole department is behind you.”

I felt broken in the middle of a terrible nightmare.  I wish I would wake up.  Mitchell was devastated too.  We didn’t speak of it.  We were both dealing with the facts in our own ways.

Mitchell and I began to argue more frequently toward the end of November. We were both under an incredible amount of stress. He was a pathological liar. He often took what little money we had and spent it on alcohol. He was degrading to me in a sexual way. I did not have the experience he wanted. He felt that I didn’t know how to treat a man. I wasn’t the greatest housekeeper. He felt unappreciated.

One afternoon in early December 2005 Mitchell and I were arguing.  He left to go to his sister’s house to cool off.  I walked out to her house later in the day.  Mitchell and I were okay.  He was drinking beer very heavily.  I went to his sister privately and told her I did not feel comfortable riding home with him.  I told Mitchell I was very tired, and that his teenage nephew was going to drop me off at home.  I told him to take his time and I would be there when he got home.  Mitchell’s nephew T.J. dropped me off at home.  I changed my clothes, lay down in bed and pulled the blanket up to my chest.  I had only been lying in the bed about 5 minutes when I heard running up the metal stairs, and then open handed pounding on the door.  I opened the door to see T.J. standing there he had blood on his arm.  He said “Uncle Mitchell has been a wreck!” I asked “Is EMS on the way?” T.J. said “He’s OK, he’s at the house.” I gathered myself quickly, waked down the apartment stairs and got in the passenger seat of his Eclipse.  As he drove, I asked why he was bleeding.  He explained that Mitchell rolled the truck multiple times, a metal fence post went through the passenger side, and he couldn’t get the door open for Mitchell to get out.  He broke the window to free him.  I knew immediately why I had an overwhelming feeling that I shouldn’t ride with him that night.  I would have been impaled by the metal fence post if I were in the truck.

Mitchell lost his job because he didn’t have transportation to work.  I walked to work or sometimes officers would pick me up or bring me home.  Mitchell went to work at a convenience store, which was walking distance from our apartment.  We were both working the graveyard shift at our jobs.  Money was tight, times were hard but, we got to spend more time together.  My grandparents helped us get a vehicle the second week of December.  The car was a white 2002 Chevrolet cavalier.  My mom told me doctors had given her the option to take chemo.  She said the chemotherapy would not save her life but, might prolong it.  She decided she would do it.  Mitchell turned 36 that month, and I turned 21.  During a family gathering at Christmas time, my mother told Mitchell and me that her dying wish was to have a grandchild.

Hard times and a dream come true

Near the end of January my job in me to Oklahoma City for a Oklahoma Law Enforcement Telecommunications System certification class.  The class lasted five days.  I stayed in a hotel close to the location of my class.  One evening after class I went to dinner with some of the friends I had met in the class.  After dinner I walked out of the restaurant.  A policeman stood where my car had been parked.  I asked “Where’s my car?” He pointed down the road with his left hand and said “Just towed.” Apparently I parked in a no parking zone.  How could I be so stupid?  The car was in my grandparent’s names.  I did not have the money to get the car out of impound.  My mom and her husband paid to get it out of impound and took over the payments.  I was able to ride home with a coworker.  I was stressed, my grandparents were angry at me, and my mom was disappointed in me.  Mitchell and I drank alcohol together that night.

I was very irritable during the next week, Mitchell and I bickered a lot.  He told me several times that I was pregnant.  He telling me I was pregnant infuriated me.  On February 11th as he was leaving for work.  I told him I was going to take a pregnancy test and if it was negative I would pack my things and leave him for good.

Marie and I had plans to spend time together that evening.  I wanted to get the pregnancy test over with.  I was so sure the test was going to be negative.  I dipped to the strip test in my urine; put it back in the foil pack and threw it in the trash immediately.  I walked by the trash can about 15 minutes later.  Something told me to pick up the package the test was in.  I did.  I pulled the strip from the package; it had two dark purple lines.  The test was positive.  I thought it was inaccurate because I put it back in the foil pack so quickly.  I went to the bathroom and dipped a second test.  I laid the test strip on the edge of the bathtub.  Within 30 seconds, the test had two purple lines.  That test was positive too.  Marie pulled into a parking space in front of my apartment.  I carried the test as I walked down to her car.  I sat down in the passenger seat and showed her the pregnancy test.  I asked if we could go to Mitchell’s job.  We pulled into the parking lot of the convenience store, Marie walked inside and asked Mitchell if he would come out to the car.  He sat down in the back seat of her car.  I handed him the test.  He excitedly said “So we’re having a baby?!?” I responded blankly “I think that’s what it means.” He was exhilarated.  I was terrified.

I asked Marie if she would drive me to Sharon’s house.  I walked through her living room toward her bathroom and as I passed her sitting on the couch I laid the test on the coffee table in front of her.  When I returned from the bathroom, Sharon had a huge smile on her face. She said “So you’re positive?” I told her yes and we would come visit her another time.

I was in disbelief.  I cried a lot.  Marie told me not to cry because I would have a baby that cried a lot.  I took five more tests, all different brands, and all of them were positive.

Monday, February 13, I went to the doctor. My pregnancy was confirmed.  I called my mom on Valentine’s Day.  I told her she got her wish and would be a grandma around October 10, 2006.  I could hear her screaming excitedly to everyone in the room with her. She was elated!  A week later I received a package in the mail from my Aunt Deedee.  I opened the package and found three or four onesies that were pink with flowers on them.  I called her and asked why she sent little girl clothing.  She told me she was sure I was having a girl or I would have a funny dressed little boy.

The next week I was using that toilet when I wiped there was a lot of blood.  I stood up, looked down and saw a large blood clot the size and shape of a pear.  My heart sank; I knew I was having another miscarriage.  Maybe I can’t have children?  I went to the emergency room several times that week.  Each time they would draw my blood and tell me my HCG numbers were still rising and that the bleeding would stop eventually.  The next time I had a doctor’s appointment, she had all of my emergency room visit reports.  I told the Dr. that I was still bleeding.  She said she wanted to check my progesterone levels.  The next day the nurse called me.  She said my progesterone levels were dangerously low.  She also mentioned that with all of the bleeding I experienced I possibly had vanishing twin syndrome.  The doctor wanted me on bed rest for four to six weeks.  She called in progesterone vaginal suppositories for me to start immediately.  Times were difficult, money was scarce.  I called my boss once asking if I could work. He asked if I had a note from my doctor.  I did not.  He told me I could not come to work until she released me.

I was in bed for five or six weeks.  I didn’t leave the apartment at all.  I got up to use the restroom, get food or drink, and then went back to bed.  Mitchell continued to work fulltime hours and took care of me when he was home.  Near the end of April my doctor said I could go back to work.  I was never in my life happier to go to work.

Spending time with Mama

My mom knew we didn’t have a vehicle, and that we were struggling financially.  At the beginning of May she offered for both of us come live with her and told me we could drive her car whenever we needed to.  I told Mitchell about my mom’s offer.  I wanted to make the most of the time she had left.  I told him he could stay or go with me, his choice.  He chose to go.

He quit his job at the convenience store.  It didn’t make sense for him to work 30 miles away from home earning minimum wage.  I continued working at Davis PD.  He became my mother’s caregiver.  He took care of the housework, meals, and mom’s personal care needs.  He loved her too. Occasionally when my mother’s best friend would come to spend time with her, Mitchell would spend time at Sharon’s while I worked.

I worked to 1600-0000 hours.  My mother would call me 8 to 10 times a shift for no reason at all.  She would tell me she loved and missed me.  She was just thinking of me.  I was a little annoyed she called me so often knowing I was working.  I never told her that.  I would get home around 0100 hours each night.  I would catch her writing sometimes in a yellow folder that she would quickly put away when she saw me.  I asked her once what she was writing.  She told me I couldn’t read it until she was gone. My biggest fear every day was that I may find her dead when I woke for work.

After I came home from work she’d want me to sit and talk with her.  I did, every night.  Mitchell slept alone until 0400-0500 hours.

One night when I came home, she said “When I close my eyes this girl talks to me, but when I open them she stops.  “I want to hear what she has to say.” She closed her eyes.  I was sitting at her bedside.  She got excited, she smiled enormously.  She exclaimed “IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL!” I was confused.  I said “Mom.” She opened her eyes.  I asked “What’s beautiful?” She responded “Heaven”.  I asked what heaven looked like.  She looked at me as if I were hanging from the ceiling by my feet.  She spoke “Stormi, I can’t tell you, it is not your time to know.” I believe my mother was given a glimpse of heaven that night.

May 24, 2006, Mitchell and I took my mom out for dinner and bingo.  We loaded her and her wheelchair in the car.  I missed a $600 bingo that night because I was helping her.  She wasn’t as coordinated because of pain medication she had to take.  She was very weak.  She had lost all of her hair.  She was wearing a hat but, she still got cold faster and easier.  The pain medication also caused her to hallucinate. On the way home, she looked at me in the back seat.  Terror was written all over her face.  She told me there was a very large rat in the seat next to me.  That was a hard night physically, emotionally, and mentally for all three of us.

Sometimes while we were sitting up late she would run a doppler over my stomach and listen to my baby move and his or her heartbeat.

May 30, 2006 –my grandparents were at our house. My mother was in excruciating pain.  Her medications were not helping at all.  Her husband was an over the road truck driver and was not at home.  She asked for an ambulance to be called.  I rode in the ambulance with my mom.  My grandparents and Mitchell followed us to the hospital in Oklahoma City.  At the emergency room her blood pressure was 80 something over 50 something.  The doctor took me out in the hallway alone.  He spoke in a very low volume.  He was gentle and compassionate.  He said “Are you aware that your mom’s cancer is terminal?” I told him I knew.  He spoke “I cannot cure her cancer.  What I can do is admit her to the hospital and keep her comfortable.” I told him that is what she would want.  Mom was persistent, she wanted us all to leave and go home.  We waited.  The nurses got her situated in a room.

She told me she wanted me to go home and rest.  I hugged her.  She told me that my baby was a girl and that she loved me. We went home like she wanted us too.  The next day I called her.  She wasn’t in pain.  She was so medicated, nothing she said made sense.  She fell asleep on the phone.  I told her I loved her and hung up the phone.

The Yellow Folder

Thursday, June 1, 2006.  Just after 5:00 AM, I was startled awake.  The phone was ringing.  I knew.  I did want to know.  I didn’t want to hear it.  The man on the line asked to speak to my grandmother.  I told him he had the wrong phone number and I could give him the right one.  He asked if I knew Christi Morris.  I told him I did.  He asked how I knew her.  I told him she was my mom.  The next words he said shattered my heart “I’m afraid I don’t have good news.  You are welcome to ask any questions you want.  She expired about 30 minutes ago.” I thanked him and hung up the phone.  Mitchell was awake in the bed next to me.  I said “She’s gone.” I called my grandma, my mom’s best friend, and our pastor.  Then I called the funeral home.  I went to the end table by her bed to find the folder I seen her writing and weeks earlier.  The left pocket contained letters she had written.  Mine said she was so proud of me and loved me so much.  The right pocket contained a list of her final wishes.  She did not want to be cremated.  She wanted the cheapest funeral possible.  She even wrote down the clothing she wanted to be buried in.

I was due to report to work at 1600 hours that day.  I called my job and told the dispatcher that my mother had just passed away but I would still be at work on time.  I needed the money desperately and I didn’t think we would make any arrangements for mom that day.  My phone rang almost immediately.  My supervisor told me not to come in. I tried to tell him I needed the money.  He told me if I showed up I would be sent home.  He also told me that my days off work would be paid.

I called my brother and told him mom had passed away.  Mitchell and I got in the car by 6:00 AM.  We drove 112 miles each way to get to my brother so he wasn’t alone.  The phone rang off the hook that day.  Friends and family were checking on us.  Bill collectors called, I told them she was dead and that no one was in charge of her finances.  I called every phone number in my mom’s phone book to let everyone know she had passed away.  Our house was flooded with people, mostly family.

I caught a family member at my mother’s bedside gathering her medication.  I told the individual to put the medication down and to get out of her room.  I called the hospice nurse and told her people were there trying to take mom’s morphine and fentanyl.  I asked her to come dispose of it immediately.  She did.

The next day, my family and I took the clothing she wanted to be buried in to the funeral home.  We began making all of her arrangements.  She required a casket for big and tall people, she was a heavier lady.  The funeral home gave us the casket for the same price as their cheapest casket.  We chose to do a chapel service, and no graveside service.  That was the cheaper route.  The funeral home worked with us to get her obituary written.  Mom wanted the song “Best I ever had” by Gary Alan played at her funeral.  My Aunt Deedee chose “Talking to my angel” by Melissa Etheridge to be played at her service.  We all agreed it was perfect.

June 5, we arrived at the funeral home chapel.  I cried when I saw a Davis police car in the parking lot.  The chapel was packed with people who loved her.  Every pew was full; every wall was lined with people.  Her service was beautiful.  Her casket was full of Dr. Pepper, cigarettes, pictures and letters.  My supervisor, a Davis officer escorted my mother’s procession to the cemetery.  We arrived at the cemetery; the pallbearers lowered my mom’s sky blue casket into her grave.  We stood in a circle praying.  Someone put a handful of dirt in my hand while our eyes were closed.  I thought, “There’s no way I am throwing dirt on my mom”.  I dropped the dirt on the ground where I stood.

I am in love with someone I have never met

Life kept moving along.  Mitchell and I were stressed, but we pushed forward.  I struggled with physical intimacy because I believed my mom was watching over me.  That thought didn’t set well with me.  I was five months pregnant, and we still don’t know our baby’s gender.  Mitchell told me if the baby was a girl there was no way it was his because he only had boys.  Our baby still didn’t have the name.  I told Mitchell he could choose the boy’s name.  I liked Hope Alyssa for a girl. Mitchell liked Brilee, a name he had seen in the newspaper. I thought if we had a girl, she could have two middle names like me.  The boy’s name was Dalton Thomas.  Thomas was after Mitchell and his father.  I preferred the spelling Daltyn.  Our baby had a name .  We settled on Daltyn Thomas Smith or Hope Alyssa Bryley (Mitchell chose the spelling) Smith.

I returned to work a couple days after the funeral.  My coworkers were incredibly supportive.  I cried as I looked at the phone, missing her phone calls sometimes.  Mitchell spent a lot of time at his sister’s while worked.  He didn’t want to be alone.  My officers brought in mountain dew as often as I wanted it.  Mitchell and I argued a lot, we didn’t communicate.  We never talked about how we felt about the things we went through.  He tried to drink the pain away.  I was keeping my pain suppressed, by burying my face in a computer screen.

August 16 – our gender ultrasound.  Mitchell and I were the only two in the room with the ultrasound tech.  The tech looked for the baby’s gender first.  She turned the screen and said “That’s a Girl!” I looked over at Mitchell and said “I thought you didn’t make girls? Asshole!” He said “I guess, I do.”  The tech showed us Hope’s face; I could tell she had my mom’s nose.  I specifically wanted her to have Mitchell’s blonde hair and dimples in his smile.  We saw her hands on the ultrasound, she was perfect.  We couldn’t wait to me her!  Mitchell and I split up for a week in September. We discussed the possibility of moving to Colorado after Hope was born. A fresh start was appealing for both of us. The next 10 weeks were spent working and preparing for Hope.  I went to Wal-Mart almost every night after work.  I bought bottles and pacifiers.  Family members gave us two baby showers.  Hope had a rectangle laundry basket of clothes.  I washed and refolded the same clothes every day.  Mitchell put together her crib in our bedroom.  We were ready.

On October 2 at my doctor’s appointment, I was told I was dilated to a three.  The doctor said she didn’t believe that I would make it through the weekend.  I called my Aunt Deedee and told her what the doctor said.  I asked her months earlier to be in the room when I had my baby.  Deedee left Grand Junction the next day and drove 13 hours straight to be with me.  Deedee and I spent the whole weekend walking.  We walked everywhere.  I was so over walking.

At the next weekly doctor’s appointment the doctor said again that I would not make it through the weekend.  Sunday, October 8, I was at work.  I began having regular, and somewhat painful contractions.  I was certain I was in labor, finally.  I called Mitchell and told him I needed to go to the hospital after I got off work.  The contractions weren’t unbearable.  I wanted to finish my shift.  I didn’t want to inconvenience any coworkers by calling them in.  I made it to the end of my shift.  We headed to the hospital in Ardmore.  We arrived at the hospital.  The staff moved quickly when I told them I believed that was in labor.  The nurse checked to see if I was leaking amniotic fluid, I was not.  She checked my cervix.  I was still dilated to three.  She hooked me up to the monitors.  I had two elastic bands around my stomach.  She brought me a large plastic cup of water and told me to drink it all of it.  I was dehydrated.  We sat there for a couple hours.  We could hear Hope’s heartbeat loud and clear.  We could hear her moving.  My contractions completely stopped.  I was told that I needed to continue drinking a lot of water in the coming weeks.  I was released.

At my doctor’s appointment the next afternoon, the doctor told me that I wouldn’t make it through the weekend.  Deedee got tired of watching the same basket of clothes over and over.  She said we needed go buy more clothes for Hope.  Deedee and I went to malls and stores.  We walked.  We walked outside, around the block and to restaurants.  We walked everywhere.  I tried all the ways that were suggested to me to naturally induce labor.  Nothing worked.

The officers at my job were becoming antsy as my due date neared.  As a joke, they covered my office chair with a trash bag.  I told them if my water broke on the chair, I would replace it.  I ripped the trash bag off of the chair.  Hope kicked and punched the counter while I worked.  I became really close to one of the officers.  She would come into the dispatch room often.  She wanted to feel Hope move so badly.  She would put her hand on my stomach.  Hope would quit moving almost immediately.  We joked that Hope was her baby and that she would need to pay child support after she arrived.  One night I was craving ranch dressing, JUST ranch dressing.  I asked my officer friend to go buy me a bottle of ranch dressing.  She refused.  She told me I was pregnant and had to eat more than just ranch dressing.  She brought me a salad and many packets of ranch dressing.  I waited until she went out to patrol.  I emptied every packet of ranch dressing into a bowl and ate it with a spoon.  During my shift one evening I went to the restroom.  I guess I didn’t answer the radio fast enough.  I walked out of the bathroom to find a male officer standing in the dispatch room.  He was freaking out.  He said “Oh my god!  Are you OK?  Are you in labor?  Do you need EMS?” I said “Dude, I’m fine.” They were amazing; they cared about me so much.  During my entire pregnancy I also connected with women from all over the world in a yahoo chat room.

My uncle, Deedee’s husband was growing impatient.  He missed his wife, and their boys needed their mom.  She had been away from home for two weeks.

That week at the doctor’s appointment, I was dilated to a four.  The doctor made the same statement she made at the previous two appointments.  I would not make it through the weekend.  I was a frustrated.  I began my maternity leave from work that week.  Deedee and I walked even more than we had the weeks before.  Deedee would gently pat my stomach where Hope had her bottom sticking out.  She’d say “Habi, you’re becoming a bad habit. You need to come out!”

The next week at my appointment my doctor started to say I wouldn’t make it through the weekend again.  I was pissed.  I said “No!  I do not want to hear that again!  It’s time to get this baby out!”. She scheduled me for induction two days later, October 25th.  She assured me that would be my baby’s birthday.  The next day Mitchell, Deedee and I went to Ardmore.  I had to preregister at the hospital.  The nurse asked numerous medical history questions and took blood.  We had our bags packed in Deedee’s suburban.  We rented a room in town because I had to arrive at 6:00 AM to be induced.

The day my identity changed

The next morning we arrived at the hospital on time.  We were told they didn’t have any beds available.  They said it may be afternoon before they had a bed for me.  We went and ate at Denny’s then went back and waited in the waiting room at the hospital.  We waited in the waiting room all day.  We slept.  The room was cold.  A nurse came and told me at 1600 hours, a room was ready for me.  She started my IV; she told me I could have an epidural immediately if I wanted.  I was still dilated to a four.  I told her I wanted to experience some of my labor, I wanted to wait.  She hung the bag of Pitocin on my IV pole, and hooked it up.  She told me I could only have ice chips and small sips of water.  The contractions were very mild.  I thought “If this is the worst it gets, I can do this without an epidural.” The contractions gradually became more painful.  They were intense. I cried a lot.  Mitchell cried because he didn’t like seeing me in pain.  I was agitated that he was upset.  He wasn’t experiencing the physical pain that I was.  I said many times that I never wanted to do this again.  Mitchell tried to comfort me; he told me we didn’t have to have any more children.

Deedee was beside me the whole time.  She was watching the contractions climb the computer screen and then decelerate.  At midnight I asked for the epidural.  The anesthesiologist got the epidural placed with no issues.  The epidural worked great.  The nurse placed a Foley catheter.  Half an hour later I started feeling painful contractions again.  I called the nurse and told her I was hurting.  The nurse and the anesthesiologist came in.  I told the nurse I needed to urinate; she told me I had a catheter and didn’t need to.  The anesthesiologist put a shot in my epidural line that knocked me out immediately.  He woke me asking if I felt a strong contraction I just had.  I didn’t feel anything.  The next 5 hours I slept.  The nurse came in and checked for cervix progression every hour.  I slept through some of the times she checked my cervix.  I told her I still needed to urinate a couple times.  She reminded me I was catheterized.

The last time she came into check me, the time was nearing 5:00 AM.  She said “You are at a 10, it is time to push.” I told her I was sleeping and we could do it later.  I believe she turned down my epidural.  She turned on the lights in the room.  The spotlight above my bed was blinding.  I began to feel incredible pressure in my pelvic region.  I said “You are right, it’s time to push.” I pushed and pushed forever.  Mitchell, Deedee, and the nurse kept saying I was doing amazing.  I was tired.  I was discouraged.  My body felt like it was having a bowel movement the size of a tree trunk.

The nurse said she could see Hope’s head crowning.  I asked for a mirror so I could see.  She told me they had no mirrors.  The nurse grabbed my hand and placed it on top of Hope’s head.  I was shocked.  I said “There’s really a baby in there!” My aunt Deedee laughed.  I had a renewed strength.  I was ready to see my baby girl’s face.

The doctor came in the room.  She told me to push.  I pushed as hard as I could.  At 0551 hours 10/26/2006 Hope Alyssa Bryley Smith was born.  She wasn’t crying.  I asked why she wasn’t crying.  The doctor said “She had a bowel movement on the way out of the birth canal, I’m suctioning her out.  I don’t want her to cry yet she does not need to aspirate the feces” 30 seconds later Hope let out a loud scream, and started crying.  I was so relieved.  The doctor clamped the umbilical cord and handed Mitchell a pair of scissors.  I could see how proud he was as he cut the cord.

The nurse took Hope over to the bassinet to clean her up.  They were rubbing her with receiving blankets to remove the vernix and blood from her skin.  They had a tube down her throat to suction her out better.  I could hear her crying but, I couldn’t see her.  Mitchell and Deedee were over beside the bassinet with her.  The doctor was stitching me up.  Mitchell walked over to my left side and said “There’s something wrong with her leg.” My aunt asked my doctor what was wrong with her leg.  My doctor said “It looks like a club foot, you need to have it checked out when you get to Colorado.”.  She was here and alive.  We were in heaven.  They only printed her left foot.  A nurse brought her to me.  I held her against my chest.  The feeling I had was indescribable.  I asked for a bottle to feed her.  As I fed her, I studied her.  Her eyes were a deep blue, like sapphires.  Her hair was strawberry blonde.  She definitely had my mother’s nose.  She was tiny in my arms,  wrapped up tightly in a receiving blanket.  I couldn’t see her foot.  All 7 pounds and 21 ½ inches of her was perfect.  She was mine.  I felt amazed that I helped create something so beautiful.  She was half me and half of the man I loved more than anything.  Mitchell held her for a little while, a smile, permanently on his face.  He was so in love with her.  He was so proud.  Deedee was taking photo after photo.  Then it was Deedee’s turn to hold her.  Deedee was breathless.  She said numerous times how beautiful she was.

The nurse removed the catheter.  I asked to go to the bathroom.  The nurse seemed annoyed with my question.  She brought me a bedpan.  I felt like she was rushing me.  She kept asking if I was done yet.  The catheter had been placed incorrectly; I filled the bed pan to top.

The nurse told me she needed to take Hope for a couple of hours.  She said they were going to do newborn screenings, and give her bath, and then she would bring her back to us.  Deedee said she was going to go to my house to shower and get some rest.  Mitchell and I fell asleep.  A chaplain came into the room at about noon.  He woke me up.  He was kind.  He gave me a card, congratulated me, and told me if we needed him he would be available.  Hope still was not back in the room.  I tried waking Mitchell several times.  I needed help to the restroom.  The nurse told me before they left with Hope not to try and walk by myself.  I couldn’t get Mitchell awake.  I called and asked for a nurse to come help me.  She stood close but I was able to walk my own.  The nurse left the room.  I decided I would go to the nursery to find Hope.  I put a robe on and walked down the hallway toward the nursery.  A nurse stopped me and said they had a different room for me.  I walked beside her back to my room.  I woke up Mitchell.  He and I gathered our things and put them on a cart with wheels.  He pushed the cart.  The nurse pushed me in a wheelchair.

Excitement to fear

We were in room about 5 minutes when the same nurse that preregistered me two days earlier walked into the room.  She began asking “Why didn’t you tell me?  Did you not think it was a big deal?” Mitchell looked at me confused.  His eyes said “what have you been hiding from me?” I looked at the nurse and said “What the hell are you talking about?” she flipped a piece of paper over that she was holding in front of her chest.  Her words were cold and angry “Don’t you know your baby is missing a kidney and may not have a bladder?” this is a report from your August ultrasound. Then she asked “Do you want to talk to your doctor?” I said “She better get here as fast as she can.”

The nurse left the room.  I called Deedee and told her what the nurse told us.  I told her I needed her to come back to the hospital.  While waiting for the doctor to arrive, I was angry.  I was angry at the hospital, the staff, the doctor, and god.  What if Hope dies?  What if this is the last time I get to hold her alive?  I thought “Why god?!?! First my mom, and now my daughter?  What did I do to deserve this?  What could I of done differently?  I’ve let Mitchell down.  I’ve let everyone down.  Why me?”  The doctor arrived within 15 minutes.  She walked in, sat down on the end of my bed.  I said “Why?”. She told me she knew I probably hated her, she accepted full responsibility, that she was sorry and she thought the baby was turned wrong on the ultrasound.  I asked what needed to be done.  She told me she needed to be mediflighted to a NICU equipped to take care of her.  I told her I wanted to be discharged with Hope.  I asked for a copy of all of mine and Hope’s medical records.  She told me there were hundreds of pages and they would cost us a dollar a page.  We couldn’t afford that.  She told me she was going to make phone calls and get paperwork ready for Hope to be transferred.  She left the room.

Mitchell and I cried together.  We decided he would ride in the helicopter with her so she would not be alone.  Deedee showed up. She was visibly upset.  I told her everything.  The helicopter arrived.  They had a full size gurney with an incubator sitting in the center of it.  They put Hope inside of the incubator.  We were only able to touch her through cut out circles on the side.  The medic said they had no room for Mitchell to ride because of the equipment they are required to carry.  Mitchell left at the same time the helicopter did.  He drove our cavalier.  Deedee and I watched the helicopter rise off the pad.  The red and white helicopter moved with grace.  They flew across the sky headed north.  Mitchell made it to the hospital for children in Oklahoma City just before the helicopter landed.  Deedee and I arrived 15 to 20 minutes after.

While parking we saw a man standing at a solid white van.  He was loading a gurney with a small, black body back lying on top into the back.  Deedee said “Not what I needed to see today!” I said. ”Me either.” I was paralyzed with fear.  What if that was Hope?  What if we went inside and they told us she didn’t make it?

We walked briskly into the building and then to the elevator.  The elevator doors slid open to the floor the NICU was on.  Mitchell stood in the lobby in front of the doors.  He told us the doctors said she got there just in time.  We were lucky she was still alive.  Just in time? Did they keep her so long at Ardmore hoping that she would die?  It wouldn’t be their problem.  They wouldn’t have to worry about liability, just grieving parents.  They sent a chaplain to my room.  Was he preparing to comfort us when she died?  I trusted that doctor, I loved her.  How could she put me through this?

Deedee, Mitchell, and I were allowed to go back and see Hope.  There were wires and cords everywhere on her tiny body.  She started out in the “Team one” nursery.  Team one is where they kept all of the more critical babies.  Hope was not allowed to have a bottle.  She was receiving all of her nutrition through her intravenously.  The first night in the NICU was spent doing x-rays and ultrasounds.  Most of the nurses and doctors were amazing.  Hope had many visitors while in the NICU.  Hope’s creatinine levels were dangerously high.  Her kidney was not functioning well. Her kidney was failing. The doctor said if we could not get her kidney function under control she would require dialysis until a transplant was available.  We asked how hard it would be to get a kidney if one was needed.  The doctor said kidneys are the easiest organ to get.

Ultrasound showed that Hope had a bladder.  Her kidney was so swollen and full of fluid that the bladder was mostly compressed.  The doctor had a thick German accent.  He was very hard to understand.  The day after she was born, the doctor told us she would need surgery when she got a little stronger.  As he was explaining I asked him to repeat himself four times because I couldn’t understand.  I started to ask a fifth time.  He sat down, pulled out a writing pen and drew a diagram on the thigh of his scrub pants.  Her ureter was attached at the bottom of her bladder, which created a dam.  Her urine was backed up in her kidney. The ureter needed to be brought to the surface of her skin.  She would urinate out of her abdomen for the first year of her life at least.

She was also dealing with high blood pressure.  X-ray showed that Hope was missing a bone in her right leg and she had an extra rib.  They were uncertain at first if she was missing the tibia or the fibula.  Several x-ray technicians took x-rays.  Doctors studied her x-rays.  I feared every time we went outside to smoke that she would be dead when we came back inside.  My aunt and I took photo after photo.  Deedee and I were standing next to hope.  I looked at her and said “If something happens to her, I don’t think I can live without her.” Suicide was on my mind.  I didn’t want to live without Hope.

I spent the night walking around like superwoman.  I was in pain but, I didn’t care.  I was not going to rest if that meant being away from her.  A doctor in the NICU said “What are you doing?  You just had this baby less than 24 hours ago.  Why are you walking?” I told him I was being a mom and I wanted to be with her as often as I was allowed.  He looked down on my legs.  “Have you noticed the swelling in your legs?” He asked.  I looked at my legs, both were very swollen.  Before I could respond he asked if I was in pain.  Was I in pain?  The pain is unlike anything I’ve ever felt, I was in the worst pain of my life.  My vagina felt like it was on fire.  My stomach, back, arms and thighs were all fatigued and aching.  My buttocks even hurt.  I was afraid I was going to be told I needed to go rest.  I lied.  I told the doctor that I was hurting but not too bad. Then he asked if I had filled the prescriptions my doctor gave me when I was discharged from Ardmore.  He looked surprised when I told him she didn’t give me any prescriptions.  He looked at Mitchell and I and said “Pain management is very important after childbirth.” He told me I didn’t have to go to the emergency room.  He asked me to please go over to OB triage in the adjoining building and let them see me.  I said “Okay”.  He told us that I should not be walking.

Mitchell got a wheelchair.  I reluctantly sat down.  I felt like I was taking advantage.  I wasn’t sick.  I didn’t have surgery.  I thought “Women have babies every day…  It’s not that big of a deal.” Mitchell pushed me in the wheelchair.  It was dark outside.  We kept finding locked doors and locked elevators.  We found a skywalk.  There was a sign displaying an arrow with the words “Everett tower” underneath.  Everett tower is where we had been told to go.  He pushed me in the skywalk.  This skywalk seemed to go on forever.  There was very little light.  The atmosphere felt creepy. Finally we reached the end of what felt like a tunnel.  Mitchell grabbed the doorknob of the door, and went to turn the knob.  The door was locked.  We were trapped.  We were sure of the door from the end we came from was locked also.  We were panicking.  We talked.  We communicated the most we had in months. We weren’t sure how we were going to get out.  Then the door opened.  A man wearing scrubs walked toward us.He asked if we needed through. We told him we were trying to get to OB triage. He swiped a card and opened the door for us. The first elevator we found was locked. We found an unlocked door to the left of the elevator. It was a stairwell. I stood up. Mitchell folded and carried the wheelchair. We walked down several flights of stairs. Finally we found the numbered floor the NICU doctor told us to go to. We walked up and told the staff that we were sent by a NICU doctor who recommended I be seen. The doctor working OB triage saw me quickly. He wasn’t real concerned with the swelling in my legs, because of the fluids I was given during labor. He told me I shouldn’t be walking as much and should allow myself to rest. The doctor told me he was prescribing Percocet and Ibuprofen 800mg for my pain. I told him no. He looked at me strangely. I told him I didn’t want medicine that would make me sleepy or make me feel high. I wanted to spend every waking moment sober, with my daughter. He told me the ibuprofen wouldn’t do that to me. He asked if I would take it. I agreed I would. We walked outside on the way back; we did not want to deal with locked doors and elevators. We went to the pharmacy and picked up my medicine. The medicine helped tremendously with my pain and I was still coherent. I complied with the doctor’s advice. Mitchell pushed me in a wheelchair.

Hope had been moved to the team 2 nursery for less critical babies. Mitchell and I spent most of the night at her bedside. The nurses told us if she was sleeping when we came in it would be best not to wake her. They explained that she wouldn’t burn as many calories while sleeping. She needed her calories. I spent a lot of time reading Hope’s chart. While reading her chart, I discovered a report from my doctor at Ardmore. I learned that I had low amniotic fluid during my pregnancy. I wondered why she didn’t tell me. I thought if I was more informed I could have been more prepared and given birth where they were equipped to take care of her. I felt angry that I was not given the option to make the best choice for her and myself. Nurses were giving Hope medication pretty often through her IV and a tube in her nose. She wasn’t allowed to have a bottle. She was being straight cathed often to check her urine output. Mitchell and I stayed in an old hospital room they called the “Parent Hotel” her entire NICU stay. Hope was really good at pulling her IV out, the leads off of her skin and the tube out of her nose. A nurse would be over to restart the IV or reinsert the tubes swiftly. As a parent it is very difficult to watch your baby be poked and prodded over and over.

October 27th an orthopedic surgeon came to Hope’s bedside. He told us that Hope was missing the Tibia bone in her right leg. He said the condition had a name. Tibial Hemimelia. I asked him to write it down, he did. He said she had other more critical things she was already dealing with. We would discuss treatment options in his office after she was released. I went down to the patient breakroom where I had access to a computer with internet. I searched “Tibial Hemimelia”. There were very few results returned in my search. There was a photo of a baby with Tibial Hemimelia on one of the pages I clicked. The baby’s leg looked identical to Hope’s. I knew without a doubt that Hope’s doctor was right. I read that the occurrence of the condition was one in one million births. She was already one in a million to me. I continued reading through the information on that specific page. The next paragraph talked about the most common and successful treatment options. The word hit me like a ton of bricks. Amputation. My brain spent the next five minutes repeating the word over and over. I wanted to be naïve. I didn’t want to believe it. I continued like I hadn’t opened that webpage. I believed the doctor would have several ideas when we saw him after she was released.

Day #2 in the NICU was the same as the day before; restarting IVs and reinserting tubes that Hope wouldn’t leave alone. Mitchell and I would go in together to change her diapers. Sometimes I would go alone. During the evening of night #2 nurses told us the doctor said we could try a bottle. The nurse brought us a tiny bottle of formula. There was 6mls in the bottle, equivalent to 1-2 teaspoons. Hope finished the bottle in two drinks. She was screaming she wanted more. It is torturous as a parent knowing your child is hungry and you can’t feed them. Each feeding Hope was allowed more formula. A nurse would straight cath her after every feeding measure the amount of urine left in her bladder. The amount was never what it should have been with the amounts she was eating.

Every day in the NICU was almost the same; Hope was being poked and prodded constantly. The next day Hope’s nurse told us he was going to bathe her and asked if we had any clothes for her. I was ecstatic; she could wear her own clothes. I excitedly went to our room and grabbed an outfit we had packed for her the night before I was induced. The nurse bathed and dressed her. I remember being almost intoxicated by the way she smelled. There is nothing that compares to the smell of a freshly bathed tiny baby.

I don’t remember every detail of every day. I remember feeling scared every day. I felt sad every time I snapped a photo, afraid it may be the last of her alive. I loved her more than anything. I also remember thinking the staff was hurting her all of the time with all the poking, sticking, taping, and prodding they had to do to monitor her.

On day 5 or 6, family friends Robin & Rick I had known my entire life encouraged us to take a break. They told us to come to their home for dinner. They didn’t live far from the hospital. We told them we would come over. Mitchell and I walked out to the parking garage. We got in the car; “My little girl” by Tim McGraw was playing on the radio. I lost it. I cried as the lyrics played. Mitchell cried with me. I told him I was afraid to leave her. He said he was afraid too. We agreed that no matter how hard it was to leave her, it wasn’t healthy to stay at the hospital all of the time. We needed a break. We needed a few hours of not having to watch Hope be hurt. We deserved to laugh. I can’t remember what they made for dinner. They were interested in how Hope was doing. I remembered we all laughed because one of their sons didn’t realize people are supposed to be born with two kidneys. He was just a couple years older than I.

We went back to the hospital. Hope was still alive. Hope had her first surgery (ureterostomy) at one week old November 2, 2006. The doctor gave me an estimated amount of time the surgery would take to complete. He told me I would receive a phone call when they finished. Mitchell and I smoked cigarettes outside while we waited. The estimated amount of time came and went. My phone didn’t ring. I only allowed an additional five minutes before I became antsy and scared. I went inside and sat outside the door I watched them take Hope through earlier. The door was marked “staff only”, I waited until a nurse or doctor walked out the door. I caught the door just before it closed. I walked into the restricted area. The environment was icy cold. A nurse noticed me almost immediately. She looked at me confused and asked what I needed. I said “I want to know my daughter is okay! I was supposed to receive a phone call and no one has called me.” She asked her name and I told her “Hope Smith”. She said “everything went fine. She’s in recovery now. We’ll take her back to her room in about thirty minutes. You can wait for her there.” We went to the NICU. We sat and watched the door impatiently waiting. When she arrived she was sleeping peacefully. She was still taking a lot of medications. She had to be straight cathered several more times to make sure her ostomy was working correctly, it was.

That evening Mitchell said he was ready to go try feeding and changing her by himself. I was excited! I envisioned him being the kind of dad that ran around the yard with his children, and had tickle fights with them in the middle of the living room floor. I waited in our parent hotel hospital room. He walked into the room 15-20 minutes later visibly upset. He told me he was trying to burp Hope when the nurse took her away from him and told him he was doing it all wrong. I was pissed! I told him I would take care of it as I walked toward the door.

I walked into the room where Hope slept. The nurse was sitting next to Hope’s bassinet with her back to me. As I approached her I could see that she was writing in Hope’s chart. I said “You! I believe we need to talk!” she looked at me shocked. I told her I didn’t appreciate her treating Hope’s father the way she did. I explained that I knew we were brand new parents and we didn’t know everything about caring for a new baby- especially one with medical problems. I told her it was her job to help us learn, not discourage us and tell us we were doing it all wrong. I told her I wanted Hope to have a different nurse for the remainder of the shift and if I had any more issues with her, I would be going to her charge nurse.

The days ahead were pretty uneventful. Friends and family came to visit Hope and checked on Mitchell and me. Trish, a friend I had made in the online chatroom reminded me that she was only an hour and a half away. She told me if we needed anything not to hesitate to call her. Hope was still being poked and prodded, much less frequently. Doctors and nurses didn’t act like Hope was as critical as she was before. I felt more peace but, I was still scared.

I went to Davis Police Department that week. My heart was breaking as I picked up my last check. I cried as I told my boss I wouldn’t be returning. I told him I was moving to Colorado after Hope was released from the hospital. I really needed my aunt’s support. He said he understood. He told me before I left I needed to go see the city secretary. I walked up to the counter where she sat. She pulled a white envelope from the drawer beside her. My first name was written on the front. She said “we collected this for you within the police department and city hall. You can use it for whatever you need.” The envelope contained several hundred dollars. I didn’t just have a job, they genuinely cared about me. I had a band of brothers and sisters who had become my family. They loved me and rallied behind me in some of my darkest hours. I will never adequately be able to verbalize how much they will always mean to me. I am so grateful I was blessed with them. Many of them are still in my life today, friends I will have forever.

On day 10, we were told Hope would be released in a couple of days. The doctor gave us a prescription for Hope, that he wanted us to get filled before her release. He explained that she could not be without the medication and that it meant life or death for her. Hope was released on day 12 at night time.

The three of us stayed at my grandparent’s home. Hope had 3-4 doctors’ appointments the following week and blood draws every other day. We went for an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon. The doctor showed us Hope’s x-rays. He brought in a second doctor. The two of them concurred that the only treatment option for her condition was amputation. My heart dropped. They wanted to cut my baby’s leg off. The doctor recommended the surgery be done when Hope was six months old. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. I decided I would get as many opinions as I needed until a doctor told me her leg shouldn’t be amputated.

I needed my family’s support more than ever. We were preparing for our big move. My aunt talked to her friends in the area where she lived and found an amazing pediatrician for Hope. Hope’s urologist referred her to a urologist and a pediatric nephrologist at the hospital for children in Denver, 4 hours from my aunt’s town.

We spent our last days in Oklahoma visiting friends and family we wouldn’t get to see often after we moved. We had professional family photos taken of the three of us. We moved to Colorado before the end of November.

Colorado

We lived with my aunt Deedee and her family. Mitchell began working almost immediately once we arrived in Grand Junction, Colorado. My aunt and I spent most days at doctor’s appointments for Hope. Mitchell and I were stressed. I feared every day may be Hope’s last. Doctor’s appointments for Hope were exhausting. Mitchell was working twelve hour shifts. Deedee and I were trying to find a way to keep Hope’s ostomy from leaking out of her diaper and soaking her clothes. Mitchell and I were not getting along. We argued more than we talked. We exchanged more hurtful words than positive. We went to dinner one night before his birthday. I felt more connected with him that night then I had in over a month.

My aunt, uncle, and their boys went to Oklahoma for Christmas. Mitchell and I were just okay. Our relationship was very melancholy. He would go to work, come home, shower, play with Hope and then drink beer. We were discouraged. We were not leaning on one another. We were simply rolling through the motions.

The night that changed my life infinitely

January 1, 2007. Mitchell came home from work. Hope was in her swing. I was sitting in a glider on a laptop. I told Mitchell that Hope missed him that day. He walked passed her in her swing to the refrigerator and got a beer. I was somewhat annoyed that he was already drinking and hadn’t even acknowledged Hope. I didn’t say anything. Instead I continued playing on the computer.

Early in our marriage we made an agreement. We agreed he wouldn’t drink liquor because he became very verbally abusive when he drank hard alcohol. Mitchell finished his beer and walked into the kitchen. I watched as he poured himself a coffee cup of peach schnapps (liquor). I walked into the kitchen. I looked Mitchell in the eyes as I picked the cup up off the counter. I said “we have an agreement, that you won’t drink hard alcohol.” I poured the contents of the cup down the sink drain. Mitchell didn’t speak a word. He walked to the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of watermelon pucker (liquor) out of a shelf in the door. As he walked into the dining area he opened the bottle and took a drink. I felt hurt. I felt disrespected.

I lost it. I tackled him to the floor. I took the bottle from his hands. I knew immediately things had gone too far. Though Hope was not old enough to remember she was wide awake twenty feet away. Mitchell did not try to fight back. I gathered every bottle from the kitchen. I walked back to the living room and sat them all on the floor to the right of the glider I had been sitting in. I sat down and picked up the phone to call Deedee.

My uncle answered. I asked to talk to Deedee. He asked what was going on. I said “Can I please just talk to Deedee?” he asked again what was going on. I told him what happened. He asked if I wanted him gone. I said “Yes”. He told me he was going to make some phone calls and would call me back. He called back in a matter of five minutes. He told me his boss was coming to pick him up. They were paying for a hotel room for the night and he could figure it out on his own the next day. I told Mitchell what was going on and he gathered his things. I wanted so badly for Mitchell to stop. I wanted him to grab me, and tell me that I was worth it, that he loved me and that I was still all he ever wanted. That Hope was worth it, that he didn’t want to walk through this life without us and that he wanted to be there for her every day. He didn’t.

My uncle’s boss showed up within twenty minutes. Mitchell left with only a red and black duffle bag without saying goodbye to Hope or I.

Mitchell got on a bus to California the next day. I felt crushed. I knew he had no other choice. He had no family in Colorado and he couldn’t afford to continue living in a motel. I really just needed time and space. I needed him gone for a little while. In the heat of the moment, that ended up being gone forever. My family was angry. There was no way they would’ve allowed him back in their home and he had nowhere else to go.

I am a single mom

I had Hope’s ears pierced on January 5th. Mitchell called me a week later. He was staying with a family member in California. The situation felt hopeless for me. There was no change of us working our marriage out and being the family I had always dreamed of. Circumstances prevented that although it was truly our desire. A lady contacted me several weeks later. She was a longtime friend of Sharon’s. She was sincere and felt very guilty. She told me that in May 2006, she was at Sharon’s home. Mitchell and Sharon told her he and I had split up and he had filed for divorce. She slept with him. I was crushed, infidelity on top of everything else within our marriage. By that time he had moved back to Oklahoma and was staying with Sharon and Crawford. I called to confront him; I had his mistress on the line as well. She remained quiet as I asked him about it. He denied that anything ever happened between the two of them. He began saying she was a lying bitch. She spoke up and said “Oh I’m a lying bitch, huh?” He gave the phone to his brother in law Crawford to avoid the confrontation. Crawford cussed me out and called me a whore, a bitch and he called the other lady a homewrecker. I asked if Mitchell couldn’t be an adult and handle these situations himself. Crawford hung up the phone. I didn’t talk to Mitchell for months after that phone call.

I was furious, hurt, and lonely. I was alone. I was a single mom. My sole responsibility was to make sure Hope was taken care of. I never wanted to be a single mom. I wanted Hope to have her father in her life. That was out of my control. I couldn’t force him to be the daddy to her I believed he could be. I must have listened to Rascal Flatts “Stand” hundreds of times in the weeks that followed. That was my anthem; I had to be mad and strong for Hope. I had my aunt’s support. Hope continued to have appointment after appointment. My aunt was always there beside me. My aunt and I took Hope to another orthopedic surgeon. The doctor recommended amputation for her leg. My aunt held Hope down for x-rays. The x-ray showed severe hip dysplasia. The cup and ball of her right hip hadn’t formed correctly. Hope was able to free herself from the sling used for babies with hip dysplasia because of the shape of her leg. She ended up in a hard cast made especially for her. We could unvelcro it to bathe her and change her diaper. The doctor called her cast the “Hope Brace”.

Before Mitchell and I split he had me convinced that Hope’s medical problems were my fault. He’d tell me “Everything that’s wrong with her must be your fault; I had two perfect boys before her.” I took her to a geneticist one month after he left. I had to know if I somehow caused her medical problems. I was scared. I told myself that if it was my fault I wouldn’t have any more children. I would be Hope’s mommy and no one else’s. The doctor told me he initially considered a diagnosis of vaters syndrome for her. He said she didn’t have all of the components that went along with vaters syndrome. He couldn’t diagnose her with vaters syndrome. I had very little medical history for Mitchell and his immediate family. Based on my own and my family’s medical history alone the doctor determined all of Hope’s medical issues were sporadic. He stated the chances of me having another baby with the same issues were .05%. I felt somewhat relieved.

My aunt and I continued to try and find a way to prevent Hope’s ureterostomy from leaking urine onto her clothes. We found that Huggies supreme diapers and a tri-folded Viva Kleenex paper towel around Hope’s waist inside of her diaper worked best. Some days Deedee, Hope, & I would spend 8+ hours in the car. Two of Hope’s specialists were in Denver, 4 hours away one way. We made that trip often.

I began working at a portrait studio in April 2007. I worked six days a week. My aunt took care of and saw Hope more hours a week than I did. She’d scramble eggs for Hope every morning when I dropped her off. My aunt had colorful cartoons recorded on her TV for Hope. My heart still skips a beat and my eyes still find tears when I think of how Deedee used to dance around, spinning in circles with Hope in her arms in her living room. She must have danced with Hope at least one time daily while “You save me.” By Kenny Chesney played.

I was stupid. I was desperate. I wanted so badly for Hope to have a dad. I reconnected with a man I had been friends with for years. Charles was in Oklahoma. I loaded up Hope and we went to Oklahoma to visit him. We spent a weekend with him. He was kind to me. He was attentive and kind to Hope. I loved him because he was good to my daughter.

Hope and I returned home. I continued working 6 days a week. Hope said her first word “Mama” on May 7th. I missed it. My aunt called me at work to tell me. She began saying “dadada” a week later. Near the end of May my aunt took Hope and her boys to Oklahoma. My uncle and I stayed behind to work. The plan was for my aunt to pick up two of my cousins, Jamie and Katie. Then my grandparents follow her back in their vehicle. They were coming to spend a couple of weeks visiting with us. I continued talking to Charles on the phone regularly. He told me he was ready and willing to move and become a family with Hope and I. He didn’t have a vehicle; I asked if my aunt would allow him to ride back with her. She said he could. I put money in my aunt’s bank account to cover the expense of getting Charles to Colorado. They all arrived at our house 4-5 days later. Charles kept my car while I worked so he had a way around. He was taking care of Hope and taking my cousins to the lake. Charles, Hope, and I got an apartment about a week after he arrived. He wasn’t working. I paid for all of it. My cousins spent several nights at our house. I was working so much that I was always exhausted. I would go to bed shortly after getting Hope to sleep. Charles and my cousins would stay up late in the living room playing video games and watching movies. Jamie was twelve years old, and Katie was 15 years old.

Jamie and Katie went home at the end of June. Charles and I began arguing more often. He would spend hours with his guy friends in the evening. He obtained a job working daytime hours at a vehicle maintenance shop. The first week of July I was driving in my car running errands. I missed a phone call. Jamie’s older sixteen year old sister left a voicemail. She sounded urgent “Stormi you need to call me ASAP! It’s about Jamie and Charles.” I called her back within a few minutes. She said “There are photos of Charles’ dick in Jamie’s phone. They’ve been texting each other and telling each other “I love you.”” She told me they had given the phone to the police. I told her I was driving straight to his job, and then we hung up. My uncle called me while I was driving. He was angry at Charles. He told me he could handle the situation in a couple of phone calls. I told him I was handling it myself. I hung up the phone with him just before I pulled into the parking lot of Charles’ job. Charles was outside parking a customer’s vehicle. I motioned for him to come to the window of my car. He finished what he was doing, and then walked over to my car. He stood at the driver’s side window. I looked at him and said “You are busted motherfucker!” He knew. His eyes widened. He said “Can we talk about this later?” I said “Oh we are going to talk about it for sure!” I headed home. Within a couple of hours an agent with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation called my phone. He asked to talk to Charles. I gave him Charles’ cell phone number. He asked if I was aware of what was going on. I told him Kaitlynn called me a few hours earlier and told me about their findings in Jamie’s cell phone. Later when Charles came home, he told me that the agent called him and no charges were being filed because there was no physical contact. Charles told me he and his coworkers sent her text messages as a joke and there were no photos. I was hurt, but I believed him. My aunt and uncle begged me not to continue my relationship with him. I didn’t listen. I did what I wanted to. I was so desperate for Hope to have a father. I was willing to accept almost anything, stupid me. A couple weeks later he, Hope, & I headed to Oklahoma. We planned for Hope and I to spend the weekend with my grandparents. Charles was going to go spend time with his family in Texas. We drove all night, sometimes exceeding speeds of 100mph. July 26, 2007 0600hrs. We pulled into my grandparent’s driveway. My grandma and Katie came out to meet us. I stepped out of the car while Charles was bent down unbuckling Hope from her car seat. I spotted a police car driving recklessly through their yard toward my car. I looked at my grandma and asked “why is my papa driving his unit like that?” she responded “That’s not your papa.” I looked over to see my grandfather’s police car sitting in the driveway, not started. The police car that had torn through the yard came to a screeching halt just a few feet from my car. A police officer exited the unit with his gun drawn. He yelled “Get your hands up!!” Charles handed Hope to Katie. She took her inside the house. Charles and I stood there with our hands up. My mind raced. I wondered if we had been followed all night. Did we somehow outrun an officer in Kansas doing 100mph? The officer looked at me “Ma’am you can put your hands down.” While handcuffing Charles the officer told him he was under arrest for indecent proposals to a child under the age of sixteen. The officer asked Charles if he was wearing his army wristband. He was. I asked to have the money out of his wallet because it was the only money we had. I also asked for his cell phone so I could call his family to let them know he had been arrested and wouldn’t be arriving. With Charles’ permission the officer gave me the money from his wallet. The officer asked the name of the family member that I needed a phone number for. I told him. As he scrolled through the phone’s contacts he told me the phone was considered evidence. I asked my grandma for a cigarette. My nerves were shot. I stood there smoking as Charles was hauled away in the back of a police car. A man walked through the yard towards me. As he approached he introduced himself as an agent with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. He asked if he could talk to me privately. I crammed the cigarette in the sand between his feet and said “okay, let’s go.” I followed him out to the road where his vehicle was parked. He asked what I knew about the case and how long I had known. He asked personal questions concerning Charles’ and I’s physical sexual relationship. I answered his questions to the best of my ability. I called Charles’ mother and let her know what was going on. I went inside my grandparent’s house. Charles’ face was all over the news. I lay on the couch. I was so exhausted but, couldn’t sleep. I was furious my daughter witnessed an officer with his gun drawn. I never wanted her to be afraid of police officers. I was humiliated. I was afraid. I was alone. Hope was without a dad again. I called to check Charles’ bail amount. They told me his bail was $25000.00. There was no way I could afford that. My grandad called from work. Several media outlets were at the courthouse wanting to come out and interview me. I said no. My grandma told my papa to tell them no and if anyone showed up at their home they would be escorted off of the property. I felt so lost, so confused. Hope and I headed back to Colorado a week later. I went back to working 6 days a week immediately. My aunt took care of Hope while I work. I was done with Charles. Charles called my cell collect one night. I was reluctant to take the call but, I did. He told me how sorry he was, that he loved and wanted to marry me. He said he Hope and wanted to be her dad. I was sucked right back in. I believed his sweet lies. I would spend the next nine months waiting for him. I would spend hundreds, thousands on writing materials and 15 minutes.

Mitchell contacted me several times over the next couple of weeks. He first told me he wanted me to send Hope to him in California. I told him he could pay airfare and lodging for Hope and I and I would come to California and allow him to see her. He was not satisfied with that, he was angry. He told me she was as much his child as she was mine. He said he didn’t need me there and he was capable of taking care of her without me around. I felt like he was a stranger to her. She was 9 months old. There was no way I would put her on a plane alone. I told him no.

The next time he called me he told me I needed to hurry up and file the divorce. He said he was seeing a lady named Johnnie. He had moved in with her and wanted to marry her. I told him I was seeing someone else and wanted to get married too. I explained I couldn’t afford to file for divorce. I was working 6 days a week and could barely afford to live. He had no concern for mine or Hope’s wellbeing. I was crushed.

He called me again a few days later in the evening time. He sounded intoxicated. We were talking civilly. Out of the blue he said “I am still in love with you, I’ll never stop loving you.” I was pissed. How could he be with Johnnie wanting to marry her and saying these things to me? Why was I raising our child alone? I said “Are you fucking drunk? How many beers have you drank tonight? Don’t EVER say that to me again!” He told me he hadn’t drank anything. I didn’t believe him. I told him I had to go. We said goodbye and I hung up the phone.

A couple of days later I called the phone number Mitchell had given me. Johnnie answered the phone and told me he wasn’t home. I was kind to her yet, vindictive. I asked to leave a message for him. She said sure. I said “Please ask him to call his wife.” She said “okay.” He called me several hours later, he was fuming. “Why did you tell her you’re my wife?” he asked in a hateful tone. I laughed “Is it not true? If you don’t want her to know that I’m your wife you should get a divorce and quit relying on me to do it.” He hung up on me.

Hope started crawling in late August. I missed the first time she crawled because I was working. I felt so proud! I didn’t know if she would ever crawl because of the shape of her leg. Hope and I spent a lot of time in the car when I wasn’t at work. The area we lived in was surrounded by three very different looking landmarks. Colorado was beautiful! I would just drive and drive allowing myself time to take in all of the beauty.

My aunt and I took Hope to a different orthopedic surgeon that fall. I desperately wanted someone to tell me that amputation wouldn’t be necessary. Although Hope’s leg didn’t look normal to others, she was a part of me. I saw her as perfect. The doctor concurred with the previous three surgeons. He explained that we could try reconstructive surgery but, the prognosis was very poor. Hope would have to have multiple surgeries every year until she quit growing. I knew we could not go the reconstructive route. I wasn’t willing to put Hope through all that would entail. I told myself I would get the ball rolling and would take her to the Shriners hospital soon.

Hope turned 1 in October. My aunt baked her birthday cakes. She and her boys decorated their living room, dining room, and Hope’s high chair for her party. She had a great time and got tons of gifts. She even received a couple of gifts from Mitchell and Johnnie. I hadn’t heard from Mitchell in over two months, the gifts were a shock for me.

Appointments and blood draws continued. Her appointments were less frequent but, still often. There were times I had to work and my aunt would take Hope to appointments. Deedee was truly more of a parent than a great aunt to Hope. The orthopedic surgeon recommended we discontinue the cast for her hips. X-rays showed no improvement at all.

In November 2007 my uncle lost his job. My aunt told me they would be moving back to Texas just before Christmas. My aunt lined up a babysitter, someone that she trusted to keep Hope once they moved. Hope and I were going to be alone in Colorado with no family near us. I knew we couldn’t stay in Colorado much longer after our family moved away.

Deedee and I took Hope to see her urologist in Denver. He said she was ready to have her ureterostomy reversed. The earliest he could schedule the surgery was the day after Christmas. I knew I was going to have to be alone waiting for surgery to be completed for the first time ever. I was devastated and scared. I knew I had to be strong and do what was best for Hope. Quitting was never an option in my mind.

Icy Roads

December 13, 2007. I got off of work at 1900hrs. When I arrived at my aunt’s home to pick up Hope, she told me the roads were going to get bad. She begged for Hope and I to stay the night where she knew we were safe. I said no. My bed and my clothes were at home. I just wanted to be at home. I drove eastbound on I70. The snow was coming down in blankets. I reached down and buckled my seatbelt. I observed brake lights about a ¼ mile ahead of me. I stomped my breaks. My car started to slide to the right. Then all hell broke loose. My car spun counter clockwise. We spun two and a half revolutions, and then the car went in reverse and across the center median. My vehicle came to a stop with the backend halfway into the left lane of the westbound oncoming traffic. I was afraid another vehicle would hit mine. I jumped out of the car, and threw the driver’s seat forward. Hope was asleep in her car seat. I quickly unbuckled and pulled her out. The snow was still falling hard. Hope was looking around confused. A champagne colored SUV stopped on the shoulder. A middle aged man rolled the window down and said “You and your baby come sit in our car where it is warm; we’ve already called for help.” I sat in their heated leather back seat with Hope in my lap. I asked if I could use their cell phone. I called Deedee. I told her I had a wreck but, Hope and I were okay. I asked if they would come pick us up. She told me Guy would be on his way. The firefighters arrived in what felt like no time at all. They blocked the roadway so another vehicle couldn’t come along and hit my car. A fireman told me I must have had a guardian angel watching over me. He told me there were six wrecks in that one mile span of highway. Mine was the only one that had no fatalities involved. They pulled my car from the median. My car was drivable and there was no property damage, they said an accident report was not necessary but, it was my choice. I could stay and wait several hours for a police officer or I could go home. Guy called the good Samaritans phone and said he couldn’t get to me because the traffic was backed up. I told him I would head to their house. I put Hope in her car seat. I gripped the steering wheel and drove extra slow in the direction of their home. I could tell that the vehicle behind me was my uncle’s truck. I approached the road where my aunt’s house was located. I was driving 5-10 miles per hour. I turned the steering wheel left. My car began sliding right. I crashed down into a 4-5 foot cement embankment. Yes, I seriously wrecked my car twice in one night. There was no getting out of the cement ditch without a tow truck. I got Hope out of the car. My uncle was standing at the top of the embankment. I handed Hope to him. I said “I am done driving! I am done with this night!” Hope and I rode in his truck to their house a block down the road. The next day my aunt and uncle told me my Christmas gift would be tow truck services. I felt grateful. The tow truck got my car out with no problems. I was terrified to drive. My aunt Deedee drove me everywhere for 2-3 days. She gently reminded me that they were moving soon and I would have to drive on my own. She was right. They moved to Texas just before Christmas. Hope and I were truly alone. We didn’t have a single family member within 1000 miles. I didn’t want to stay in Colorado alone. On Christmas day Hope and I spent 8 hours on the road to Denver. Denver was normally a 4 hour drive. The weather conditions were a complete whiteout. The cars on the highway were all moving at 35 miles per hour or less. That trip was brutal. I had no washer fluid in my car. Every five minutes I was holding bottled water out the window and dumping it on the window as I drove. My wiper blades were frozen and doing no good. Every steep grade I drove down or up along the way, I braced myself for my car to slide. I saw a sign that said “state law chains required” I didn’t know what chains were. I pulled off the highway. I was panicking. I asked a gas station clerk where I could buy some and what they cost. She told me they cost about $50. I didn’t have $50! I continued to drive eastbound on the highway. I was scared of getting a ticket I wouldn’t be able to pay. I was terrified of wrecking. I cried most of the trip. Deedee called to check on us and see how our trip was going. I told her I was stressed, couldn’t talk, and would call her back later. Hope and I made it to our hotel around 2130hrs that night. The snow on the ground was to the bottom of the doors of my car. I called Deedee and told her we made it safely and we were headed to bed.

 

Blue drapes and a gas mask

The next day Hope and I were up early headed to The hospital for children in Denver. Hope was cranky because she was hungry and couldn’t have anything to eat or drink. It was surgery day! The nurse explained that at their hospital they allowed the parent to go all the way to the operating room for the child’s comfort. I walked beside the nurse with Hope in my arms toward the operating room. As we walked down the long hallway the nurse told me not to touch anything that was covered in blue when we entered the room. She said once Hope fell asleep they would have me leave the room. We walked through a set of double doors. The room was freezing cold. There was so much covered in blue. Blue drapes laid over tables and equipment I couldn’t see. I was instructed to lay Hope down on the narrow bed in the center of the room. I stood by her side holding her and telling her everything was going to be okay. The nurse showed Hope a gas mask and let her touch and play with it briefly. The nurse turned on the gas. As the nurse brought the mask closer to Hope’s face she began to get upset. Then the nurse pressed the gas mask gently against Hope’s nose and mouth. Hope completely flipped out. She was scared. She was screaming, tears rolling down her cheeks. She jerked her head back and forth trying to get away from the mask. All at once the room grew silent, she quit crying. She quit moving. I looked at her. Her blue eyes and her mouth were wide open. She was motionless, she was absent of life. That moment is when I learned what Hope would look like dead. She was not dead, but she looked it. That was traumatic for me to see her that way. A nurse said “Mom it’s time to go..” I exited the operating room. I was alone. I resented Mitchell. I felt that even though we weren’t together, he should have been there. I didn’t have this child by myself. I felt like he should’ve been there for me to lean on, to know what it felt like in those moments as her parent, he should’ve been there by her side too. He wasn’t. I felt so let down by him. I walked down the hallway in the direction of the parking garage. I sat down in the driver’s seat of my car. As I dialed Deedee’s phone number, I lit a cigarette. I was crying before she answered the phone. Through tears I described the way Hope looked before I left the operating room. She looked dead. I said I couldn’t do this. She reminded me that I am doing it, had been doing it, and everything would be okay. She reassured me that Hope was in good hands. Surgery lasted three hours. Surgery went just as well as the doctor expected. No more urine leaking onto her clothes. For the first time since she was a week old she was peeing the normal, natural way. Everything was going well. The next day the nurse told me we could be discharged that day or she could try to get Hope another day because of the weather. I preferred another day. The snow was 18 inches deep. We stayed a second night in the hospital.

Going home

Before the New Year I called my grandparents and told them I wanted to come home. I talked to my landlord and explained my situation. She allowed me to break my lease without any penalty. I exhausted all of my financial resources including Hope’s savings to rent a moving truck and insure we would have enough for gasoline to get to Oklahoma. My papa flew in to help me pack and load the moving truck. I cleaned the apartment to move in ready standards. My papa drove the moving truck. We stayed awake all night on the drive to Oklahoma. Mine and Hope’s belongings went into a storage building. At the end of January 2008 Hope and I went to stay with a longtime friend of mine in El Reno. My friend and I had known each other since we were twelve. She had a daughter just two years older than Hope. I loved her daughter; she called me “Aunt Stormi”. I planned to settle permanently in El Reno with Hope and eventually Charles. I thought it would be perfect living in the same town with and having the support of a good friend. I truly needed that.

 

Disarticulation

Hope and I went to the Shriner’s hospital in Shreveport, Louisiana in February 2008. Deedee drove from her home in Texas and met us there. The day was long, full of x rays and exams. The doctor explained amputation would be required and said he would try to repair her hip while she was under for the amputation. The nurse said the earliest they could schedule surgery would be during the summer. She left the room to go check the schedule. Deedee and I discussed how doing it in the summer would allow us time to plan and prepare. The nurse walked back into the room carrying a cabbage patch doll. She said “I’ve got her down for April 10th” Deedee and I looked at each other shocked. The nurse showed us the doll she carried in. The doll had both legs wrapped in a hard cast from the hip to the ankle. A wooden bar was attached near the middle of the calves to keep the legs from moving. I thought of how long it took Hope to learn how to crawl.  How much she enjoyed crawling.  The nurse explained if the doctor was successful with repairing the hip, Hope would be in a cast like the dolls for 6 to 12 weeks.  I was a wreck.  I didn’t want Hope not able to use her legs.  How was I supposed to bathe her?  What can she wear?  The thoughts and had are things I sometimes still think today.  I wondered what if she someday resents me for having choosing to have her leg amputated?  What if she would have preferred to make a choice for herself when she was older?  I told myself she didn’t want to be wheelchair bound.  She would want to learn to walk and run like other children her age.  My heart was breaking.  I really agreed to have a part of my baby’s body removed.  I felt crushed but, I knew I was making the right choice for her.

Hope and I went home to El Reno.  Things were pretty good.  My friend and I worked at a nursing home together.  Her grandmother baby set our girls.  On our days off we would do fun activities with our girls in her boyfriend’s two sons.  One afternoon her boyfriend came into the living room smoking a pipe.  I told my friend that I didn’t want marijuana around Hope.  A few days later her boyfriend said I had been acting differently.  Something wasn’t right.  I told him I was upset.  He got angry.  He said he would just move out.  I didn’t want to be the cause of my friend’s relationship failing.  I gathered Hope and I’s belongings.  We went to my grandparents to stay.  I found a house to rent April 1 in Shawnee.  I moved a few things in.  I decided to wait until after Hope’s surgery to move in completely.

Hope and I went to state Deedee’s house in Texas 3 to 4 days before her surgery.  Two days before surgery we printed her feet.  My 15 year old cousin made himself a T shirt with Hope’s footprints on it.  He left the room briefly.  He returned holding the shirt for us to see.  He had written in sharpie “Habi’s feet together one last time”.  Deedee and I cried.  Hope really wouldn’t have 2 feet ever again in just a couple of days.  Early in the morning April 9 Deedee Hope and I loaded up and headed port Shreveport.  We arrived at the hospital at noon.  Hope was admitted in preparation for her surgery.  She shared a room with a five or six year old little girl.  Every time Hope saw the little girl she would smile.  The little girl spent a lot of time in Hope’s area of the room.  Deedee and I spent a lot of time chatting with the girl’s mom.  Hope was allowed nothing to eat or drink after midnight.  Deedee slept in the patient breakroom; I slept at Hope’s bedside.  The next morning Hope was fussy.  She couldn’t eat or drink anything.  Deedee and I were anxious and emotional.  We cried a lot that morning.  We took turns holding Hope. A nurse brought Hope a portable DVD player, DVD’s, and medication to relax her.  Within 10 minutes the medicine kicked in.  Hope began behaving like she was drunk.  She wasn’t crying anymore.  She was falling all over the crib.  She acted like her head weighed 50 pounds.  Every direction she turned, her head slowly fell over.  She kept reaching to the screen of the DVD player.  She would pinch two fingers together every time she touched the screen.  She was trying to pick up the characters out of the show she was watching.  Deedee and I laughed so hard we cried.  Hope’s funny behavior really broke the tension for us.  Finally the doctor came in.  He reminded us exactly what was going to be done.  Then he told us the surgery would take an hour and ½ or less.  The nurse wheeled her out of the room.  Another nurse showed us where we could wait.  Deedee and I sat there waiting.  The Dr. walked into the room about 45 minutes later.  He told us the surgery went well.  He explained that he was unable to make any repairs to her hip.  He said between the ages of four and five she would need a complete hip replacement.  I was somewhat relieved she wouldn’t be in the cast we were shown two months earlier.  This meant she would be in the same cast when she was older.  That made me sad.

Deedee and I went back to Hope’s room to wait for her.  The nurses brought Hope in.  She was sleeping and had an oxygen mask on her face.  She started to wake.  She began grabbing and pulling at the mask.  We took it off.  She crawled around the bed and was happy.  Deedee and I noticed on the monitor the Hope’s O2 stats had dropped 1 to 2 points.  Deedee grabbed oxygen mask and put it on Hope.  Hope started screaming and crying.  She was jerking her head back and forth.  She was trying to grab the mask off of her face.  Deedee’s held the mask on her face tightly.  Hope oxygen levels dropped into the seventies.  I ran down to the nurse’s station.  I told the nurse what was happening.  She told me to put the oxygen mask on Hope.  I was irritated.  I asked what she thought we were doing.  Then I said “please come help!”  I ran back to Hope’s room.  The nurse walked in right behind me.  She immediately turned the gauges up on the wall for the oxygen.  The nurse had Hope’s stats back in the nineties in no time at all.  As she watched the monitor, she slowly turned the oxygen down.  Once the mask was removed, Hope was crawling again.  The nurse told Deedee and I we really needed to try and keep her off her stump.  She continued crawling in crawling despite our efforts to hold her or make are lay down.  The next morning the Dr. came in.  We asked him how he expected us to keep her off of her stump.  He said “if it hurts too bad, she’ll” stop.  She never stopped.  We were discharged from the hospital on April 11.  Hope and I stayed it Deedee’s for week.  Hope crawled the whole time just as fast as she always had.  Hope and I headed home.  The same family member I caught stealing my mother’s medication that day she died asked me if they could have the liquid Lortab that had been prescribed to Hope, which was so hurtful to me. I moved all of our things into the house I rented before I left.  Times were very hard.  I wasn’t working.  There were many times Hope and I had noodles to eat.  I was grateful we had something to eat.  Charles got out of jail at the end of April.  He went to work trimming trees for minimum wage.  I was insecure, I couldn’t trust him.  I stayed with him because he was good to Hope.  I was willing to do whatever would be best for her.  Even if that meant I was unhappy.  I pulled photo albums out often.  I would show hope photos often.  I pointed to the man in the pictures and would say “this is Mitchell”.  I knew someday she would want to know about him.  In early June, I started the process of getting Hope physical therapy in our home.  I met with my attorney to start the divorce.  Hope had an appointment to be casted for her first prosthetic leg.  When we came home, I met Hope’s physical therapist for the first time.  She told me when Hope got her prosthetic leg; she would start working with her 1 to 2 times a week.  I met with my attorney that week.  She told me she would get my divorce papers drawn up and we could file them after Hope’s appointments were taken care of.  Hope and I rode to the Shriner’s van to Shreveport.  Deedee’s met us there.  We stay the night in a hotel, and then we went to the hospital in the morning.  That prosthetist brought her tiny leg into the room and put it on her.  Deedee and I bawled.  I cannot adequately describe exactly what it felt like seeing my child stand on two legs for the first time in her life.  She was three days shy of 20 months.  Hope hated the leg.  We stayed at the hospital for nearly a week.  Every day was packed with hours of physical therapy.  Hope cried more often then she smiled.  My aunt, Hope and I were walking down a hallway.  We walked past a couple with the baby in the stroller.  Both of his legs looked like Hope’s leg before surgery.  My aunt asked them if it was Tibial hemimelia they said it was and they were they are preparing for his double amputation.  We introduced ourselves and we told them Hope just had her surgery 10 weeks ago.  They introduce themselves Diane, in her husband Jason, and their nine month old son Talon.  I felt instantly connected with their family.  Finally parents who knew exactly how I felt.  We spent some time in their patient room.  Deedee and I talked a lot with Diane and Jason.  Talon and Hope smiled and laughed as they played.  My grandfather called me and told me he had divorce papers to serve me when I got home.  I felt relieved.  Hope and I went home the next day.  My papa gave me the divorce papers.  As I looked through the divorce papers there was an attached notarized letter.  This letter crushed me.  Mitchell stated he wanted child support waived, parental rights terminated, and no visitation.  He didn’t want to be notified of any adoption proceedings concerning her.  I wondered how I would be able to tell her he didn’t want her when she was older.  I worried about the deep rejection she would feel.  I told myself that maybe Mitchell didn’t really mean it.  I took the divorce papers to my attorney.  She looked through the papers.  When she reached the letter, she looked at me with tears in her eyes. “How could someone quit on their child like this?”  She asked.  I told her I can’t answer that question.  I could not fathom spending my life without Hope.  I called Mitchell to tell him he forgot to include the vehicle we owned jointly in the papers.  He cussed me out.  He told me he had already spent more than he wanted on our divorce.  He chose not to correct it.

Hope started physical therapy at home.  She hated wearing her prosthetic.  She hated trying to walk.  Her physical therapist and I used care bear DVD’s to bribe her.

Our fate was sealed, stepping forward

Mitchell and I’s divorce was final August 5, 2008.  A piece of me died that day.  My desire to be married, once and forever was dissolved.  Hope and I would never have the life with him I once dreamed of.

My attorney drew up documents to determine paternity, custody, child support and visitation.  We filed those documents in September.  I requested supervised visitation and no child support.  The case is very drawn now.  We tried to serve Mitchell at home and work five or six times.  We finally satisfied the courts with service by publication.  Our case go to court for nine months.

Hope turned two that year.  I invited Mitchell’s sister and her family to Hope’s birthday party.  I explained to Sharon that I wanted them in Hope’s life.  I knew Mitchell’s choices had nothing to do with them.  They didn’t come to Hope’s party.  They didn’t send a card, call or e-mail.  I’ve never heard from them.  Hope didn’t receive anything from Mitchell either.  My heart hurt for her even though she didn’t realize she missed anything.  Eight birthdays and eight Christmases have been experienced in her lifetime at this point.  Mitchell has acknowledged one birthday, nothing more.

I saw on social media Mitchell married Johnnie, one day shy of it being three months from the day of our divorce being finalized.  I disliked Johnnie.  She had never done anything to me.  I was bitter and felt like she aided in shattering my dreams.  I felt insulted.  I couldn’t imagine Hope ever having a step mom.

I started dispatching again in mid-November.  I worked for a 911 center in my area.  My trainer was hateful.  She wouldn’t allow me to learn the easiest way for me.  I wanted to assault her physically in the worst way.  I wanted to quit that job multiple nights after dealing with her.  I ended up being put on a permanent shift with her as my partner.  We sat in silence for 24 hours’ worth of shifts.  She hated me just as much as I hated her.  One day we started talking.  We connected on a soul level.  We’d always look forward to working together.  Today Beth is my very best friend.  She’s walked through fire with Hope and I.  I couldn’t; I wouldn’t ever want to know what life would be like without Beth.

We moved to a bigger, nicer house.  We made the immediate friends with our neighbors.  They have babysat Hope, offered parenting advice, and have a daughter close to Hope’s age.  Their daughter has been Hope’s best friend since they were two and four years old.

In June 2009, my attorney and I went before the judge.  The judge looked over the documents I filed.  He told me Mitchell asked that no visitation be awarded for him.  He explained that in cases where the child had state medical (she did) child support had to be ordered.  He ordered no visitation and child support to be paid the first of each month.

Charles and I split in November of that year.  We weren’t getting along.  I found out he had a relationship with a man while in jail.  He had also been bringing another woman to our home and having sex with her while I worked. I was angry.  I was hurt.  He told me he never loved me.  I still so desperately wanted Hope to have a dad.  I told him he could have her any time on weekends he wanted.  He took her for one weekend in December.  She came home with a bunch of new toys.  I’ve always believed that was his way of telling her goodbye.  He never asked to see her again.  He never called to check on her.  He wouldn’t answer or return my phone calls.  He quit on her too.  Jamie and I talked after Charles and I split.  She told me that while in Colorado, one night while I was sleeping.  He fondled her breasts and asked her to have sex with him.  She was scared, she was 12.  She laid down with Katie to get away from him.  I didn’t realize it at the time but, I’d truly dodged a bullet with him.

One day in January while getting Hope dressed for the day, I told her she wouldn’t be able to go to school if she didn’t start using the potty and walking by herself.  I finish dressing her and put her leg on.  I stood her up in the floor.  She took off walking with no support.  She has never stopped.  She also daytime potty trained within a week.  She really wanted to go to school!

My story is Hope’s story.  She lived through all of it.  I am so ashamed of what I am sharing next.

The last name Smith was painful for me.  The name was a constant reminder of a man I loved with all of my heart.  I was also reminded constantly of how he quit on Hope.  My name was used a lot at work.  I felt I had to get rid of it!  He in February 2010 high married a friend I had known since middle school. Marrying that friend was a convenient way to get my name changed.  We divorced in June.

Hope started head start in August.  Her teachers came to our home a couple weeks before hand.  One teacher worked with me setting goals and signing paperwork.  The other teacher interacted with Hope.  Hope showed her where she slept and where she kept all of her toys.  The first day of school was emotional for me.  Hope walked in the classroom.  She was so excited.  She said “that bye mom” she didn’t even hug me or anything.  I realized that day that my baby was growing up.  She didn’t need me as much.  I took college classes while she was a school.  I worked 12 hour days on the weekends.  Hope stayed with my grandparents.  I volunteered a lot of time in Hope’s classroom that fall.  One day while I was volunteering, the class bully walked up and slapped her across the face.  I told the teachers I would step out while they handled it.  I really wanted to jerk the boy up and spank him.  One day when I picked Hope but from school her teachers told me I needed to talk to Hope.  They were in the bathroom when another child asked Hope what happened to her leg.  Hope said “my mommy just cut it off with scissors!”  I got Hope out to the car and buckled in.  I adjusted my rearview mirror to where I could see her.  I asked what happened to her leg.  She said “oh the doctor put me to sleep, I didn’t even feel it”.  I asked why she told her friend that I cut it off.  She laughed hysterically and said “because”.  I reminded her that it is better to be honest when others ask.  I said “tell them that’s the way god made you”.

October 17, 2010 my boss fired at me from my job.  I hadn’t had any write ups.  He told me the employment was “at will” he didn’t have to give me a reason to fire me.  I’ll always believe he fired me because he knew that I knew about him relentlessly sexually harassing an employee who quit six months earlier.  I was completely devastated.  I didn’t know how I was going to take care of myself or hope.  I filed for unemployment.  The 911 center disputed my claim.  They were able to slow down the process.  In the end, I was awarded the unemployment.  They could not show proof of misconduct.

A new dawn

I continued volunteering at Hope’s school and I worked harder on college assignments. I filled out job applications daily. Hope and I attended church near our home. Near the beginning of November our church had a dinner. Hope and I went. During dinner a man sat down across from me. “So you go to Rose state?” He said referencing to my T shirt. I was annoyed by him. He didn’t even introduce himself. I was kind, and talked to him anyway.

Hope and I started attending a life group later that month. We would go over to the home of other young people from the church. We would eat, play games, and have a bible study. The man from the dinner was there too. His name was Kevin. I looked forward to seeing him each month. I had no intentions of dating him. I didn’t want to date anyone. I was done with men forever. I also felt even if I did want to date, I wasn’t good enough for him. He seemed innocence and pure. He was magnetic though, I’d look forward to seeing him at church and during our life group. I couldn’t wait to say “hi” to him every month. I work hard and focused on my college courses. Christmas break came. Hope kept telling me she did want to go back to school. She said “Joey” the classroom bully would hit her. I listened to her talk about this child every day for a week. I believe two wrongs don’t make a right. I’m never the first to say violence is a solution. My child was not going to be bullied. She was not going to fear school. I finally told her “the next time Joey hits you; you are to hit him back as hard as you can”. I heard her later in her bedroom singing “I’m going to beat his ass!” I asked what she said. She told me she didn’t say anything. I told her not to say bad words. She returned to school at the beginning of January. I stayed in her classroom after signing her in. She walked up to Joey. She said “the next time you hit me, I will hit you back HARD!” both teachers looked at me surprised. I said “the day she does it, please let me know, she’ll be going for ice cream that day.” Joey never put his hands on her again.

In February she had breakfast with dad school. My grandfather went and ate with her in full uniform. That evening at home she caught me off guard. She said “my friends have dads, I don’t. Mom are you trying to find me a daddy?” I said “Jesus is your daddy”.

During March, a group of children ran up to me in a church. A little girl asked “how did a coyote get Hope’s leg?!?” The children were terrified. Hope that it was hilarious. I reminded her she should be honest with others. I told her scaring her friends was not nice.

On Easter Sunday 2011 I was invited to go play board games with three women from church. Hope and I had a great time with them, laughing and playing games. Hope and I got home late. Right after I got Hope to bed for the night my phone alerted me of a text message. The text was from Stephanie. One of the ladies I played board games with.

Stephanie: what do you think of my cousin Kevin from life groups?

Stormi: what do you mean?

Stephanie: I was thinking y’all could be friends and see where it goes?

Stormi: why? Is he interested?

Stephanie: yeah, he wants to be your friend.

Stormi: okay.

Stephanie asked if I would go to dinner with her, her husband, Kevin, and another couple a few days later. I really didn’t want to. I was so turned off to the idea of. I made excuses as to why I couldn’t go. Stephanie had a solution for every excuse. I couldn’t get out of it. On April 25, 2011, we went to Fratelli’s in Shawnee, Oklahoma for dinner. Kevin showed up an hour late. He sat down in the chair across from me. I made the comment that I would like to get Hope into Bethel school district in the future. Kevin said “oh yeah? I went there K through 12?” I told him I went there for one year in the fifth grade. He asked what year I graduated. We graduated the same year. He said he wondered if I was in his fifth grade yearbook. We went to a movie after dinner. I cannot for the life of me remember what movie we saw. Kevin and I didn’t even watch the movie. Instead, we talked the entire time. When I arrived home, I realized I didn’t give Kevin my phone number. I texted Stephanie and told her she could give him my phone number if he wanted it. Half an hour later Kevin texted me. He texted a photo of us in his fifth grade yearbook. Two days later, Stephanie suggested we all go have frozen yogurt after church. The four of us (Kevin, Stephanie, Hope, and I) sat there so long. The employees were cleaning tables, mopping floors, and stacking chairs. They were literally closing around us. We all went out and sat in my car. Stephanie and Hope sat in the back seat. I decided right then, I was going to run Kevin off. I didn’t want to date anyone. I did want to risk getting attached to him and him leaving us like others had. I lit a cigarette. Then I started to speak. I listed off the things that would disqualify me as if it were a job interview.

-I smoke

-I’m not a virgin- obviously

-I have a tattoo

-I’m 26 and I have been married twice

-If I ever get serious with someone they are expected to be permanent for Hope too. Surely this would run him off! Stephanie sat in the back seat wishing I would stop.

Four days later Kevin asked if I wanted to come to lunch with him and a mutual friend. I met Kevin at a restaurant. Our mutual friend said something came up and she couldn’t come after we were already there. Kevin and I sat and talked for 3 hours in the restaurant.

Kevin began coming over to my house once or twice a week, 6 to 7 HRS in the evening. We sat on opposite couches and talked for three weeks.

May 23, 2011-I was standing at my stove cooking dinner with Kevin arrived. He spoke “Stephanie says if I want you to be my girlfriend and I have to ask you… So will you be my girlfriend?” I responded “of course”. I already knew I loved him.

Our days were always good. About a month after we began dating, officially; Kevin, Hope, and I were on my front porch. Out of nowhere, Hope said “hey Kevin, how about I call you daddy?” I held my breath. I knew that instant that his response would determine if our relationship was over or I would someday in marry him. Kevin smiled “of course you can.” Hope chose him. Kevin had never been married before and didn’t have any children. God equipped him to be my baby girl’s daddy. He was a natural. He’d get down in the floor and had tickle fights with her. He also guided and corrected her with love. He started coming over to our house every day. Hope deserved to have him there every day. I loved spending as much time with him as I could. Midnight was dreaded every night. Hope and I met Kevin’s family pretty early. We fit with every part of his family, like we were the missing puzzle piece. His family became ours. My grandma told me for years that I didn’t need a man. Anytime I mentioned a man, she would remind me of the garbage I was in the past. She would tell me that they wanted to use and abuse Hope and I. She was right! I picked the kind of men that needed saving somehow. They didn’t have a vehicle, they were jobless, and had outstanding debt I could pay. I took Kevin to meet my grandparents. They interacted with him very well. The conversation seemed to flow naturally without any restraint. My grandma called me the next day when she knew Kevin wouldn’t be around. She said “if you let that one go, I will kill you myself.” My man hating grandma became Kevin’s biggest fan. My family loved him. That made me love him more. Next paragraph hope participated in her first UCO endeavor games in June 2011. I only registered her for one short race. Hope doesn’t like loud noises. They used a cap gun to signal it was time for a race to begin. Hope was no longer excited for her race. Finally it was time for Hope to race. She stood at the start line with her hands over her ears. She was anticipating the sound of the cap gun. Kevin and I along with our family’s encouraged and tried to excite her. We cheered “you can do it Habi!”, “Hope, it’s about time the race!” “It’s gonna be okay.” “You’re gonna do good!”, “that’s our girl!”, “you got this Hope.” The gun went off. Hope that move, she was crying. The cap gun operator walked on to the track. Once in front of Hope she held both of Hope’s hands and helped her cross the start line. Hope walked slowly down the track upset. Midway down the track it happened… The other racers had already crossed the finish line minutes earlier. Hope took off! She ran! The crowd of hundreds of people exploded. The whistles, claps, and the yells were so loud! Kevin and I were a blubbering, snotty mask. Our faces were drenched in tears as she crossed the finish line. A fellow parent told us she remembered how emotional her daughter’s first race was for her and that it was perfectly normal, and OK to feel the way we did. We were so proud of Hope. She did it! She was the youngest and only participant within her classification. It did not matter she was the last to cross the finish line; she got her first gold medal for that race. With her heart and her determination, she earned it!

Hope’s first race

Miracles in the making

August 2011, I had dragged my feet long enough.  The time had arrived for me to get the process started for Hope’s hip replacement.  She would be five in two months.  I took her to a surgeon in Oklahoma City.  I dreaded each moment leading up to that appointment.  My mind kept replaying the sight of that doll in the cast.  I hated it.  The thought of Hope being immobilized broke my heart.  The doctor took his own x-rays.  I sat in the patient room with Hope nervously.  I anticipated the surgery, when it would be scheduled, and how long she would be in the cast.  I prayed that when it was time she would heal faster than normal.  The doctor walked in the room and shut the door behind him.  He said “I don’t know why you are here.” A chill shot through my body.  He continued “her hips are perfect!  Her right hip is a tiny bit smaller than the left but, it’s there formed correctly.  The other doctors must have been wrong.” I choked back tears as I spoke “three doctors into different states were not wrong.  My aunt and I were there holding her down for x-rays.  We saw the x-rays.  They were right, it hadn’t formed correctly.  I want to see your x-rays.” He said “okay” and exited the room.  He returned shortly with xray films in hand.  He clipped the x-ray to the x-ray illuminator and flipped the light on.  I stood there looking at the x-ray, I was astonished.  Hope’s hips were there perfectly formed.  The doctor said “no surgery is necessary, I can’t explain this” I said “I can!” He looked at me confused.  I felt a tear roll down my cheek, “I don’t know about the god you serve but, the god I serve is still in the miracle working business.” He nodded and told us to have a good day.  When I got to my car, I called my Aunt Deedee immediately she was just as excited as I was.

October 2011, Mitchell called. Child support services began garnishing his check two months earlier, he was angry.  He told me that he was coming to Oklahoma in five days I was going to see his daughter.  I tried to explain that she did not know him, and that I didn’t feel like it was in her best interest.  I felt like it would be traumatic and confusing for her.  He kept saying that he could see her since he paid child support.  I finally said “you do remember there’s a no visitation order in place?  You asked that no visitation be ordered for you.” He called me every derogatory name he could have.  He said he was taking me and his son’s mother to court.  He wanted a paternity test because he didn’t believe Hope was his.  He believed I cheated on him around the time Hope was conceived.  He said he didn’t want any more children and he was tricked into having her.  I kept asking if it was all about his money.  He told me he was pissed about the child support.  He asked if I had someone who would adopt her.  I told him I did but, it wasn’t moving something we could do right away because of finances.  Near the end of a phone call he had calmed down some.  I told him that I knew he had my address because he had my phone number.  I told him he was not welcome on my property and would be arrested for trespassing if he came to my home.  He asked for photos of Hope.  I emailed him some.  He never responded.  I filed a police report and spoke with an attorney the next day.

We didn’t have to discuss it.  Kevin and I just knew we would be married someday.  We started looking for land for sale in the school district we wanted to be in.  We found the perfect land.  The land had a well and septic.  Dozer work had already been done on part of the property.  We met with the seller at the end of November.  We set a closing date.  In December we began turning the thirty year old home Kevin’s parents had given him.  We replaced floors and dry walled the home.  We closed on the land December 30. Life was good.

On February 18, 2012 Kevin and I went on a date.  We went to a Mexican restaurant, then headed to the myriad gardens in Oklahoma City.  We went inside the Crystal Bridge and took our time looking at the plants and flowers from all over the world.  At the north end of the building we walked up steps that were lined with plants and flowers.  At the top of the steps we walked around inside of a dome containing aquariums that were home to rodents from many countries.  As we exited the dome, we found ourselves standing side by side on a bridge overlooking the entire greenhouse.  Kevin spoke “You know I’ve been a lot of places…  I’ve been to Colorado, Yellowstone..I’ve been from the mountains to the ocean, seen a lot of very beautiful places and still, you trump them all.” My breath was taken away.  I grabbed ahold of him to hug him.  I uttered “That was so sweet.” He was wiggling to free himself from my hug.  I remember wondering what his problem was.  He pulled a royal blue box from his pocket.  He kneeled in front of me “Stormi, will you marry me?” Time stopped.  I was shocked.  I said “what?  You have a ring?  When did you get ring?  Where?  How?  What?  What?  What?” Kevin said “So is that a yes?” I responded “Of course, it’s a yes!”

We arrived at Kevin’s parents’ home.  I showed Hope the ring on my finger.  She was disappointed at first.  She asked to see Kevin’s ring too.  She thought we got married without her.  Kevin showed her he didn’t have a ring.  We explained to her we made a promise to marry each other, and that we were not married yet.  I told her we had a wedding to plan, and asked if she would be my flower girl she asked “Could I wear flowers in my hair?” I told her she could.

At the end of Hope’s pre-kindergarten year, the school celebrated with inflatables.  That day after school I asked hope if she had fun.  She dropped her head and said “I didn’t get to jump in the inflatables the PE teacher said I couldn’t because my leg would pop it.” I was angry.  For the first time in Hope’s life she was told she couldn’t do something.  My family and I had spent her whole life telling her she could do anything anyone else could.  Hope cried “I didn’t want to be born this way.  I wanted god to give me two legs.” I cried with her.  I reminded her how beautiful, how loved she was and that we love her just the way she is. The next day I ripped the principal a new one.  I also contacted the superintendent and our state superintendent.

Hope did not go to the same school the next year, and never will attend that school again. I feel they failed her that day.

The next six months were spent wedding planning, and late nights remodeling our home.  Hope was so excited that soon daddy wouldn’t have to leave at night to go home.  I couldn’t wait till I could fall sleep and wake up next to him every day.

We were married on August 25, 2012.  The day was perfect!  Kevin took vows with Hope, eliminating every dry eye in attendance.

Kevin’s promise to Hope:

Hope, today I promise to love, cherish, and honor your mother as my wife.  I love you too, and I pledge to take care of you as my child.  We will be a happy family together and we will share many fun times.

About a month after Kevin and I were married Hope and I were in the car.  From the back seat, Hope said “We got married, and now your last name is Boland, when will we change mine?” I told her we would work on it but, I didn’t know how long it would take.  Kevin and I talked to an attorney about Kevin adopting Hope.  The process would be relatively easy and cost about $3000 if Mitchell tried to contest it.  We were willing to pay that amount.  We had bigger issues that made it not in Hope’s best interest for Kevin to adopt her.  If Hope were to be adopted she would need to be carried on his Medical Insurance.  That presents a roadblock for us.  The Medical Insurance Company could refuse completely to cover her due to preexisting conditions or if they agreed to cover her we may not be able to afford the out of pocket expenses.

In January 2013, Mitchell called my mother in law stating he needed to talk to me about HIS daughter.  I called him back.  He demanded that I have his daughter call him every day because he was paying child support.  I explained that she was six years old, and that she did not know him.  He argued that he had 12 grandchildren, and knew how to talk to kids.  I told him we would not be disruptive to her life in this way.  He shouted repeatedly “I AM HER DADDY!” I got irritated.  I finally said “You are not her daddy!  Her daddy is the man who plays with her, prays with her, reads to her, provides for her, bandages her scrapes, picks her up when she falls, and is here for her every day.  That is not you!  That is Kevin!” He was pissed, and started calling me bad names.  I finally said “That’s enough” and I hung up the phone.

Hope spent months telling me I needed to go to the doctor.  She told me I needed to pay for a baby, pick one out, and bring it home.  She wanted a sister or a brother.  She even told me if I didn’t I would go to jail because I was selfish.  She said if I didn’t get a baby, she would.

Kevin and I learned I was pregnant in May 2013.  We didn’t tell anyone until July because of the complications I had with my previous pregnancies.  We took photos of Hope in a T shirt. On the front of the shirt is said “shhh, I have a secret…” on the back it said “I’m going to be a big sister!” she couldn’t see the back of her shirt to read it.

Kevin and I bought two books for her, “Best ever big sister” and “God gave us two”.  We made a photo book that contained chronological photos of Kevin and I as babies, dating, engagement, wedding, and finally photos of our new baby and Hope in her shirt.  In July we met my Aunt Deedee and my uncle in Dallas.  We chose to eat at a Schlotzsky’s.  We handed Hope a gift bag with her shirt and books inside.  I handed Deedee the photo book.  She and Guy looked through it together, they bawled.  Hope went back and forth between wanting a brother or a sister.  We spent the next two days going to families’ homes and sharing our book.  Everyone was excited!

Hope became a big sister to Isaac in January 2014.  The nurse let hope help give the Isaac his first bath at the hospital.  Hope is a very caring and helpful sister.  We found out I was pregnant again in July 2014.

In November to 2014, I started the process of applying for a grant for a running leg through the Challenged Athletes Foundation.  I asked Hope’s second grade teacher to write a letter of recommendation for the grant application.  The letter still makes me cry when I read it.  Her teacher didn’t just write a letter, she shared her heart.

 

 

Dear Challenged Athletes Foundation,

 I am writing this recommendation in regard to Hope Smith. Hope is second grader at (omitted) School and I’m honored to be her teacher. I have known Hope for three years. I first met her as an independent and remarkable Kindergarten student and it has been such a pleasure to watch her grow and learn.

 First of all, let me talk about Hope’s academics. Hope is a very intelligent girl. She is reading two or more grade levels ahead of her second grade level. She is on the Superintendent’s Honor Roll which is the highest level of achievement of all A’s. Hope not only excels in the classroom, but can be a very eager and helpful student and friend to others. She is always the first one to help a student that falls or hug a friend that has gotten their feelings hurt by another. She strives to do her best and achieve in all areas, but her physical achievements are the most remarkable of all.

 Hope can lead her class across the campus at full speed, although her prosthetic leg can be awkward and difficult her inner spirit and strength shines through. As she leads her peers, Hope swings her leg, hops or skips in order to pump her leg to empower her leg to go faster. Whether she is chasing boys at recess or running from boys at recess, she doesn’t let anything ever slow her down. Did I mention that she is beautiful? She fully participates in all activities during Physical Education class, recess and all the brain breaks and activities of a very engaged and active classroom. She climbs to the top of our tallest playground equipment, the Flippo Hippo and climbs or slides down while I hold my breath. She doesn’t accept any limitations at all! When she would become too sweaty at the beginning of the school year, she would have to go to the bathroom to dry and readjust her prosthetic. I went with her to help her and I was once again amazed by her ability to take care of herself and get the job done.

 In all my years of knowing her, I have never heard Hope say, I can’t. I think that this spirited, confident and determined girl will grow to be an independent leader and role model for thousands. I appreciate you for considering her for a running foot. It is my desire to give you a glimpse into this remarkable girl named Hope. I cannot adequately describe the difference it would make in her life. If you asked Hope about her greatest accomplishment, she would show you her UCO Endeavor Games Medals. Her very first show and tell in my class was her medal and leg. She stole my heart that day and I know she would steal yours too.

                                                                                                            Regina Flatt

                                                                                                            Second Grade Teacher

Questions and learning the truth

In the winter of 2015 after finding and reading her baby book, Hope asked “So my father grew up in California?” I told her yes but, we would talk about it another time.  I didn’t learn about or meet my father until I was 12.  I remembered the rejection I felt.  I also remember how I felt when I learned at 18 that I had an older brother I knew nothing about.  She had an older brother she knew nothing about too.  I was sad, I was scared and I questioned how I could explain that Mitchell chose not to be a dad and that it was not her fault.

I contacted Hope’s brother’s mom via social media.  I asked if her son had asked any questions about Mitchell and how she handled them.  She told me that her son had not asked any questions about Mitchell and doesn’t even know he exists.  She said she plans to keep it that way.

Hope’s youngest brother Eric was born in March 2015.

One day I went to the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions.  I told the pharmacist I needed to pick up for Kevin Boland and Hope Smith.  From the back seat, Hope said angrily “My last name is NOT Smith!” I explained as I had in the past that we have to use Smith at the pharmacy and doctors’ appointments.  She told me she hated it.  She said all her family is Boland except her and it makes her Feel left out and not a part of the family.

I waited for a day she was a school and called an attorney.  The lawyer told me that default judgments were not allowed in Oklahoma for minor name changes.  Mitchell would have to agree & sign the papers.

Two weeks after Hope started counseling, Kevin and I took her to a theater production and to a restaurant she chose.  Her brothers stayed with their grandparents.  I brought Hope’s baby book and a photo album.  While at the table I handed her baby book to her.  She read Mitchell’s information; his birthday, full name, and where he grew up.  I asked if she knew anyone named Mitchell.  She said “I don’t know anyone named Mitchell.” I pulled three photos from the photo album and laid them on the table in front of her.  One was a photo of him holding her, another was a photo of he and I, and the third was a photo of the three of us.  I explained I was married to Mitchell before she was born.  I told her he is her biological father. I told her he chose not to be a dad and left when she was a tiny baby like Eric.  She asked why he didn’t want to be a dad.  I told her he was the only one who can answer that question and that I would try to get a phone number for him if she wanted to talk to him.  She said she wasn’t ready to talk to him.  I told her I would try to have a phone number when and if she became ready.  Kevin said “You are my daughter no matter what your last name is!  I love you and I wanted to be a dad and I’m not leaving you ever!” Hope told him she loved him too.  She looked across the table and said “You should’ve met daddy before you met Mitchell.” I told her that sometimes I wished I did too.  I explained if I had her with anyone instead of Mitchell she would be completely different.  She wouldn’t look, talk, act or like the same things.  I told her there is a whole awful lot of people that love her and would never want her to be any different than who she is.  I told her that we would have to have Mitchell’s permission to change her last name and she could ask him if she ever chose to talk to him.  She asked if I would ask him.  I told her it would be better if she did because he wasn’t kind to me last time I talked to him.  She asked what he called me.  Kevin told her they were bad words that didn’t need to be repeated.  She turned the page of her baby book.  She read through the names written on her family tree.  Then she said “I have another brother?” I told her she did and laid two photos of him, his mother and older sister in front of her.  I pointed out her brother and said “This is (omitted name).” she told us she wanted to meet him.  I explained that Mitchell left him as a baby too.  I told her he lives in Oklahoma also, but his mom doesn’t want him to know about Mitchell yet.  I told her when she turned 16, he would be 18 and she could try to find him and get to know him then.

I first contacted Mitchell’s nephew try to get contact information for him.  He told me his mother said Mitchell didn’t have a phone and she didn’t know his address.  Next I called child support services.  The lady I talked to was rude.  She told me she couldn’t give me any information.  I asked if she could make my information available to him.  She told me absolutely not.  I did web search after web search for Mitchell Smith.  I finally found child support modification papers from a year earlier, his address was on them.  I googled the address, the result was an adult DVD and toy company.  I called the phone number listed.  No one answered.  I left a message.

Mitchell called me the next day.  I quickly told him Hope knew about him and that I was saving his number when and if she wanted to call.  I texted him immediately after and asked if he texted and could receive photos.  He said he could.  I sent him a couple recent photos of her.  He said she was so beautiful.  Later he started sending hateful text messages.  He accused me of taking her away from him.  I kept my composure.  I told him that wasn’t true and I never wanted him out of her life.  I always believed we could have co-parented her effectively even being divorced if he wanted to be in her life.  I told him I’d had the same permanent address for over 20 years.  The same address he used for our divorce.  I reminded him that Hope had not received a single card, letter, photo, or gift from him in over 8 years.  He asked if I had any photos of him with Hope.  I texted every photo I had of him and his family members with her, even the ones I was in.  He went on and on about how beautiful she was.

A few days later I was taking Hope to counseling.  She asked what kind of grocery stores Mitchell and I went to when he was around.  Then she said “Mom, I wish you move and Mitchell would be nice to each other.” I knew right then and there what I had to do.  He and I needed to have a phone conversation.  It was time to take responsibility for each of our parts of our mass.  We needed to genuinely make peace so we could get along for Hope.  I told him that we needed to talk; he made excuses for a week.

Kevin and I talked.  I told him what Hope had said in the car and that I needed to talk to Mitchell where she couldn’t hear.  We scheduled for Kevin to take Hope to the zoo.  Mitchell and I ended up on the phone for several hours that day.  I began the conversation telling him that Hope wanted us to be nice to one another.  We all wanted what is best for Hope.  I explained to him that what is important to Hope should be important to us too.  He said he agreed.  His voice began to crack as he told me he loved me, and that he had never fallen out of love with me.  Let’s face it, you can’t just have a child with someone and not care about them.  He helped me make my mother’s death wish a reality and he cared for her to last month of her life.  I told him I loved him too.  I continued.  I told him I wanted to get to know Johnnie and be her friend.  He interrupted saying they had been split up and hadn’t lived together in nearly a year.  I said fine, I want to know and be friends with anyone that you get serious with in the future.  He asked if he could have our family back.  I told him I am married and I’m not going anywhere.  I spent a lot of that conversation crying, so did he.  For the first time in eight years he was allowing me to share specific quotes and situations that hurt me.  He was acknowledging and apologizing for each situation.  He was gentle, patient, and sensitive with me.  He denied any infidelity within our marriage.  I don’t know if he was being honest about that.  He thought I cheated on him when I went to the class for my job.  He asked if I would allow a DNA test.  I said “I was always faithful to you!  I have been faithful to every man I’ve ever been with.  If you want a DNA test, let’s go!  When she comes back yours you will pay for it, if she comes back not yours I will pay for it.  Better get your money together.” He dropped it and said he believes that she is his.  He told me he was wrong, he quit on her once and never will again.  He went on to say if something ever happened to me, he would have her.  He explained that he wasn’t trying to be hateful; he just wanted me to know she would be taken care of and he would take responsibility in the event that something happened to me.  I don’t plan to die anytime soon but, no one knows the day before they die.  The thought of Hope being taken away from everything and everyone she has ever known, shredded my heart.  I told Mitchell that.  He told me he wouldn’t want to take her away from everything she’s ever known, but wouldn’t have a choice of he was established in California.  He explained he was currently renting a room, making very little money and barely making ends meet.  I asked why he didn’t come back to Oklahoma where his sister and kids were.  He said he would love to; it was his home for over 20 years.  While he and I were on the phone Johnnie sent me a long text message telling me “Fuck you and the ground you walk on.” I told him about the text and that I wasn’t going to respond to her. I didn’t understand why she was being so ugly to me; I had never done anything to her.  Mitchell told me she still helped with his vehicle payment and laundry.  He said it would cause all kinds of problems if I responded and he couldn’t make it without her help.  He said she even didn’t care when he lived in his vehicle for week.  She sounded like a real bitch.  He told me she was only mad because she felt threatened by me.  I was 23 years younger than her, I had him first, I had a child with him, and he told her the entire eight years they were together that he still loved me.  Those were the reasons he gave as to why she didn’t like me.  He reminisced a lot during our conversation.  He reminded me of the details of our wedding and other good memories we shared.  It made me feel good knowing we were getting along, talking like adults, and laughing.  The man I was talking to was the man I met at the casino almost 11 years ago, the same man that first stole my heart.  I was happy to have my friend back.  He became inappropriate near the end of our phone conversation.  He asked me to send naked photos of myself to his phone.  I told him no.  He then said he was going to text naked photos of himself to me.  I told him I didn’t want naked photos of him and not to send them to me.  I told him I would send a photo of myself fully clothed since he hadn’t seen me in eight years.  I told him goodbye and we hung up.  I texted Mitchell a recent photo of Beth and I.  I went over to Beth’s house to tell her about the conversation and visit with her.  While I was there Mitchell called my phone.  I answered with him on speakerphone.  He went on and on about how beautiful I am and how special I am.  I thanked him.  He then stated his dying wish was to have another child and that it had to be with me.  He wanted Hope to have a sibling with the same two parents like my sons have.  I told him that was not happening ever!  I asked Mitchell to tell his sister Sharon that I loved and missed her.  He told me she hated me.

Later I told hope that I talked to him and we were kind to each other and we were friends again.  She said she wanted to call him.  I allowed her.  He was kind to her and only said positive things about Kevin and I.

I thought about Johnnie a lot.  After all the things Mitchell said to me, I tried to put myself in her shoes.  I imagined how hurt I would feel if my husband said those things to another woman.  I couldn’t be with a man who felt so passionately about another woman.  I felt bad for Johnnie.

Kevin and I talked a lot.  We agreed that we only wanted what is best for Hope overall.  Hope was telling us she wanted to see Mitchell.  Mitchell was telling us he wanted to know and be a part of Hope’s life.  He told me he was getting older and was afraid he may die one day without ever getting to hug her.  Kevin, Mitchell, and I talked.  As much as my family would oppose it, we decided he was coming back to Oklahoma.  Without Mitchell, Hope would not exist.  My family hates him terribly because of the way he done Hope and I.  On one hand I am grateful they love us so much, on the other hand Kevin and I felt that everyone deserves a second chance, even Mitchell.  He’s the only other person in this world Hope is half of.  Having been rejected and left by my own father, I believed if Mitchell and Hope wanted to know each other they should be allowed.  Kevin and I decided not to tell Hope in case things changed.  We didn’t think to ask Mitchell not to tell her.  Sure enough Mitchell told hope during the next phone call.  Hope was excited!

A few days later Mitchell texted and asked me to call without Hope around.  I called him.  He told me that when he told Johnnie he was going back to Oklahoma that she said she wanted to work their marriage out.  His choices were to stay where he was already established, with a job he loved and make his marriage work or be near his children he hadn’t seen in 8 and 10 years.  He was choosing to stay.  I told him he could tell Hope himself, and that she wouldn’t understand.  I also told him I would never choose a man over my children.  He told Hope.  She was sad and disappointed.  I was angry at Mitchell and Johnnie.  For the first time in Hope’s life I couldn’t protect her from the hurt he caused her.  I strongly disliked Johnnie.  The timing seemed very convenient of her ultimatum.  She had no regard for my child.  I told Mitchell, Beth, and Kevin that Johnnie had an ass whooping coming the first time I saw her without Hope around.  I didn’t care if she and Mitchell work together or not.  I was willing to go to jail.  You do not mess with my child’s feelings.  That woman had no idea the mama bear she had awakened.  You do not touch my cub that I have poured out blood, sweat and tears for, her entire life.  Not an intelligent idea.  Mitchell and Hope continued with phone calls.  Mitchell told Hope that he and Johnnie would come visit her soon.  Hope asked me when soon was. I told her that Mitchell was the only one who could answer that question.  She asked if she could texted him.  I texted him and said that hope asked to text him and I am giving her the phone.  She texted him asking when soon is.  He said he did have a timeframe for that.  She said “is it going to be weeks, days, months or years!” he didn’t ask Hope to give the phone to me before he sent the next text.  The text was directed towards me.  Hope read it out loud.  He stated she was too young to have these types of adult conversations, and it was my responsibility to explain his situation to her.  I texted him back.  I told him Hope and her feelings were my priority and that he could explain his situation to her himself.  Phone calls continued between Mitchell and Hope.  Mitchell’s wife sent me an e-mail a week later.  She accused me of being inappropriate with Mitchell through text messages dripping with lust.  She said she was concerned for my children and Kevin.  She and Mitchell split because he threatened to kill her and her family.  She also said my actions were hurtful to her.  All of the references she made to my character and things I had done couldn’t be further from the truth.  I texted her at the same number she texted me from weeks earlier.  I told her that just as there are two sides to her story with Mitchell, there are two sides to mine and I believe it was time for us to have a phone conversation.  She called me and we talked for hours.  She wasn’t the monster I believe she was.  I wasn’t the monster she believed I was.  Mitchell had lied to her their entire relationship and marriage.  She was just another victim of his hurtful words and games.  She and I can relate to each other in a way no one else can.  I love her.  She has become one of my closest friends.  She never wanted to work the marriage out with Mitchell.  He simply would not leave her alone.  I couldn’t pick up better stepmom for Hope if I tried.  Mitchell did an amazing job picking her.  She is always thought about and cared for Hope and her brother.  Mitchell spent a lot of energy making myself and his son’s mom out to be terrible women.  Johnnie and I will be friends for life.  Mitchell says Johnnie and I are drama.  He doesn’t want us talking.  Hope has asked him if he would allow a last name change.  He told her no.  He said her name would change when she got married.  She was very upset that he would not allow a name change.  She began acting out and being violent with her brothers.  She told me one day she wanted to call and tell Mitchell how she felt.  She tried to call his phone number four or five times.  The call wouldn’t go through.  I texted him, telling can she had called four or five times in the call wouldn’t go through.  I asked him to call her at his convenience.  He called within 3 minutes.  Hope told him she felt mad and sad.  He asked to speak to me.  Well I had him on speakerphone, she told me I needed to stop putting things in her head and the reason she couldn’t call was because he had my number blocked.  Hope heard everything he said to me.  She felt hurt that he didn’t believe her feelings and she was upset because he told her she could call anytime and he had the number blocked. He and Hope talk, and I pray that she will someday see the beautiful person that lives deep inside of Mitchell. He hides that person so well.  Only time will tell.

Life keeps moving

Update 5/16/17

Hope hasn’t slowed down an ounce.
2 months (September 2015) after this story was published, the time came to cease contact with Mitchell. Hope was most upset about him invalidating her feelings when she asked to have her last name changed and then heard him tell me to quit putting things in her head. Hope’s grades and behavior began to suffer greatly. Mitchell was making promises he wouldn’t keep. She’d leave him voicemail after voicemail and he’d rarely return her calls. He used the excuse that the time he went to work and the time she arrived home from school conflicted. The few times he talked to her he’d promise her video calls on the weekends and then never follow through. After talking to him several times about the issues that his inconsistency was causing, and then him continuing to be just as inconsistent the time came. As her parent SHE is my number one priority, her health and safety are of the utmost importance. The bottom line is you cannot MAKE someone be who you believed they could be, when that’s not who they are. That’s a painful reality. I do not regret the time I allowed Hope to spend getting to know him, she figured out exactly who he is without being told. If she chooses to revisit communicating with him when she’s at an appropriate age, Kevin and I will be supportive of that. If she chooses not to, we will be supportive of that too.

At the time I let Mitchell know there would be no further phone communication, I reminded him of the same email address I’ve had for over a decade and our home address. I told him he could email to check on her or use our home address if he ever wanted to send anything for her.

Another birthday came and went with no card, letter, gift or email.

Mid December 2015, Mitchell calls me out of the blue stating he was staying the night in our town, on the way to Wisconsin where he was moving with his fiancé Vada and he’d like to see Hope. I found this VERY odd considering he hadn’t communicated with me at all since I told him there would be no more phone contact months earlier. Kevin and I made the executive decision not to allow a visit. When we told Hope what was going on, she stated she did not want to see him. She then became very paranoid knowing he was near and said “I’m afraid he will hurt you or daddy to get to me”. We reassured her that she was safe and so were we.
Mitchell used the next two days to harass me by text. He told me the people they were staying with were very well known in our town and agree that I am in the wrong. The next day he stated he knew where to find me/us. Upon reading the text messages, Hope’s doctor urged me to make a police report. The officer left a voicemail on Mitchell’s phone stating harassment charges would be filed if he continued to harass me on the phone and that he was welcome to check the welfare of Hope using email or US Mail to contact me. I did not receive any more phone calls or text messages.

The coordinator with the UCO Endeavor Games contacted me during the winter months and asked if Hope and I would come address a group that fundraises for the Endeavor games in the spring, I agreed. I envisioned a small group of 10-20 attendees since the event was called a luncheon. I found out the day before to expect 100-150 attendees. To say I was nervous would be an understatement. Hope and I went together and conquered it. The speech I prepared didn’t leave a dry eye in the room.

My speech from that day: “In 2006 at the age of 21, I gave birth to a baby girl I named Hope long before I knew she would inspire it. Among other medical issues, she was born missing the tibia bone in her right leg. After doctors gave the official diagnosis “Tibial hemimelia” I began doing what most uneducated adults would do. I typed the words into search engine after search engine. Photos of legs that looked identical to Hope’s returned in the results. I knew in my heart that the diagnosis was right. Of all the articles I read two things stood out to me:
1. The occurrence of her condition was one in every one million births.
2. The word “amputation” was mentioned in every article.
I thought “There’s no way I’m allowing any Dr. to cut off Hope’s leg ”.
Hope’s father left when she was two months old, choosing to never see her again.
From that point forward it became my mission to change the outcome of Hope’s treatment. We visited four additional pediatric orthopedic surgeons in three different states. I prayed, and I wished that every one of them would tell me the one before them was wrong.
None of the doctors told me what I wanted to hear. Instead all of them made the same recommendation… Amputation.
Nothing can prepare a parent to make the decision to remove their child’s body part. I’d never personally known an amputee. I had never seen a prosthetic leg up close. I remember being naïve and asking the Dr. if I would need to buy Hope special shoes. I had no experience.
Hope underwent a through the knee amputation on April 10, 2008 just shy of 18 months old.
Less than 4 hours after surgery Hope was crawling around the crib on her bandaged nub. A nurse told me that I needed to keep her off of it. My aunt and I took turns holding Hope. Let’s be real,  you can only hold a toddler for so long before their crying and screaming is making everyone around them miserable. She was sharing the hospital room with three other girls.
When the Dr. came in to check on Hope, I asked how he suggested I keep her off of the nub. He said “You really can’t. If she starts hurting too much – she’ll stop.” She never stopped!
We returned to the hospital 2 ½ months later to pick up her first prosthetic leg. This is where we met 9 month old Talon and his family. We made an immediate connection. His mom was pushing him in a stroller, both of his legs looked exactly like Hope’s right leg did before surgery. He was there to have both legs amputated. Talon participates in the endeavor games and we look forward to seeing him and his family every year.
Physical therapy was brutal. Hope cried almost nonstop every time. She hated her prosthetic leg! After all, she could crawl faster when she wasn’t wearing the leg. As her parent, I felt discouraged and defeated after every therapy. I wondered if she would ever walk.
At the age of three, after more than a year of physical therapy I was dressing her for the day. As I tied her shoes I said “If you want to go to school one day you’re going to have to learn to walk without your walker”.
She stood up immediately and walked across our living room, with no assistance.
Stares and loud obvious whispers have become normal for us any time we go out in public. Folks often say things like:
“Why is she like that?”
“What happened to that girl?”
“Why does she have a robot leg?”
Adults have always been worse than children.
I registered Hope for her first UCO endeavor games in 2011. She was 4 ½ years old. My first observation upon arriving at the track was that those of us with four natural limbs were in fact, the minority. The second thing I noticed was the absence of rude comments and stares.
As the gun sounded for Hope’s race to begin she stood frozen at the start line, crying. I wanted to run out onto the track, wrap her in a hug and tell her she could do it. I knew that if I walked onto the track she would be disqualified. Instead, I stood on the sidelines cheering for her along with what felt like hundreds of people. Hope walked slowly down the track as she cried.
Then it happened! Halfway down the track, Hope took off like a speeding bullet. The crowd exploded with screams and cheers.
My now husband and I met Hope at the finish line. We were a snotty, blubbering crying mess. Kevin picked Hope up. A lady I had never met hugged me. She said “I remember exactly how I felt when my Hannah crossed the finish line the first time.”
Let me tell you – the only people in this world who know the struggles and what it is like to parent an amputee is another parent of an amputee. I’ve met and made friends with many parents at endeavor.
My favorite race Hope participated in was in 2014. She didn’t even place, didn’t earn a medal. Her leg began to slip off while she was running. Did she stop? Absolutely not. She used her hands to hold her prosthetic leg on and finished the race. That is never giving up!
Truthfully, I get a little emotional every time Hope crosses the finish line.
Hope will be participating in the endeavor games for the fifth time this summer 2016. She will participate in swimming, the 20 m, 60 m, and 100 m track events.
You see, the UCO endeavor games is about so much more than competing and collecting medals for Hope and our family.
I believe, I speak for every athlete when I make that statement.
Hope and I have made friends who relate to us in ways no one else can. The whole culture of the endeavor games is incredible. This is the one weekend of out of the year that Hope feels like she belongs. She is not different. She feels empowered, inspired, proud of and free to be who she is with no condemnation. I am constantly inspired and feel such gratitude that I get to witness these phenomenal athletes do what makes them smile and their souls shine.
Thank you endeavor games staff for working so hard to make these games happen and thank you corporate challenge for all the support you offer to the endeavor games – you’re changing lives with every year the games continue.
If you would like to read Hope’s story in its entirety, you may read it at the website displayed free of charge.(a slide with the web address to her story will be displayed)”

During the summer/spring 2016
Hope played softball with her school for special Olympics where they earned 1st place, she played wheelchair basketball (bronze), ran the 20m (gold), 60m (gold), and 100m (silver) at the Endeavor Games and then her and I went to the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team Kids camp in Washington, DC and had the best time! That was truly one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to and I will go back!
On a hot day in July we walked into an archery shop in our town. Fire ignited inside of Hope like I had never seen before. She fell in love! We allowed her to try shooting and she got a bullseye within the first 15 minutes! She is actively practicing and plans to compete in Archery in the future.

In the fall (2016), our family took a trip to San Diego, CA. We stopped in New Mexico and met “Peach”, the founder of Peach’s Neet Feet (www.peachsneetfeet.com). She and her family are some of the most beautiful souls we’ve ever met. Hope was immediately connected with her and stuck like glue. While in California, Hope participated in events hosted by the Challenged Athletes Foundation, we spent time with friends on the beach, and we even surprised the kids with a trip to Disneyland.

Another birthday came and went with no letter, or card.

Hope received an American Girl doll for her birthday from close family friends. Not just any doll but, one with a prosthetic leg on her right leg- just like Hope! The video showing her priceless reaction can be viewed here:  https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10211529486219806&id=1443900030

In the winter 2017, I woke up to acomment on that video that has since disappeared. Vada used Mitchell’s facebook account to comment on that sweet video of Hope opening up her doll. Vada stated there was no way Hope was his child, that a DNA test would be “coming my way” and that I have “a lot to pay back”. I commented back stating I was okay with that, and that she and Mitchell are both welcome to communicate with me privately via messenger, email, or US Mail. I spoke with her adult daughter via messenger, I asked her to relay that the comment publicly was unnecessary. I learned Vada also left her children at a young age. Parents leaving their children will always seem like a great tragedy to me.  Nearly four months later, I am still waiting for instruction and notification of the DNA test.

Johnnie and I have only become closer. She is such a positive light in Hope’s life. Isaac and Eric think they have a stepmom too, although Kevin and I have never even separated. We don’t see any reason to correct it. She loves them and the three of them love her, that’s the most important thing. I am looking forward to the day that she can come visit or we can visit her.

Hope is gearing up for the Endeavor Games where she’ll be running the 100m and 200m this year, and she’s training in Archery weekly. We have a busy summer ahead with a minor surgery planned in mid June, and a brand new prosthetic in mid July. She’ll also be taking a hunter’s safety course soon, and then she’ll be able to compete with an organization in Archery. In the next year or so, she’ll be getting braces to straighten her teeth and jaw. She was predisposed to need them. I wore braces for several years, and Mitchell’s teeth aren’t in the best of shape either.

So there you have it. An update on our beautiful girl. I’m still so proud to be her mother. My only wish is that she wouldn’t grow up so fast. She’s nearly a preteen and is acting more and more like a teenager daily. As of right now she says when she grows up she’s going to be a family doctor AND a teacher AND a 911 dispatcher. I asked when she’d have time to do three careers and she said “Easy! I’ll be a teacher during the day and a doctor at night!”. I guess she hasn’t figured out when she’ll have time to dispatch between the other two. She’s growing up at an alarming rate. If anyone figures out the secret to keeping them little longer, please share it with me!

Epilogue

Much of Hope’s story is still unwritten. She is writing her story everyday. She’s eight today and has a whole lot of milestones still ahead of her. Doctor’s appointments multiple times a week no longer keep me running. Instead she keeps me on my toes, she loves me unlike anyone else can. She’s beautiful, and very stubborn. She’s incredibly independent and has no trouble voicing her opinion. My biggest fear is no longer that she might die every day. My biggest fear is her growing up. I don’t want her to follow in my footsteps, I want her to do better and be better. I want her to be successful and above all I want her to know she can do ANYTHING. The sky is the limit for her. I pray she never has to endure the feelings and trials I did as an adult. I also hope when she is old enough to date and marry that she is wise. I pray that my future son in law is a good man and is kind and that she never has to feel like I did with Mitchell or Charles. I will add to the online version of this story as she grows and experiences new things, the handwritten version will be given to Hope the day she graduates high school. Please never tell me that you’re sorry. This has been a ride I never expected, and couldn’t prepare for. I am so blessed to be her mother. I’ve made mistakes along the way, but I have always loved and never quit on her. She changed my identity the day she was born, and has changed my life everyday since. I would walk through every ounce of pain and fire all over again to have her. She was no accident. She is worth all of it!