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.