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.

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.

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.

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.

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.