This post is from guest blogger Heidi Mills. I have other things in the works for this blog, including a story of a butterfly that hatches out in our classroom. Lots of my ordinary thoughts are sort of little events, small occurances which, at the time, may seem extraordinary. This story by Heidi is nothing short of miraculous. It sort of makes the ordinary stories I post look... well, ordinary. Heidi tells this story a lot to new friends. She tells it somuch better than I do.
Devin Mills O’Keefe
I’ve led a blessed life. I have always known it at some level but it took Devin diving straight into my heart and soul to help me really know. And it took Devin to show me how to live into and through this knowing.
B.D. – Before Devin
Tim and I thought we had made all the right moves. I had finished my doctorate and had settled into my life as a faculty member at USC. Tim was in the zone as an elementary teacher and we were finally at a place in our lives financially where we thought we could and should begin trying to have children. We were still in deep graduate student debt but it seemed as if we finally had enough of our ducks in a row to begin.
It’s funny now to reflect back on how stunned we were when it didn’t happen quite as we had planned. We had always lived happily yet quite deliberately. We knew how to set goals and accomplish them. We had the academic, intellectual and pragmatic thing down. But it took confronting most important goal we had ever established for ourselves to wake us up and send us down a truly spiritual path. It was a path filled with pain, disappointment and disillusionment. It was a tumultuous path, one that took a number of unexpected turns, but one that ultimately led us to love, synchronicity and pure joy.
After years of functioning as living science projects, going through a number of infertility tests and procedures, I finally became pregnant, really pregnant, pregnant with identical twins. We were startled when we saw two heartbeats during our second ultrasound. To be honest, we were overwhelmed but thrilled. We began making plans to move to a home that could accommodate two babies… we were such planners. And then it happened. I became very, very, very sick. I remember trying not to breathe in the waiting room because I didn’t want to infect any of the voluptuous women who were surely going to deliver within a matter of minutes. I remember wondering if the doctor would be able to give me something that would help me heal without impacting the twins. But before I even had time to ask, she ordered an ultrasound. She seemed to know before turning on the machine – the heartbeats had disappeared. We had lost the twins.
While I’d experienced the decline and ultimately the loss of my dear grandparents, I had never experienced anything quite as traumatic as this. I thought I had empathized when friends had lost babies but, as usual, I was just kidding myself, I was playing at empathy because I really didn’t know. I really couldn’t know the depth of the pain, the sadness or loss.
It was unbearable to think about not being able to have children. It took so long to conceive and the blessing of new lives within me seemed to disappear as quickly as it had emerged. We were told that I couldn’t go back on the fertility medicine for several months because of complications from the miscarriage.
The clock was ticking and I was spiraling. I was depressed. I wasn’t clinically diagnosed but I had lost hope. I found myself beating myself up daily for making all the wrong choices in life. I had a great vita but that didn’t matter in larger scheme of things. Suddenly all of the things I had devoted my attention to in life faded away. How had I lost sight of what really mattered? Why didn’t I know better?
As usual, I pretended my way into happiness. I had created this identity for myself that included being positive, in control, happy and helpful to others. Tim knew though. Of course he shared my pain. But we carried on.
One Saturday morning we were driving to aerobics class. If you know Tim it won’t surprise you to know that we listen to NPR, read the newspaper or listen to a book on tape when driving. On this particular morning, Tim drove and I read the paper to him. The cover story focused on the rescue of a brand new baby girl from a trash dumpster at Sandy’s. The manager thought he heard a cat crying in the dumpster and so he opened the lid to check. Low and behold he found a beautiful, healthy baby girl. The manager and his wife had been on an adoption waiting list for quite a long time and they were hoping (as I’m sure all of the readers across the state hoped) that they would be given the gift of this child. As I finished this intimate little read aloud, I looked over at Tim and tears were gently rolling down his cheeks.
This story challenged us to ask the big life question. Why? Why had this negligent mother been given the gift of a child when we knew we would love, treasure and care for a child? What the heck?! We would never even consider spanking a child, let alone abandon a newborn in a dark, cold, disgusting dumpster. Why, why, why?
After asking the unanswerable question, Tim posed one we could actually wrap our heads around, “Maybe we should think about adoption?”
“Yeah, I’ve never been opposed to it, it just seems as if we got sucked into the medical journey,” I responded. “Try this for three months, then that for six months, then engage in more tests only to try a different set of procedures for several more months, yadda, yadda, yadda,” I continued. Remember, I was depressed and so clarity was not my forte at that moment. It’s also important to know that my sister had similar difficulties conceiving initially and she had two healthy children and happened to be pregnant again, this time with twins.
Tim had planted an important seed with his question about adoption but it hadn’t taken root in my heart or mind quite yet. We chatted about it casually for a couple of minutes and then the idea faded away as we parked the car, walked into the gym and started working out.
Later that afternoon I was in my home office responding to student work. It was life as usual…. working on weekends to survive or thrive professionally, depending on how you looked at it. I was totally immersed in my students’ work and then suddenly it happened. I didn’t actually see anyone or hear voices. All I’m saying is I suddenly KNEW with every cell in my body, KNEW deep in my heart, KNEW without any doubt whatsoever. I KNEW WE WERE SUPPOSED TO ADOPT. It wasn’t an intellectual kind of knowing. It was clearer, more powerful. It was purely spiritual. All I’m saying is that I had the epiphany of a lifetime and it seemed like the most natural thing in the world. And there was a sense of urgency about it. We were supposed to adopt and we were supposed to act immediately!
Somehow knowing just what to do, I picked up the phone and called my dear friend and colleague, Amy Donnelly. I left a message about my epiphany (as if it happened all of the time) and asked her to call her doctor friend who does private adoption. I told her we were too old to go through DSS and so we needed him to tell us what to do. Then Tim and I went to see "The Grand Canyon". There it was again. Adoption played a key role in the movie plot. Adoption was everywhere.
As we drove home, we chatted excitedly about the possibility of adoption. Just six hours earlier the thought hadn’t even occurred to us. Now it was part of our life plans. We just knew it.
The phone was ringing when we entered our condo. I picked up the phone and knew it was Amy and I knew what she was going to say. Before she even had time to say anything I announced, “He has a baby!”
Amy responded tearfully, “Yes! How did you know?” She continued without taking a breath, “The doctor has a young girl six weeks from delivery and she has entrusted him to find just the right parents for the child. He has a very long waiting list of parents who want to adopt but he and his wife have been waiting and praying for just the right parents for this child.” We alternately laughed, cried and screamed with delight at the prospect of Amy being our adoption angel. And she was. She made one call and that’s all it took. That’s all it took because we all knew it was meant to be. Amy convinced the doctor and his wife (the ultimate decision maker) that Tim and I would be just the kind parents they envisioned for this special birthmother and child.
And the blessings kept coming. The doctor outlined the steps we needed to take down this new path to parenthood. Our attorney and case-worker were simply delightful. They offered just the right balance between logic and intuitive wisdom to scaffold us through the adoption process. We sold our two-bedroom condo and moved into a three-bedroom condo within weeks and were painting the nursery when we got the call from the doctor.
Devin Mills O’Keefe was born on March 16, 1992. He weighed 6 pounds, 2 ounces and was one of the most beautiful babies we had ever seen. He was an amazing child and has grown into a remarkable young man.
A.D. - After Devin
Just when Tim and I thought our lives couldn’t be richer, happier or more complete, I started feeling sick and tired. Devin was nine-months-old at the time. Low and behold, Colin Mills O’Keefe was preparing to expand our little family. His coming would bring new joy and love into our lives in unexpected ways.
I always suspected I led a blessed life. Now I know it. Some say Devin’s adoption story was simply a series of coincidences. Others say we were very lucky. I know it was more than chance. There was guidance from within and beyond. It was a miracle.