Kimberly Mullen says her life has been fun and full of opportunities. She played sports. She traveled. She received an education. The household she grew up in was full of love and support.
Her adoption by Dr. Ken Mullen, who delivered her at Lodi Memorial Hospital, was the reason she had these opportunities.
Because of her personal connection to the hospital, Mullen recently shared her story while serving as one of the three speakers at the hospital's 60th anniversary celebration, held in April.
While seated in the front room of her parents' nearly century-old Lodi home, Mullen described her childhood as crazy and exciting. Her father was a doctor in the hospital her grandfather, Robert Mullen, helped found. Her mother was a teacher for Lodi Unified School District. Yet the family still had time for outside activities.
The 32-year-old Lodi resident grew up with three older brothers. All four were involved in sports. She did gymnastics. Her brothers were swimmers. The Mullens were an outdoor kind of family, always fishing and camping.
"It was a really fun household to grow up in," she said. "There was a lot of love and excitement."
Life with the Mullen family begins
Kimberly Mullen's story begins in 1979.
Her parents enjoyed running and had gone for a jog one morning. College rugby left Ken Mullen with a bum knee, and he was having trouble with it that morning. He returned home early.
As he sat down to read the newspaper, the house phone rang. It was a call for one of his partner's patients, who was in a lot of pain.
Upon arriving at Lodi Memorial Hospital, he learned that the teenage patient was pregnant and going into labor. While talking with the girl's parents, Ken Mullen found out they didn't know she was pregnant. After some discussion, the mother and her parents decided it would be best to put the baby up for adoption.
Once he delivered the baby girl, Ken Mullen put the her in her mother's arms to give her chance to see her and to touch her. He wanted to make sure she felt she was making the right decision, he said.
At the time, the Mullen family consisted of Ken and his wife, Nancy, and their three boys. The couple had always wanted a girl, but they were unable to have any more children. That's when Ken Mullen delivered the little girl who would later be named Kimberly.
Ken Mullen said the arrival of this baby girl was sort of a dream. He went home and talked with his wife and three boys about the baby. It was agreed she would become a part of the Mullen family.
Nancy Mullen recalled how funny it was when she returned from her jog and her husband walked in the back door, announcing he had a baby for them.
"I said, 'What does she look like?'" said Nancy Mullen. "He said to me, 'She's not a puppy. You have to make a commitment first and then I'll tell you what she looks like.'"
He later took his family to dinner at the Hatchcover, which is now Garlic Brothers in Stockton. They had to decide on a name for the newest addition to the family.
"That's why we call her 'hamburger,'" Ken Mullen said, laughing.
The love and support Kimberly Mullen has received from her immediate family — as well as from her aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents — helped her become who she is today. That support has provided her many opportunities that she would not have had, she said. Her college education was paid for. She was exposed to traveling.
She was also raised with the Mullen family's values. One of the most important of those values is forgiveness, she said.
"We all love each other. I think it's extremely important to let go of hurt and anger and forgive. I think my mom and dad are good at that," she said.
She learned hard work through her parents, whom she says have very strong work ethics. While her father was dedicated to growing his practice, her mother received her teaching credentials. Nancy Mullen worked as a teacher at Lodi Unified School District for 20 years, putting extra time and money into her classroom so her students would be able to have opportunities they wouldn't normally have, said Kimberly Mullen.
"If the Mullens are going to do something, they are going to do it 100 percent," she said.
As a child, Mullen attended Vinewood Elementary School and then Lodi Senior Elementary. She graduated from Lodi High School in 1997 and then from University of the Pacific with a bachelor's degree in communications.
Mullen and her partner Brian had a son, Jackson, in 2009. A year later, the three of them moved to Kansas City, where Mullen was the business development manager of a Ford dealership.
Mullen says that becoming a mother herself has helped her gain more respect for her mother. Their relationship when Mullen was in high school and college was rocky, she said. They have both always been opinionated and strong-willed, and were often on opposite sides. She was always cold. Her mother was always hot. She liked pink. Her mother liked blue.
She never wanted to be like her mother. They laugh about it now, Mullen said.
"One of the things that brought us together was our sense of humor," she said. "Our relationship has changed 180 degrees since Jackson was born."
They now like the same movies and music. Mullen said she never has to read a bad book.
"My mom is like my personal book reviewer," she said.
The hard work and sacrifice her mother put into her family is evident to Mullen now. She marvels at how her mother could have raised four children. While her father was busy with patients, her mother worked outside of the home while caring for the children. Dinner was always on the table. Their clothes were always clean. Her parents never missed their sporting events or all the events at church.
"They always managed to make it all work," she said.
Life changes bring them home
A year after moving to Kansas City, Mullen received word that her uncle had passed away. It was particularly hard on the family because they had never experienced a sudden loss like that before. Losing a child was especially hard on her grandmother, she said. She wished there was a way she could be there for her.
It was on the plane when she was flying home for the funeral that she realized how precious life is. She knew she had to do something different. She wanted Jackson to have family around to take part in his activities such as T-ball games. She wanted him to have the support she had as a child.
Mullen was familiar with HerLife Magazine, since it was based out of Kansas City. She knew the staff well and also knew the company was going to be franchising out. She wondered what it would be like to open a franchise in her hometown — so she began plotting a possible move in her mind.
It was a difficult step to make, she said. She had to quit her job and ask Brian to quit his.
She first spoke with her parents. Then she talked to Brian.
Once he agreed, it all became a reality. The three of them moved to Lodi in April 2011, and by June their first issue was published. She and Brian now operate the Central Valley franchise of HerLife Magazine.
She is grateful for the support she has received since taking on the new business venture.
"So many people in the community wrapped an arm around me and my ideas," she said.
The two are now working on their 13th issue. Mullen enjoys being able to tell the stories of women who are making a positive impact in society. The most rewarding part is the feedback she gets from readers, she said.
Ken Mullen describes his daughter a go-getter, who likes to do her own thing. He admires her idea of bringing the magazine to the community, especially in this economy.
"We're just extremely proud of her," he said.
Professionally, Kimberly Mullen hopes to continue to grow the magazine. She would like to start a franchise in Sacramento and then reach out to Modesto and Tracy. In her personal life, she hopes to do more traveling with her family. They would like to take Jackson to see different states and to Disneyland. She would also like to travel internationally.
While speaking at Lodi Memorial Hospital's anniversary, Mullen said that since its first day on March 30, 1952, there have been 47,040 newborns delivered. She counts herself as one of the lucky ones. She credits that to the work her grandfather and father have given to the hospital.
"Because of their involvement, my life is where it is," she said.