McKenna decided to share her personal story about the case, in which both parents have won temporary victories but has yet to be settled, in an article for Cosmopolitan.
McKenna became pregant by Miller after the two met through an online dating service, but the relationship didn’t last and McKenna moved to New York from California in 2012, months before her son Samuel Bode Nathaniel Miller-McKenna was born in February 2013.
Miller, the 36-year-old Olympic gold medalist, filed for custody of the baby right after she moved away.
With Miller in California and McKenna in New York, the question was where to have the custody battle. After a judge in New York ruled the case should be moved back to California and called McKenna’s actions “irresponsible,” the line was drawn.
Several women’s rights groups got involved and appeals brought the case back to New York.
“I was seven months pregnant when I moved from California to New York to go to Columbia University. I had no idea that move would cause an uproar around the world,” she wrote.
She described how she met Miller, writing that after joining the Marines, she joined an “exclusive” dating site and wasn’t interested in hookups while working at a firehouse.
“I clarified — tall, athletic, blonde with blue eyes — and was set up with Bode,” she said. “We met for dinner in April 2012. You would have never known he was famous — he showed up in wrinkly jeans, a polo shirt and tennis shoes and lived on an old yacht in San Diego Harbor.”
After dating for a few weeks, they went on vacation in Florida. She had just started to take birth control and found out it was ineffective.
“When I discovered I was pregnant, Bode was traveling. I asked him to come home early, so I could tell him in person,” she added. “I said he could be involved if he wanted to and that I would love it if he did. If he didn’t want any part of it, I said that I was going to do it on my own. I left in tears.”
She said she knew being a firefighter was out, so she decided to attend Columbia University in New York to finish her degree.
“I texted Bode in November to let him know my plans to move. He never responded,” she said.
McKenna had the baby on Feb. 23, 2013.
“I filed for temporary custody of Sam in New York when Sam was 3 days old. Two weeks later, Bode’s lawyer called to say he had already moved for default custody in California and I had 48 hours until the hearing,” she continued. “Bode had me ‘served’ with paternity papers to my home address in San Diego, knowing I did not live there.”
After a New York “referee” sided with Miller’s lawyers, the case was sent back to California and “on September 4, a judge ordered me to hand Sam over to Bode.”
“My heart felt like it was being ripped out as I watched Sam being taken away,” she continued.
But McKenna kept fighting.
“There were countless nights that I was up until 3 a.m. researching cases,” she added. “My attorney challenged the New York ruling, and I went back to court again and again, including to the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division who overturned the referee’s ruling, sending the case back to New York.”
While Miller had custody of the boy, McKenna wrote that she saw pictures of Miller’s wife Morgan Beck holding the boy and posts how he called him “Nate” instead of Sam.
After a later court date, Miller gave Sam back to McKenna, allowing her to “breath again.”
“I was whole. The next day was my birthday. I woke up next to Sam, and he started giggling — that was the best present I’ve ever received in my life,” she said. “My hope is that Bode and I can work together to finally give Sam a stable life. That’s all I want for our son.”