One afternoon last December, C-SPAN anchor and political editor Steve Scully sat down with President Bush for one of the former president’s many exit interviews.
“I hear congratulations are in order,” the president said.
“I had no idea the president knew about the adoption. I guess the makeup artist told him, because I was chitchatting with her about it,” Mr. Scully says.
“President Bush said something like, ‘What a joyous act of love.’ I got chills down my spine, because that is the name of the adoption agency, Act of Love,” Mr. Scully recalls of the coincidence.
Earlier that day, Mr. Scully and his wife, Katie, had learned that a single mother had given birth to a baby girl - soon to be named Natalie Cathleen Scully. The couple, devout Catholics both, had been talking to Act of Love, a Utah-based adoption agency, for months, waiting for an answer to their prayers for a baby.
The Scullys’ recent adoption is rooted in a faith-based affinity for children. He is one of 13. She is one of 10. In addition to Natalie, the Scully clan consists of Mary Cate, 13, Danny, 11, and Christen, 8.
Mr. Scully, 48, has enjoyed a nearly 20-year career as one of Washington’s most visible journalists while juggling the demands of fatherhood. Unbeknownst to most in his voluminous Rolodex, however, his family life has been punctuated by shattering loss.
After a miscarriage, Mrs. Scully later gave birth to a baby girl named Carolyn on Oct. 29, 1993. On Feb. 9, 1994, Carolyn was found dead in her crib from sudden infant death syndrome, a condition that kills 3,000 babies in the United States every year.
Another child, a boy named Jack, was stillborn on Aug. 29, 1996.
Mr. Scully has “helped so many people, but in a very quiet way,” says former CBS Radio Chairman Joel Hollander, who lost his child to SIDS the same year as the Scullys. “He never wants any credit for anything. I think it is fantastic that he has adopted another baby.”
Mr. Hollander has served with Mr. Scully on the CJ Foundation for SIDS, which has raised about $60 million for SIDS research and public awareness.
The Scullys’ personal tragedies have only deepened their love of family and religious faith.
“I will never forget the pain that Steve and Katie went through when their baby died,” says Monsignor Henry Kriegel, the Scullys’ former pastor. “They were absolutely heartbroken and couldn’t see any hope that their tomorrows would ever be bright again. I told them during the funeral homily that, as strange as it might sound right now, they would laugh again, they would know joy again.”
Mr. and Mrs. Scully say that in recent years they began to consider expanding their brood.
“The idea of adoption occurred to us two years ago. We were sitting around a table as a family, and there was an empty chair,” recalls Mr. Scully. “My wife said, ‘We need to fill that chair.’ ”
After an arduous process trying to conceive naturally and to adopt a child from China, Mr. Scully learned about Act of Love from Nina Easton, Fortune magazine’s D.C. bureau chief, who also is an adoptive parent.
Mrs. Scully says her husband was not in favor of adoption at first but soon realized “he did not want to be 50 years old thinking I coulda, shoulda, woulda.”
The Scullys say meeting the parents of their new baby erased any doubts about the path they had chosen.
The mother “was very emotional, but she was confident in her decision,” Mr. Scully says. “She just wanted to make sure that her child would be in a loving and wonderful home.”
During the conversation with Natalie’s parents, the Scullys disclosed the story of Carolyn’s death.
The mother made one request of the Scullys, which Mrs. Scully says she’ll never forget.
“She said if Natalie ever asks about me, please tell her we did this not because we did not love her, but because we love her,” Mrs. Scully, a critical care nurse, recalls. “She did not want to hold the baby again because she had already said her goodbyes, but she did not take her eyes off her.”
Mrs. Scully says her children are enamored with their new sister and understand the concept of adoption, but she admits their only son Danny, like his father, had initial reservations.
Danny had a “transformation,” however, after seeing pictures of the baby e-mailed to him from the hospital. Mrs. Scully recalls Danny saying on the way to the airport to pick up their new arrival, “Hey Dad, thanks for signing those papers.”
“Danny tries to be a tough guy, but he sings to her and holds her when he thinks no one is watching,” Mrs. Scully says.
“After what we have been through, we did not know at first if we should test the fates. But now we understand this is truly the hand of God at work,” Mr. Scully says.