Was it providence or coincidence that took two dads named Brian from the darkest lows to the most exhilarating highs before the stars aligned and delivered the family they longed for? In this week’s Huffington Post Queer Voices RaiseAChild “Let Love Define Family®” series, contributing writer Beth Hallstrom shares their story.
How the family was brought together doesn’t matter to Port St. Lucie, Florida, residents Brian Skirvin-Leclair and Brian Skirvin as much as all the good the future will bring. Still, there are clear signs this family was meant to be.
Brian Skirvin-Leclair, 46, who is professor of nursing and a nurse practitioner, and 50-year old Brian Skirvin, formerly of the biotech field and now a stay-at-home Dad, have been together 19 years. They married in Massachusetts on May 21, 2005.
“We actually met 21 years ago, but I was in nursing school and had no time to date, let alone commit to a relationship,” Nurse Brian, as he is frequently called, remembered.
But, two years later, their paths crossed again while both were out with friends for a night of pool.
“We started talking and decided to go out, but we dated sporadically and kind of lost touch. Then, after graduation, I was out with friends and, when I went up to the bar to order a drink, I looked to my right and there he was standing right next to me.
“We talked and we both admitted neither of us could get the other off his mind. We’ve been together ever since,” he said.
When the two Brians decided to start their family, they first went to an office of the state’s foster care system and were stung by remarks made to them by the caseworker.
“She told us she didn’t approve of two men in a relationship and, even if we were approved, we would probably get a special needs child and certainly never a girl. It was horrible and we quickly opted out of that plan,” Nurse Brian said.
Next, they decided to consult a private agency with a strong track record of support for the LGBTQ community, Full Circle Adoption in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Nurse Brian explained, “We called and met with the director the next day. It’s a very small agency, exceptionally detailed and thorough. That was in November, 2005.
“The process seemed to take forever and, in hindsight, it really didn’t, but they looked at every aspect of our lives and every aspect of our families’ lives. It was a thorough investigation and it seemed like it took an eternity and I really wanted a child. I worked with children ― abused, sick, and malnourished ― and it just broke my heart because I couldn’t do anything about it.”
Then, in February, on what Nurse Brian called “the most exciting day of my life,” the agency called with a possible match.
“We were so happy and all we saw was the ultrasound! Then, after two weeks, the birth mother changed her mind. We were devastated,” Nurse Brian said.
“Every time I was home, I just sat by the phone and waited for it to ring. In the meantime, I started researching the adoption process and learned you don’t have to go through an agency. A social worker I know set us up with a caseworker in Kentucky who found us a match.
“Now, at the time, there were ten states that allowed gays to adopt and Kentucky wasn’t one of them. The birth mother was even going to travel to Massachusetts so she could have the baby here. Then, about two weeks out, our caseworker called and said she had just been to the woman’s home and found a full nursery waiting for the baby. I felt as if I lost another child,” Nurse Brian said.
Depressed and in despair, the two Brians decided to take advantage of the Fourth of July weekend and go camping at one of their favorite spots about three hours away from their home.
“I just couldn’t stand it. All those happy families at the camp, it just depressed me further. I told Brian I just had to be alone, so I left and returned home. So I went back home, at my lowest point, opened a beer and sat by the pool,” Nurse Brian said.
On July Fourth, shortly after noon, a representative from Full Circle called and told Nurse Brian about a newborn in a hospital about an hour away. “The mother chose not to keep the child,” he said.
This social worker, who worked casually at the hospital and was also affiliated with Full Circle, talked to the mother and told her she didn’t have to go through the state to place her child, that she had other options for her baby and gave her about a dozen family profiles to review.
“Our profile was on top and the first thing she read was, ‘We can’t wait to celebrate our favorite holiday with our baby, the Fourth of July.’ She said she didn’t need to read any further. She knew this was meant to be,” he said.
A quick call was made to Brian and he made the three-hour trip home in 90 minutes. The next morning the couple was in the hospital parking lot three hours early until finally it was time to meet their son, Zachary, who is now ten-years-old.
“We were greeted at the door by the nurse, Nancy. She led us to the incubator, which had a baby blanket covering it. I was leaning over the nurse’s shoulder as she lifted the blanket and opened the incubator door and there this tiny baby boy laid. I was overwhelmed with emotions. On one hand, I couldn’t believe this was actually happening. On the other, I was so afraid that something would go wrong,” Nurse Brian remembered.
Because of the state’s three-day Change of Heart Law, baby, Zachary, remained in the hospital. On the third day, Brian and Brian took their son home.
“There was no turning back. Born on the fourth, our favorite holiday? The mother’s reaction to the one and only profile she looked at? It was meant to be,” he said.
They soon knew they wanted a sibling for Zachary and decided to give the state system one more chance. This time, Brian said, they found a wonderfully sympathetic social worker who started them on their journey ― the classes and the home study ― and in February 2008, the Brians were approved to be foster parents. Their only requirement was that the foster child placed with them be younger than Zachary, who was then three.
And then the stars aligned again for the family in an amazing way.
Brian explained, “I figured, once we were approved, we would get called right away because there were so many kids in foster care. We didn’t. Then, on May 29, Memorial Day Weekend, Brian called me at work all excited about this baby that was left at a hospital. He said we just had to call about this baby!”
The child was left in a bassinet at the hospital under the Safe Haven Law, which allows new mothers to place their babies, with no fear of repercussions, in designated areas located at hospitals, fire houses and police stations across the country.
The little Jane Doe was a long shot as a foster child for the Brians, they were told, because her case was so high-profile and would elicit numerous calls from prospective parents.
“But, we called anyway and our profile was sent to the appropriate caseworker. Then, we found out we were among the families chosen to be interviewed. They gave us one hour to get to the meeting. We were ushered into a room with about 20 people sitting around a table. All sorts of officials, even the state commissioner of the Department of Children and Family Services,” Nurse Brian said.
Expecting to be peppered with questions and hoping against hope that they would make the short list to be the baby girl’s foster parents, instead, Brian and Brian were told they would be a great family and the group around the table didn’t plan to interview any of the other candidates.
“We left the meeting and drove to the hospital and, of course, it was the same hospital Zachary was born in. When we got to the maternity floor, there was the same nurse and she told us she was just sure it would be us. We knew it was foster care, but we fell in love anyway and chose not to think about the future,” he said.
Eighteen months and numerous court appearances later (relatives came out of the woodwork and, at one point, the birth mother wanted the baby back) the mother gave up her rights to the baby, now Christina, and adoption proceedings began.
“Christina, now seven years old, completed our family and is definitely our princess. Can you believe it? A Fourth of July son and a Memorial Day daughter. Every step of the way has been meant to be, even the process of the adoptions and the stress we went through. It really strengthened our family; the strife bonded us together and, looking back, it was all good for us,” Nurse Brian said.
“While our story is a testament to patience and faith and waiting for things to happen in the order they’re supposed to, without those first two losses we wouldn’t be as strong or where we are today,” he added “Most of all, we wouldn’t have two of the most precious gifts any parent could ask for ― our children.”
RaiseAChild is the nationwide leader in the recruitment and support of LGBT and all prospective parents interested in building families through fostering and adoption to meet the needs of the 415,000 children in the foster care system of the United States. RaiseAChild recruits, educates and nurtures supportive relationships equally with all prospective foster and adoptive parents while partnering with agencies to improve the process of advancing foster children to safe, loving and permanent homes. Take the Next Step to Parenthood at www.RaiseAChild.US or call us at (323) 417-1440.