On August 28, 2000, Danny Stewart encountered something in a New York subway station that would change his life forever.
It was around 8 p.m. when Danny, 34, was on his way to dinner with his partner, Pete Mercurio, 32, when he ran past something lying on the subway station floor.
Tucked up against a wall was a bundle that looked like a baby doll. He was puzzled but continued up the stairs toward the exit.
However, when he glanced back one more time, he saw that the doll’s legs moved.
Danny quickly ran back down the stairs and confirmed that the doll was, in fact, a live baby boy wrapped in a dark sweatshirt. The infant didn’t have any clothes on, and his umbilical cord was still partially intact, so Danny could tell he was a newborn who was maybe a day old.
He yelled out to the people in the station and asked them to call the police, but almost everyone ignored him.
Danny was afraid to pick up the baby because he may be hurt, so he used a payphone to call 911. He told them that he found a baby and informed the police about his location.
He was worried that the operators thought it was a prank call, so he finally called Pete to tell him what happened.
“Once again, I blurted out, ‘I found a baby. I don’t think the police believe me so call them please right now.’”
Upon hearing those words, the hairs on the back of Pete’s neck stood up. Danny wasn’t one to joke, so he knew that everything he said was true.
Pete went to the subway station and arrived as the police carried the baby away to be taken to a hospital. After Danny had given his statement, the pair left and went home.
Danny wanted to check how the baby was, so he went to the hospital where he was taken but could not get any information.
So, Danny and Pete returned to their daily lives. But before too long, Danny was invited by the Administration for Children’s Services to a family court hearing to testify how he had found the baby.
When this happened in December 2000, the judge asked him if he could stay for the entire hearing.
After explaining that they wanted to place the baby in pre-adoptive foster care as quickly as possible, the judge asked him a question.
“Would you be interested in adopting this baby?’”
Danny was shocked, but he responded with a yes.
“I had not had thoughts of adopting,” Danny said, “but at the same time, I could not stop thinking that… I did feel connected, I felt like this was not even an opportunity, it was a gift, and how can you say no to this gift.”
Danny then called Pete to tell him the news. And over the next week, the couple had tense conversations.
Pete didn’t want their lives to change, and the fact that they had no money, no space, and still lived with a roommate cemented his decision to reject the adoption.
But Danny was determined to go through with it, even without Pete by his side. The situation almost tore them apart.
Danny convinced Pete to come with him to the baby’s foster home. There, they immediately noticed that it wasn’t an ideal place for him to be.
Danny held the baby in his arms for the first time and said, “Remember me?”
When it was Pete’s turn to hold him, he said he felt an “instant wave of warmth.”
“The baby squeezed my finger with his entire hand so hard,” Pete said. “He was just staring up at me and I was just looking at him, and it was almost like he found a pressure point in my finger that just opened up my heart to my head and showed me in that moment that I could be one of his parents, one of his dads.”
They went through the adoption process and decided to name him Kevin—after the baby that Danny’s mom had before him, who, unfortunately, died at birth.
The adoption process was completed on December 17, 2002, and the trio soon settled into their new life together.
Pete, a playwright and web designer, made a picture book called “Subway Baby” about Kevin’s story. When he turned three or four, he and Danny would read it to him every night before he slept. It quickly became the toddler’s favorite book.
In 2011, New York became the sixth state in the US to legalize gay marriage. Pete then asked Kevin, who was 10, what he thought about his dads getting married.
The youngster was excited about the idea and asked Pete, “Don’t judges marry people?”
Pete was inspired by the idea and sent an email to the Manhattan Family Court to ask if the same judge who presided over Kevin’s adoption would officiate at their marriage. Within two hours, the judge confirmed that she would be happy to do so.
“This woman, the very reason we’re a family, is once again, the very reason we’re getting married. It was like coming full circle,” Danny said.
Fast forward to today, Kevin is now 20 years old and at college studying mathematics and computer science. He is now over six feet tall—taller than both his dads.
Kevin loves playing frisbee and running marathons. He also danced with the National Dance Institute from the age of nine to 14.
“Kevin’s always been a respectful kid,” Pete described his son. “He’s empathic and kind. He keeps his emotions close to the vest. He’s an observer, doesn’t crave or seek attention. He’s a private person, but also a quiet leader.”
The family loves visiting national parks together, kayaking, and supporting the New York Mets, their favorite baseball team.
Danny, now 55, said he can’t imagine his life if it didn’t turn out this way. Pete, now 52, said he didn’t know this level of love existed until Kevin came into his life.
*Judge Cooper is a pseudonym that Pete uses in “Subway Baby” as she didn’t want to be named
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