There’s a generally-understood meaning when people refer to one of their kids as a “surprise.” In most situations, your initial assumption would be absolutely correct. Danny Stewart and Pete Mercurio, however, are not your typical parents. And 20 years ago, their now adult son was certainly no typical surprise.
Danny Stewart boarded a New York subway on August 28, 2000, heading home to his partner as he’d done countless times before. While scanning the crowded subway, Danny noticed what he thought was a doll left behind by a distracted child. Upon closer inspection, Danny made a startling discovery – this was no baby doll laying haphazardly on the floor of the Chelsea subway, but an actual baby.
Fellow subway riders ignored the 34-year-old’s pleas to help find the baby’s parents, and it quickly became clear that his parents likely didn’t want to be found. The infant was wrapped only in a sweater, his umbilical cord still partially intact.
As Danny’s panic grew, he contacted the police but feared he sounded so frantic that they dismissed him as insane. Next, he contacted his partner.
“I found a baby,” he blurted out. “I don’t think the police believe me so call them please right now.”
Pete recalled the life-changing moment to BBC, stating that he immediately believed the seemingly unbelievable story. “Because Danny doesn’t joke, he wouldn’t say something if it wasn’t true.”
In record time, Pete made it to the subway before rushing Danny and the baby to a nearby hospital. When the police finally arrived to take their statements, the stunned couple left the baby in their care.
“I remember turning to Danny and saying to him on the sidewalk as the police car was driving away, ‘You know, you’re going to be connected to that baby in some way for the rest of your life,’” Pete said, not knowing at the time how true his statement was.
In December of that year, Danny was called to testify in court about the unforgettable day that happened four months prior. By some twist of fate, the city was experimenting with new protocols for abandoned children, a short-lived expedited adoption process that led the judge to ask Danny on the spot if he wanted to adopt the baby.
“Yes, but I don’t think it’s that easy,” he responded.
“Well, it can be,” the judge said.
Upon arriving home and excitedly revealing the news to his partner, Pete was furious. He hadn’t been consulted, and didn’t feel ready to become a dad. Even so, Pete agreed to go with Danny to meet the baby in his foster home.
“The baby squeezed my finger with his entire hand so hard,” Pete recalled. “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.”
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The soon-to-be dads rushed home to create a proper nursery in their small New York apartment, preparing to bring their new son home just days before Christmas. They passed background checks, home inspections, and absorbed the information they learned in their parenting classes like sponges. A year later, the couple legally became Kevin’s dads.
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20 years later, Kevin is in college studying math and computer science. Pete wrote a book called “Our Subway Baby,” detailing the unusual story of how he and Danny became dads. And Danny? Well, he couldn’t be happier.
“I can’t imagine my life if it didn’t turn out this way,” Danny said. “My life has become much more enriched and full. It has changed my world view, my perspective, my whole lens.”