In the mood for an uplifting story today? Something to remind you of the small miracles that happen daily on this crazy planet of ours?
Consider this. Twelve years ago, Daniel Stewart was in the A/C/E exit of the subway on Eighth Avenue in New York City when he noticed a doll lying in a dark corner behind the turnstiles. Feeling sorry for the child who’d lost a toy, he began to exit the turnstiles, but something caused him to look back. The doll’s legs moved. It was actually a light-brown skinned baby boy. He appeared to be about a day old and was wrapped in an oversize black sweatshirt.
Daniel called 911 and rang his partner, Peter Mercurio, telling him to come down and help him. An ambulance then took the baby away.
Over dinner, Peter and Daniel discussed the day's events. In a story for Parents.com, Peter, a playwright, wrote that he remembered saying, "It's not the end. A child can't just fall into your life this way and disappear." Danny agreed: "Yeah. We'll probably think of him for the rest of our lives. We should keep track of him so we can send him a birthday card every year."
The couple tried to visit baby Ace (as he was nicknamed) in hospital, but were turned away. Through the grapevine, they heard that the baby’s grandmother had turned up to claim Ace.
But that information was wrong. No one had claimed the baby, and although the mother had been found, she didn't wish to care for him.
Eventually the Family Court intervened to investigate charges of criminal negligence by the mother and to to decide on custody arrangements for the baby. Three months after he’d been discovered, Daniel attended a court hearing to explain what happened that day in the subway.
In a recent blog piece for the New York Times, Peter recounts what happened next: “Suddenly the judge asked, ‘Would you be interested in adopting this baby?’ The question stunned everyone in the courtroom, everyone except for Danny, who answered, simply, ‘Yes.’”
The judge gave orders to start the process of making Danny, and by extension, Peter, legal custodians of baby Ace.
Only problem – Peter wasn’t consulted. Naturally, the idea of instant parenthood kind of freaked him out. Not only had they never discussed having children during their three-year relationship, they had low incomes and a flatmate sleeping behind a partition in their living room to help pay the rent. As Peter wrote, “I didn’t know how to change a diaper, let alone nurture a child. But here was fate, practically giving us a baby. How could we refuse? Eventually, my fearful mind spent, my heart seized control to assure me I could handle parenthood.”
The couple took parenting classes and underwent checks by social workers while they cared for the baby boy, who they named Kevin, as foster parents. Still, they wondered, why them?
At the final hearing for adoption orders, Peter asked the judge a question.
“‘Your Honor, we’ve been wondering why you asked Danny if he was interested in adopting?’
“‘I had a hunch,’ she said. ‘Was I wrong?’ And with that, she rose from her chair, congratulated us, and exited the courtroom.”
It’s spine-tingling stuff. But there’s one more beautiful twist to the story.
Years went by, with Peter and Daniel becoming legal guardians to Kevin. In 2011, when gay couples were granted the legal right to marry in New York City, Kevin had an idea - why didn't his dads ask the judge who performed the adoption to marry them? They made enquiries, and learnt she was happy to officiate.
Peter wrote: “As Danny and I moved into position to exchange vows, I reflected on the improbable circumstances that delivered all of us to this moment. We weren’t supposed to be there, two men, with a son we had never dreamed of by our side, getting married by a woman who changed and enriched our lives more than she would ever know. But there we were, thanks to a fateful discovery and a judicious hunch.”
Oh dear, I’m crying again.
Still, you couldn’t ask for a much happier ending for baby abandoned in a subway, nor is it easy to imagine a more serendipitous path to parenthood.