Hoping to meet her birth mother Search: Amy C. Fischer-Abbott was left on a Baltimore playground a few days after her birth in June 1966.

December 17, 1997|By Dan Rodricks | Dan Rodricks,SUN COLUMNIST

Three hours after midnight, June 9, 1966, her husband's asthmatic coughing awakened Margaret Smith in their house on Palmer Avenue in Northwest Baltimore, near Pimlico Race Course. The coughing wasn't all that bothered her.

Through an open window, Margaret Smith heard a baby cry, and the startling sound seemed to be coming from the Queensberry Playground across the alley behind her house. She called police.

Two officers, Manuel Matias and Allen Griffin, came within minutes and discovered a naked infant on a small blanket on the playground. The baby was "crying lustily," according to a news account. When the officers wrapped the blanket around the child, she stopped crying and went to sleep. The police officers drove the baby to Sinai Hospital.

"I hope whoever left the baby there like that doesn't sleep for 20 years," Smith told a reporter for the News-American that morning.

That baby is now 31 years old, the mother of two children herself. Her name is Amy C. Fischer-Abbott, and she'd like to meet the woman who gave birth to her and who, she assumes, abandoned her a few days later. The circumstances are a mystery.

"I have started to wonder about this only since I had children of my own," Fischer-Abbott says at her house in Reisterstown. "I don't want [her birth mother] to think she'd be in trouble for this if she came forward. I just want to meet her. It's not like she just had me and left me. She had me for five days."

The doctor who examined the abandoned baby -- called a "foundling" by nurses and social workers in those days -- determined that the infant was no more than a week old when she was left on the playground.

"The child was probably born without a physician's care," The Evening Sun reported.

"The child had not been washed after its birth and an 'amateur' job of tying the umbilical cord had been performed," said the News-American, which published a photograph of the infant, "Miss X," in the arms of a Sinai nurse named Sandra Stark. "The baby had been fed, however."

The girl weighed 5 pounds, 4 ounces. She was 18 1/2 inches long. She had blond hair and blue eyes. She was described as "a pretty baby with delicate features."

After being transferred to old City Hospitals -- now Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center -- the girl ate and slept normally. She was baptized, standard procedure for abandoned babies at City Hospitals.

Within a few weeks, a Baltimore Circuit Court judge declared the baby "dependent and neglected." The Baltimore Department of Social Services took responsibility for the child; an agency worker named her "Carole Annye."

According to records, the baby was placed in foster care for a few months while DSS attempted to locate her parents. They never came forward.

The next January, DSS started adoption procedures.

Virginia and Tom Fischer were anxious to have a baby girl; they were on the DSS adoption waiting list. They already had adopted a baby boy and had named him Robert. In April 1967, on Good Friday, they brought "Carole Annye" to their home in Reisterstown and renamed her Amy.

"We were told she was a foundling," says Tom Fischer, a retired BGE employee. "We were told that she was left on a doorstep."

Amy was about 7 years old before she heard about "being left."

"When I was in the second grade, we were making family trees in class," Amy Fischer-Abbott says. "My second-grade teacher had called Mom for some reason, because of the family tree, and when I got home from school, my teacher was sitting in the kitchen talking to my mom, and I think that's the first time I learned I had been left. That's what I was told -- that I had been left.

"Another time, my mom and I were watching TV when I was little and a news tease about an abandoned baby came on and I asked my mom, 'Is that what happened to me?' "

Her parents were honest about the abandonment, Fischer-Abbott says. But it never bothered her.

"I have great parents," she says, referring to Virginia and Tom Fischer. "I was really a spoiled child. I was a competitive swimmer. I was in Girl Scouts. My father was a Girl Scouts dad -- he took me everywhere. I had a great life. We never talked much about" the abandonment.

In fact, the Fischers did not learn the full story -- the playground, the blanket, the cry at 3 in the morning -- until years later, when they requested adoption records from DSS for Robert and Amy.

In 1993, Amy's records revealed the circumstances of her abandonment. The News-American photograph was in the file. Tom Fischer went to the Enoch Pratt Free Library and found the full, 12-paragraph clipping in the News-American collection there. The headline: "Crying Infant Found Naked On Playground."

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