When she was only a few hours old, the baby was left in the vestibule of a two-flat building on the Northwest Side. She was a tiny thing — just 6 pounds, 6 ounces — wrapped in a towel and placed on the doorstep, like a small gift.

Who was this baby? And why had she been abandoned?

The questions would follow the child, as she was handed from police officers, to social workers, and finally to a couple who had yearned for a child to love.

They called her Sarah. Over the years, the child would grow up and pursue a career that would allow her to help children in the way she had once been helped.

A baby is abandoned in Illinois about once a month, some legally under the state's 2001 safe haven law, some not. After the first news blip, the public typically does not hear more about the babies — what became of them, whether they found happiness, if they got answers.

For Baby Sarah, 30 years have now passed. At times, the circumstances of her birth recede to the back of her mind. But every year, around her birthday in late October, as the air turns crisp and the leaves burst into brilliant colors, her thoughts turn to the past.

Then, Sarah McGraw can't help but look into the faces of strangers and wonder: Could you be my mother?

Shortly after 1 p.m. on Oct. 28, 1982, 17-year-old Shirley Rosene, who had been home from school that day, called police to report she had found a baby in the vestibule of her family's apartment building at 3649 N. Pulaski Road.

"Miss Rosene stated the baby was left wrapped in a towel on the floor just inside the door. There were some stains like blood on the towel," a social worker's report from the time said. "The baby was very quiet until they wrapped her in a blanket and then she began whimpering. There were no identifying objects and (Rosene) saw no one on the street, although she may have been too excited to notice."

Police arrived within five minutes. Officer L. Lindahl questioned Rosene and her 20-year-old sister, Carol. Neither appeared to have just given birth, the officer believed, as they were very active and animated, climbing up and down the stairs several times, according to the report. There was no evidence in the apartment of a recent birth.

"We kind of wondered if (whoever left the baby) knew us, or why they had chosen our house," said Shirley Rosene, now 47.

Paramedics rushed the child to Northwest Hospital, where, by coincidence, it was the birthday of the head nurse, Marcia Zahakaylo. In honor of the nurse and the hospital, the child was called Marcia N. West.

She was, by all accounts, a beautiful infant, with fair skin, blue eyes and white-blond hair. Although she was small, she seemed to be in perfect health. There were no drugs in her system and no signs of abuse or neglect.

"I was thinking, 'Could I add another child to my household?'" recalled Zahakaylo, now 75 and retired. "I had five children of my own. I just loved children and thought, 'If nobody wanted this child, I'd be glad to take her.'"

In Rogers Park, Gail and William McGraw had been married for five years and weren't able to have a child of their own.

Gail worked as a social worker for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. She had never tried to use her connections at the agency to find a child. But in the fall of 1982, after the couple had been turned away by an adoption agency, Gail picked up the phone and called a close friend who worked at DCFS.

"I have an abandoned baby on my caseload," he told Gail. "Are you interested?"

Adopting her would be a leap of faith.

There are so many unknowns with an abandoned baby: the child's genetic history, her health, the health of the mother and the history of the pregnancy.