Unwanted Babies
Diana Altman

Unwanted Babies

“Lily? Lily! Oh, my god!”

She leaned forward and whispered, “Come with me.”

I followed her to the back of the store, where she opened a door. We stood among shelves of new books. She said, “Do you remember what I told you about in college?”

It was such a secret I didn’t even dare say it to her. “You mean about . . . ?”

“Yes. I found her.”

“You did? How?”

“You can pay and they search. It’s not legal. She lives in New Hampshire. She’s twenty-seven.”


“I found her when she was in high school. I was told the name of the school, so I got hold of the yearbook, and there she was with the face of her father. I knew it was her immediately. She looks just like him. I wrote to her mother to ask if I could contact her, and her mother said it was an odd coincidence, because Wendy had just started searching for me. Her mother was very nice about it, but now we’re having some trouble. The first thing Wendy did was get pregnant. That’s very common among adopted teenagers. When they find their birth mother, they get pregnant. So now the problem is, do I have any rights as a grandmother?”


“We’re working it out.”

Lily was quite literally another person. She was downright twinkly. She was still pretty, but now she looked more like an imp than a fairytale princess locked in a tower. She was unmarried, had given up painting, and was just finishing a degree in social work. She intended to counsel adoptees and couples wishing to adopt.

Over many glasses of wine over many months, she told me that, far from being the worst time of her life, her time at the unwed mothers’ home had been happy. She had been away from her parents and their curfews, so she and her boyfriend, the father of the baby, could do whatever they wanted. They went to the movies, to plays, to concerts. His parents were seldom home, so they had all the privacy they required, and, of course, they didn’t need to worry that she would get pregnant. She said it was one of the happiest times of her life. Then he went off to college, and so did she. He, too, was seventeen.

By the time he met his daughter, Lily’s boyfriend was married with two children, and his wife did not know that he’d had a baby with someone else. He was a lawyer in New York with a reputation to protect. He vowed to be helpful if the daughter ever needed it, he was glad to have met her, but he just couldn’t let her into his life, even though she had his face. Wendy told Lily that she didn’t mind. She loved the father who’d raised her. Lily introduced Wendy to her parents. At first, they were distant, didn’t accept her as a grandchild, but, eventually, they softened.

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Diana Altman

is the author of Hollywood East: Louis B. Mayer and the Origins of the Studio System and the novels In Theda Bara’s Tent and We Never Told, selected by NBC News as one of twenty great summer reads. Her short stories have appeared in Trampset, Notre Dame Review, StoryQuarterly, and other journals, and her articles have appeared in The New York Times, Yankee, Boston Herald, Forbes, and other magazines. She is a graduate of Connecticut College and Harvard University and lives in New York City.