Let's start with the act that got her in trouble, then we can deal with what made her do it.

It was just after 7 a.m., and she had been driving aimlessly for hours. At one point, she had parked outside her high school, where she was due to graduate in a few weeks. She sat there in the dark. She was 18. Next to her, wrapped in towels, was the newborn baby nobody knew about.

He was 2 days old.

What am I going to do? The sun was up now, and her father was due home from his night shift at the GM plant her father, whose disappointment she so feared, she couldn't even tell him the worst thing that had ever happened to her.

What am I going to do? She drove through town and finally entered Holmes Car Wash. It looked deserted. She got out, took her baby and placed him gently inside a cardboard box. She left the box near a post. Then she drove across the street.

From there, she watched. She cried. She prayed.

She drove away.

You may find that unforgivable. But this is not about forgiveness. This is about what's going on under our noses, in our own homes, how we lose touch with our teen-agers, how they look like children, but are living and suffering consequences like adults.

Angela Motz is a stocky young woman with brown eyes and sandy, shoulder-length hair. She is smart, strong and intensely motivated, a borderline type-A achiever. She sits in the bedroom of her Lansing, Mich., home, surrounded by awards for sports and academics.

This is where her childhood teddy bear, Bob, still sits on her bed.

And this is where her baby was born.

The baby Angela says she didn't know she was carrying.

"I didn't really gain weight, I was wearing the same clothes as before. I wasn't eating any more food. And I didn't feel sick. I had missed my periods before, sometimes three or four in a row," she says, "so that didn't really concern me."

The baby came on Saturday night of Memorial Day weekend. Not that anyone foresaw it. That morning, Angela played clarinet with her high school marching band. Later, she and a friend went to a shopping mall.

"My stomach hurt that night," Angela admits, "but I thought it was just the food we ate at the mall. I went home. My dad was out. I kept having to lie down

"The pain got worse. After that, everything is kind of a blur. They tell me now I might never remember, that I blocked it out because of the shock. All I know is at some point I went into the bathroom and I got in the bathtub. And the baby came out, I guess "

So Angela, whose mother moved across the country a few years ago and whose siblings were all gone from the house, stayed hidden in her room.

For two days and two nights the length of her parenthood it was Angela and the baby, alone.

"Did I love my child?" she says now. "I feel like I did. But you know, most parents, they have a long time to make the connection. They say, 'I'm gonna have a baby' and they can build up to it. With me, it just sort of happened."

One million teen-agers get pregnant each year in the United States. And each year, around 100 infants are abandoned at birth. About a third of those die. In most cases, the mothers feel alone. In some cases, they truly are.

By Wednesday, plainclothes police were at Angela's school. Apparently, while Angela was in denial about her pregnancy, others including some teachers had wondered.

Many of her classmates ostracized her. Many of her neighbors couldn't understand. Fortunately, in this case, the judge, prosecutor and attorney agreed: The infant had been taken care of, he was left where someone could find him, no malice was intended. And, given Angela's age and clean slate, she was allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor, fourth-degree child abuse, and the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act could apply. Angela would not have to go to jail. If she followed her probation rules, eventually her record would be expunged.

As for the baby? He went through foster care and was quickly adopted. Angela, now a college freshman, is in touch with the adoptive parents through e-mail and has even seen photos of her son. "He'll always be mine," Angela says, "but when I signed away my rights, I was doing the best thing I could for him."

"What is the lesson in all this?" Angela Motz is asked.

"If you're in trouble," she says, "don't be afraid to tell the people who care about you."

She cries a little. She has finished her story. This time, two lives were salvaged. Next time, we may not be so lucky. Talk, please, talk with your children. It's the offense of love, and the only defense we have.

Mitch Albom is the author of the best seller "Tuesdays With Morrie."

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