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November 1, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Catelynn Lowell and Tyler Baltierra love their baby.
They weren’t there to see her first steps, and baby Carly doesn’t know them as “mom” and “dad.” But Lowell believes this proves their love for their child even more.
When: Thurs., Nov. 8 at 7 p.m.
Where: Conservation Auditorium in the Natural Resources Building, MU campus
Online: For more information: impregnant.org/tour
At 16, Lowell wanted a college education, to marry Baltierra and to raise children in the family-centered environment she never had. But the reality of her life didn’t make this possible. Her mother was an alcoholic and her boyfriend’s father was addicted to cocaine. Lowell couldn’t imagine raising her baby in the toxic atmosphere; the shadow on the ultrasound and the kick near her belly button deserved better than that.
The recently engaged pair was the only of four couples on MTV’s show Teen Mom to choose adoption. The two will visit MU on Nov. 8 on their I’m Pregnant tour to talk about their lives on and off the show. Their message is that whatever decision parents make, it must be a choice for the child, not themselves.
When she got pregnant, Lowell says abortion wasn’t an option for them because of the couple’s belief that life starts at conception. Their decision to put Carly up for adoption meant seeing her once or twice a year and getting to know her through picture texts and brief phone calls. They also had to face Lowell’s mother, who didn’t support their choice.
While clips of the other televised families depicted the hardships of taking care of a baby as teen parents, Lowell and Baltierra’s narrative illustrated the struggle of not being a part of their child’s life.
“As parents, we decided that was one of our sacrifices for her, to separate our emotions and our feelings so that she could have a better life,” Lowell says. And she doesn’t regret anything.
Reagan Nielsen, founder of pro-life organization MU Students for Life, responsible for the planning of the event, says the phrase “to put up for adoption” stems from the early 1850s when people would put the babies they couldn’t care for on trains. Obviously this is not the process today, but Elizabeth Ehlen, director of placement services at Columbia’s A Gift of Hope Adoptions, says the negative connotation still follows adoption, making it less popular with expecting couples.
According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, only 5 percent of expecting teens choose adoption. Ehlen says many adoptions of the early 20th century were closed and no contact between birth parents and the child could exist. That’s how most individuals think of the process, but today almost all adoptions can remain open. Birth parents also have the option to choose their adoptive family.
“If you decide that you do want to do adoption, you get to plan everything for your child,” Lowell says. “It’s all about what you want for your child and the relationship you want with your child. People don’t know that they can be in their child’s life forever.”
Lowell says that’s what makes this lifestyle bearable. She still feels she is a part of Carly’s life. Carly knows she is adopted and knows Catelynn and Tyler, and someday she will know who they are in relation to her.