Tyler Baltierra stared at a piece of paper detailing how his girlfriend, Catelynn Lowell, was pregnant. That was almost four years ago.
“He was the whitest Mexican I’ve ever seen,” Lowell said.
The audience exploded with laughter inside Western Michigan University’s Bernhard Center. Bethany Christian Services, along with WMU Students for Life, drew a crowd of over 500 students by hosting MTV “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” reality stars Catelynn Lowell and Tyler Baltierra to talk about their open adoption choice.
The candid, recently-engaged couple opened up on tough issues, proving their wisdom is far beyond their years. Catelynn and Tyler are 20 and 19 years old, respectively.
“I didn’t know I was pregnant,” Lowell said. “I thought I had the flu.”
Baltierra said his face turned completely white after reading the slip of paper handed to him by her mom.
“I swear I thought I was going to throw up,” he said.
The couple, raised in Marine City, Mich., decided to make an adoption plan for their daughter, Carly. An open adoption allows ongoing face-to-face visits, pictures, letters and updates. Some open adoptions develop into situations where the birth parents are almost like family members to the adoptive parents.
Their pregnancy counselor from Bethany Christian Services, Dawn Baker, said using the words “gave them up for adoption” are no longer acceptable.
“You give away things you don’t want anymore,” Baker said. “Catelynn and Tyler were wise beyond their years. They wanted people to understand.”
In 2009, MTV approached Bethany Christian Services and asked if they had any teenagers who were “16 and Pregnant.” They originally taped one 40 minute episode that aired on Season 1, Episode 6 of “16 and Pregnant”. MTV and the couple decided they had more of a story to tell. Their story developed from there.
Both agreed that their home environment was too much stress to handle for raising an child and that adoption was the best choice.
“I was raised by an alcoholic mom,” she said. “Tyler’s dad is addicted to crack cocaine.”
He mentioned that his dad was currently in prison, but has a tattoo on his arm with his grand children’s names, including Carly. After Catelynn and Tyler started dating, her mom and his dad got married to each other.
“My life is just crazy,” Catelynn said, joking about the situation.
Carly is three years old and is enrolled in ballet classes.
“She’s obsessed with Tyler,” she said. “She knows who we are.”
Looking toward the future, the couple has set July 13 for their wedding day. The date is two days short of their ninth anniversary. The couple has been dating since 7th grade.
Both are attending Baker College and studying social work. Catelynn wants to become a pregnancy counselor and Tyler wants to work with at-risk youth.
“This is something I was meant to do,” she said. “It’s something deep within my heart. I feel like I have to share it with everybody.”
Ending the discussion, Tyler closed with some words for Carly that closely related to the path her birth parents are pursuing.
“I hope she is the happiest girl that ever lived. I hope she has a voice and she uses it.”