16 and Pregnant's Catelynn and Tyler 17 and Coping

updated 10/05/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/05/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

It's been four months since Catelynn Lowell gave her newborn baby girl up for adoption, a moment chronicled by cameras for the MTV reality series 16 and Pregnant. And while Catelynn and her boyfriend Tyler Baltierra still don't regret their decision, she admits, "There are days you get selfish and think, 'I wish she was here right now.'" Like during a recent trip to the mall, where Catelynn spotted a baby four days younger than her own. "I was kissing and playing with her and was like, 'Ahh!'" she says wistfully. "But then again, I know she's way better off."

Catelynn and Tyler's lives have been filled with such bittersweet moments since they said farewell to their daughter, now called Carly, soon after her May 18 birth. But the couple, now both 17, insist they'd do it again in a heartbeat. "A lot of teenagers are getting pregnant, and we wanted to inspire [them]," says Tyler, relaxing in his suburban Detroit home with Catelynn, his girlfriend of three years. Adds Catelynn, who applied for 16 and Pregnant after hearing about it through her adoption agency: "We put it out there that adoption's not a bad thing. I'm really glad [we did it]."

Soon after hearing about their surprise pregnancy, the couple settled on their plan for adoption. They had the support of his mother and their friends, but his father and her mother (who began dating each other last year and married in February) were against it. "Me and Catelynn know we could've taken care of her," says Tyler. "But why risk your child maybe being in a bad situation?" Catelynn wanted to "break the cycle" of instability she grew up in: "My mother never had money, and I was always having to move. I wanted her to be raised from 1 to 18 in the same household."

So they worked with an adoption agency and chose North Carolina couple Brandon and Teresa to be the adoptive parents. "[Catelynn] showed me their profile, and there was this weird connection," says Tyler. "It was perfect." Even so, giving up Carly "was heartbreaking," he adds. "We wanted to take her home, but we know she's gonna have such a good life."

As part of their semi-open adoption, Brandon and Teresa send photos of Carly every three months, but they communicate with the teens every few weeks. (After Carly's first birthday, they'll officially send updates twice a year.) Says Tyler: "It's almost like [they're] family."

Now, the couple are back in high school for their senior year and are stronger than ever. "Having to make such an adult decision at 17 brought us way closer," Catelynn says. It also prompted them to map out their future: Tyler dreams of being a psychiatrist, while Catelynn would like to become a police officer in a K9 unit. But above all, the couple, who are filming a follow-up MTV series called Teen Mom, look forward to being parents again—this time when they're ready to shoulder the responsibility. "I can't wait to be a dad," says Tyler. "But not anytime soon!"

GET MORE ON CATELYNN AND TYLER! PEOPLE.COM/CATELYNN

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