The Love Between a Mother and Daughter


Greater Latrobe High School senior Cortnie Plows bonds with three month old daughter Lilly.

When high school senior Cortnie Plows found out she was pregnant in March of 2018, she knew her life was going to change drastically. Throughout the pregnancy, adoption crossed her mind. Her motivation to raise her daughter stemmed from knowing she was capable of doing it.

A stigma lies behind teen pregnancy and the struggles and hardships that go along with it.  As many reality television shows paint a picture of a particular lifestyle, Cortnie did not let an episode of Teen Mom take away the hope she had inside of her.  She says, “Having an actual kid in real life is completely different. It’s so dramatic on television, it was not that dramatic in real life.”

One morning in late February 2018, Cortnie woke up and something just did not feel right.  As she was getting ready to take a shower, she did not think she would make it and began throwing up.  Her father knew she was pregnant, but Cortnie denied it.

Being in a relationship at any age is hard, but being in a relationship that is distant with a child involved adds another element to balance.  That does not account for having a social life as an 18 year old outside of being a mother and girlfriend.

She says, “Everything was going good not too long ago, but now I am in the middle of things and it is kind of going downhill right now,” but her parents especially reminded her that they would be there through it all for her and the baby.

“I didn’t want to disappoint my dad,” said Plows.  My father told me, “He [Lilly’s father] is probably not going to be here for you” after going through a similar situation with Cortnie’s sister.  

“My father kept putting that in my head for the longest time and I believed him,” said Plows. “At first my parents were mad at me and would bring it up all the time when we would fight.”  As Lilly’s due date came closer, Cortnie’s father started to adjust and once she was born, “He adjusted so fast, it was crazy.”

One of Cortnie’s biggest fears during the pregnancy was that she was going to have to do it all by herself.  She has received endless support from her parents and all five of her siblings. Cortnie’s parents have also assisted her financially and have purchased all the formula, diapers, and other essential needs for the both of them.

“My anxiety was through the roof,” said Plows throughout her pregnancy.  When times were tough, Cortnie says, “I stayed calm by talking to my friends and family.  I would rub my belly and talk to Lilly before she was born and write down my feelings in a journal.”

At one of Cortnie’s doctors appointments on October 17, the gynecologist told her they were going to induce her and she was sent to Westmoreland Hospital.  She was admitted with a high blood pressure and the doctors wanted to run a 24-hour test on her for another medical reason. However, she was unable to go home due to the high blood pressure, which could in turn shut down her kidneys.  

The following day, her water broke and she soon gave birth to Lilly on October 18, 2018 at 11:42 pm.  Cortnie’s sister and Lilly’s father supported her during the labor and delivery. Everything happened so quick for the whole family as Lilly was born a month and one day early.  Cortnie’s parents were unaware that she was premature so they stayed true to previous commitments the day that Lilly was born.

“Once I had her, she came out and was not breathing and my sister starting crying,” said Plows. “I tried not paying attention to her because I knew I’d get all worked up.”

Lilly was immediately taken to get weighed and was then put into an incubator in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to keep warm.  Cortnie was able to hold her for the first time on October 19.

I felt a connection that I never felt before.

— Cortnie Plows


Lilly spent a week hooked up to a feeding tube and oxygen, which was critical for her survival.

Cortnie was discharged from the hospital on the 21st and visited Lilly all the days following when she was in the NICU, but some days she was not allowed to hold Lilly because of a low oxygen level.  “I cried every time I went to see her,” said Plows. “It was hard and I didn’t like seeing her like that.

Once Lilly was brought home on the 27th, the hardest part was the adjustment not only for Cortnie, but her entire family.  “They struggled at first because I was always with them and now my attention goes to the baby,” said Plows. “They weren’t used to it.”  

However, the support for Cortnie and the newborn was constant.  She said, “My parents were a big help as well as my 12-year-old brother Chad, who has helped the most by putting Lilly to sleep and is starting to learn how to change her diapers.”

Cortnie wakes up around 4:30 am to feed Lilly and change her diaper.  Around 5:30, she gives the baby to her mother so that she can get ready for school.  Then Cortnie goes to school and when she comes home, Lilly is fed either formula or other baby food and then they take a 2-3 hour nap together.  Lilly usually goes to bed around 11:30 pm and sleeps through the night either with Cortnie or in her bassinet.

Fortunately, Cortnie’s mother’s job as a home-care nurse allows Lilly to be with her all day.  Depending on when her father is working, he is also able to take care of her while Cortnie is in school.  “I think they play a big role in this,” said Plows. “They always have her pretty much every day.”

It has been difficult for Cortnie coming back to school after having Lilly, but she strives each and every day to be the best version of herself.  “When I am in school, I stay focused on what I need to do here and not on other things,” said Plows. “I try to complete my homework either at high school or Eastern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center (EWCTC) because I don’t want to give all my attention to schoolwork when I am home since I know I have to give it all to Lilly.”

Alongside balancing being a mother and finishing out senior year, Cortnie works a part-time job at Westmoreland Hospital.  She still manages to work one day a week and on weekends, while getting enough time to be with her daughter as well.

“I didn’t know how well this was going to work out and I never really thought this was going to happen,” said Plows.

Lilly is a little over three months old now and Cortnie describes her as a happy baby.  “She is starting to laugh and tries to talk to my dad,” said Plows. “Her breathing is still a little raspy and I hope to take her to a specialist in Pittsburgh soon.

“Down the road, I know they’ll play a bigger role too once I am on my own and in an apartment or home with Lilly,” said Plows.  “If I need anything, they are there to help me. I am doing it myself, but I lean on my parents to support me.”

Cortnie’s future plans include graduating high school and pursuing a career in the medical field.  She is currently enrolled in the Health Occupations program at EWCTC, which she hopes gives her a head start for her career.  Once she graduates or earns a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certificate, she hopes to work at a local nursing home. She is super excited for Lilly to be at her graduation and to take on the next chapter of her life.  

Cortnie is an inspiring 18-year-old senior who is continuously growing as a person and aims to go through the best and most challenging moments of her life with Lilly by her side.