A premature birth can be a terrifying nightmare for any parent. New moms and dads may feel helpless as their little ones battle to stay alive, and sometimes it’s the small things that can keep heads above water; the magic is in the details.
For Minnesota mom Lauren Vinje and her husband, David, their little girl Freya, born several weeks premature, gave them something miraculous to keep their spirits high. Just five days after being born, baby Freya proved to her parents beyond any shadow of a doubt that she was happy to be here: she smiled. And it wasn’t just any smile; it was a beaming, life-affirming smile that has been giving hope to the parents of preemie babies everywhere since being shared.
Lauren regaled her difficult birth story with the Birth Without Fear blog, explaining how developing preeclampsia at 28 weeks filled her with fear. “Everything was going great up until that point,” she wrote, and later opened up in an interview with People: “I knew something was wrong,” she said, “when I got so swollen I couldn’t fit my hands together around my ankles. Then I started seeing flashing lights.” Lauren made it through to 34 weeks under the advice of her doctors, but the worry didn’t stop there. Lauren was induced but quickly learned that Freya had turned sideways; she would have to be delivered by emergency cesarean section.
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But medical staff rallied round, Lauren did everything that a laboring mom should do, and Freya eventually emerged. She proved to be a little fighter from the get-go. “She was perfect, ours, and worth every single thing we went through to bring her into this world,” Lauren wrote. What happened five days later backed up everything she felt in her heart; the uplifting moment that Freya smiled her beaming smile from her bed in the NICU was caught on camera, and the loved-up, first-time parents couldn’t resist sharing their joy online.
Their photo quickly went viral.
Lauren shared the adorable picture with Love What Matters alongside the caption, “Our first daughter at five days old. 3 lbs. 14 oz., she was happy to be alive! This picture was one I looked at often,” Lauren shared, “to get me through the ups and downs of our NICU days. Life is so precious.”
Lauren’s photo had an unexpected effect on parents from around the world. As the gorgeous photo was shared far and wide, other parents came forward to share their own personal stories of heartache, stress, and joy after giving birth to premature babies themselves. Little Freya’s winning smile united preemie parents everywhere, giving them renewed hope and a reason to stay positive.
David, Lauren’s husband, has witnessed the sharing of the photo with love and awe, and noticed the way that parents from many different cultures connected with the image. “We are all born into this world in our own unique way,” David told Today, “and it has been so cool to see the responses the photo has generated. This picture has offered relief and joy to us as a family,” he opened up, “and it’s been a blessing to see it influence others in an unpredictable way.” The photo still “puts a smile on our faces,” Lauren shared, “and we thought it could do that for others as well.”
Today, little Freya is a toddler and a proud big sister to a new baby, Elowen. “She’s literally the same person as that photo shows,” Lauren joked. “She’s one of those kids that smiles at everyone in the grocery store.”