Years after her birth, little Freya Vinje’s smile continues to provide encouragement to the families of premature babies across the globe.
The Minnesota girl was born six weeks prematurely in 2014 after her mother suffered from preeclampsia, a life-threatening condition, Today reports. It was a traumatic experience for her parents, Lauren and David Vinje of Minnesota, but their daughter’s joyful spirit encouraged them.
Five days after Freya’s birth, her mother said she took her daughter’s “million dollar smile” photo.
“I was talking to her and I had said, ‘Should we send a picture to Daddy?’ and right when I was about to take the picture, she had this huge smile,” Lauren shared on her blog “Birth Without Fear.” “It was a picture that I had always wanted to get out for people to see because of how it touched me [in] the way that it did. We gave a copy to the nurses, and when we went to have our second little girl, they still had it hanging up in their break room.”
The Epoch Times described the impact of Freya’s tiny smile, which continues to this day:
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.
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Two years ago, the Vinjes told Today that Freya’s personality has not changed.
“She’s literally the same person as that photo shows,” her mother said. “She’s one of those kids that smiles at everyone in the grocery store.”
Her husband said they have been amazed by the number of people who felt encouraged after seeing their daughter’s photo online.
“It has been so cool to see the responses the photo has generated,” he said. “This picture has offered relief and joy to us as a family, and it’s been a blessing to see it influence others in an unpredictable way.”
Modern medical advances are enabling younger and smaller premature babies to survive and thrive. The smallest recorded surviving baby weighed less than 9 ounces at birth. Born in California in December 2018, baby Saybie was deemed well enough to go home in May.
The earliest known premature baby to survive outside the womb was born at 21 weeks and four days of pregnancy. In 2017, the journal Pediatrics highlighted the girl’s survival story.