On Dec. 2, 2014, Lauren Vinje snapped a picture of her five-day-old daughter, Freya, to send to her husband. The baby, who was born almost two months premature and weighed just four pounds, four ounces, looked up at her mother and gave an enthusiastic open-mouthed smile.
Nearly two years later, that picture has gone viral, as the internet has fallen in love with Freya’s joyous expression. The Facebook page “Love What Matters” posted the picture on Oct. 16, and it has since been nearly 46,000 times and liked 218,000 times.
People have said the image is inspiring, a reminder to stay positive even in the most discouraging of circumstances. Hundreds of parents shared pictures of their own preemie babies in the comments, with many including images of the children grown up, as well as encouraging messages for other parents going through the uncertainty of premature births.
Vinje told ABC News that she anticipated some outpouring of support and hopes it gives parents courage.
“I had a feeling it would put some smiles on a few people’s faces,” she said. “Hopefully (new parents realize) everything is going to be alright, every case is different. Especially when you are in the NICU, it feels like you’re never going to get out of there. It was really hard for me. I didn’t feel like I could enjoy this new baby of mine.”
Freya is now almost two years old and is happy and healthy, Vinje said. The same personality that allowed her to smile at five days old is still there, she said.
“We go to the store and she’s the friendliest little girl and she says hi to everybody,” Vinje said. “She’s so fun. She’s so happy. That picture at 5 days old, you can see her little personality and you look at her now, and she hasn’t changed. She’s still the happy little girl in that photo.”
The Vinjes have since welcomed another daughter, Elowen.
This article was first published on The Sacramento Bee.