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'It's been a blessing': Family of smiling preemie shares daughter's birth story

The photo, which shows a premature baby smiling in the NICU, helped her parents stay positive during the difficult days following her birth.
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

Minnesota mom Lauren Vinje vividly remembers the excitement she felt when it was time to deliver her first daughter, Freya.

But, in a blog post about her birth story written for Birth Without Fear, Vinje jokes that she felt that excitement several times before Freya finally made her appearance.

Vinje developed preeclampsia when she was 28 weeks pregnant. After following her doctors' advice and making it to 34 weeks gestation, Vinje was admitted to the hospital and induced, only to learn hours later that Freya had turned sideways in utero and would have to be delivered by emergency c-section.

Vinje wrote about Freya's birth after a photo of her five-day-old, premature daughter "smiling" in the NICU went viral. Vinje's image was shared on Facebook by both Birth Without Fear and Love What Matters, resulting in thousands of views, shares and comments.

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"That picture has always been a favorite of ours," Vinje told TODAY Parents. "I knew it would put a smile on people's's nice knowing her smile has been able to put a smile on faces around the world."

Today, Freya is two years old and has a two-month-old baby sister, Elowen.

The Vinje family: David, Lauren, Freya and Elowen.
The Vinje family: David, Lauren, Freya and Elowen.Lauren Vinje

Vinje's husband, David, says his favorite part about the photo going viral has been seeing the way people across different cultures connect with the image.

"We are all born into this world in our own unique way, and it has been so cool to see the responses the photo has generated," said David Vinje. "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."

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