Teen mum who gave birth to triplets is adopted by their neonatal nurse
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A nurse in the US welcomed a 14-year-old mum and her triplets not only into her hospital, but also into her home as she adopted the teenager.
Katrina Mullen was working at Community Hospital North in Indianapolis in 2020 when 14-year-old Shariya Small gave birth to her triplets at just 26 weeks pregnant.
The triplets spent more than five months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and Mullen noticed that Small was always alone when she came to visit them.
The nurse and teen developed a bond when Mullen revealed that she had also been a teen mum, having placed a son for adoption when she was 16.
Speaking to Today, Mullen said: "Something shifted after I told her that I was a teen mum. That’s when we really developed trust.”
The nurse gave Small her phone number when the triplets were discharged, but she still didn't know anything about the teen's family life.
Small began calling Mullen regularly, with the nurse recalling: "I’d help her when she was crying and overwhelmed. I couldn’t fix it, but I would listen and support her and be like, ‘You can do this'. But I was becoming increasingly concerned about her support system. I couldn't figure out why she was calling me so often."
When Mullen went to visit Small on a day off, she was alarmed to see the triplets sleeping together in an infant playpen, and Small sleeping on the sofa of a relative's home.
One of the children was then diagnosed with failure to thrive due to inadequate nutrition, and Mullen received a call from the Department of Social Services (DSS) to say that Small and the children were being removed from the home.
“And then [the caseworker] goes, ‘Shariya said she’d like to come live with you. Would you be willing?’" Mullen recalled.
Mullen already had three children at home, as well as another two who didn't live with her, but she knew it would be 'impossible' for the teen to find a home that would accept her and her babies, so she agreed.
She took the classes required to become a foster parent and welcomed the four new family members into her home, after which Small graduated from high school.
They remained as foster children for 668 days, but on 6 February Mullen officially adopted Small to become her mother, and grandmother to the triplets.
The nurse has praised Small for how far she has come since she first moved in with her, saying: "In the beginning, it was me pretty much doing everything for the babies and her observing and participating when she felt confident.
"And now she’s in charge. I’ll watch them if she wants to go hang out with her friends and stuff that teenagers do. But I’m just her backup."
The nurse admitted the road hasn't been 'easy', but she made clear she's Small's mum and is 'never going anywhere'.
Mullen has now set up a GoFundMe to help 'build a financial cushion' for Small and her babies.