Indiana neonatal nurse ‘Katrina Mullen’ adopted a teen mom after giving birth to triplets. Katrina knew how hard it was to become a mother at such a young age as Mullen had been a teen mom.
Shariya Smalls had given birth prematurely to the triplets ‘Serenitee, Samari, and Sarayah’ and Mullen was the nurse assigned to her care.
“I just felt the need to reach out to her and let her know that I was a teen mom myself,” Mullen said. “I know how scary it was for her to have not only one but three babies.”
“Has it been easy? No! She pushes limits just like any other teenager,” Mullen told Today. “But I love her. I’m her mom — and I’m never going anywhere.”
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One of the first things neonatal nurse Katrina Mullen noticed about the 14-year-old who gave birth to triplets in her Indiana hospital was that the teen mom always seemed to be alone.
“She’d be there alone for days at a time sitting at her babies’ bedside,” She wondered why Shariya Small never came with a packed lunch or snacks to eat. Was anyone looking after her at home? Did she have support?
But Mullen didn’t push. Small, then in 8th grade, made it clear that she didn’t want to share details about her personal life.
“I knew if I gave her time, she’d likely open up to me,” Mullen says.
Triplets Serenitee, Samari and Sarayah, who were born at 26 weeks gestation in 2020, spent more than five months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Community Hospital North in Indianapolis.
Mullen taught Small about newborn care, and Small taught Mullen about TikTok. But the walls didn’t start to come down until Mullen revealed to Small that at age 16, she placed a son for adoption.
“Something shifted after I told her that I was a teen mom,” Mullen says. “That’s when we really developed trust.”
Small confessed to Mullen that she felt as if people were judging her.
“I never judged her,” Mullen says.
Before the triplets were discharged, Mullen gave Small her cell phone number. At that point, Small still hadn’t shared information about her family.
“I said, ‘If you need anything, you just call me. If you need to talk, or you have a question, I’m here,” Mullen recalls.
Small began texting and FaceTiming Mullen regularly.
“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,’” Mullen says. “But I was becoming increasingly concerned about her support system. I couldn’t figure out why she was calling me so often.”
On her day off, Mullen drove an hour to Kokomo, Indiana, where Small was living with a relative. Mullen was alarmed by what she saw: The triplets were sleeping together in an infant playpen, and Small was relegated to a couch.
“It was not a place for her to raise babies,” Mullen says.
To help “build a financial cushion” for her children, Mullen has created a GoFundMe campaign. More than $80,000 has been raised through the fundraiser since it launched.
Credit: People, Today, Indianapolis Star