Pregnancy is no easy feat—what more if you have to go through it at 14 years old and give birth to three children by yourself?
According to a report by NBC’s TODAY, nurse Katrina Mullen witnessed teen patient Shariya Small’s struggles as the latter welcomed triplets (Serenitee, Samari, and Sarayah) alone in the hospital. An added challenge was the babies were premature, so they had to stay at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) of the Community Hospital North in Indianapolis for almost half a year.
Throughout their stay, Mullen saw that Small visited her kids by herself at the NICU and seemingly did not have anyone to rely on or simply be with for support. “She’d be there alone for days at a time, sitting at her babies’ bedside,” she recalled.
Their small talks at the hospital turned into long conversations about their personal lives over time. Small seemed aloof at first, but things changed for the better when Mullen opened up about becoming a mom at 16 years old.
“Something shifted after I told her that I was a teen mom,” said Mullen. “That’s when we really developed trust.”
Their common ground brought them closer together. Even after the babies were discharged from the hospital, they made it a point to text and FaceTime each other on a regular basis.
“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 recalled. “But I was becoming increasingly concerned about her support system. I couldn't figure out why she was calling me so often."
Mullen decided to spend one of her rest days with Small in the latter’s home in Indiana, which she saw was “not a place for her to raise babies.”
She also got concerned about Small’s son Samari who looked “extremely skinny” for his age and was dealing with eczema, which prompted her to send Samari to a nearby hospital. Upon learning that he had “inadequate nutrition,” the Department of Social Services gave her the call that changed her life.
“The caseworker said that Shariya and her babies were being removed from their home,” Mullen recalled. “And then she goes, ‘Shariya said she’d like to come live with you. Would you be willing?’”
Mullen already had three kids at home, but she welcomed the teen mom and her family with open arms. “I just kept thinking, ‘I have to do this.' I knew Shariya was intelligent and resilient and she just needed a safe place to put her roots. I knew it would be hard, but we'd figure it out."
In early February, Mullen officially became Small’s mom. “I’m so proud to be Shariya’s mom. She just amazes me every day. When she’s frustrated with the babies, she never raises her voice. She’s just blossoming into this incredible woman.”
Mullen admitted that life with Small hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows as she “pushes limits just like any other teenager.”
“But I love her,” she quickly added. “I’m her mom, and I’m never going anywhere.”