Preemie’s “Million Dollar Smile” gives hope and encouragement to parents

By Dave Andrusko


This is one of those “whatever happened to” stories. And the best kind—a happy update.

Almost three years ago, a photo of five days old premature baby shared on “Birth Without Fear” and “Love What Matters” went viral. One look at the dazzling smile of Freya Vinje shows you why.

This week Louise Bevan caught up with mom Lauren and dad David to find out how Freya and the whole family was doing.

As Bevan explained, Freya, born six weeks premature,

gave them something miraculous to keep their spirits high. Just five days after being born, baby Freya proved to her parents beyond any shadow of a doubt that she was happy to be here: she smiled. And it wasn’t just any smile; it was a beaming, life-affirming smile that has been giving hope to the parents of preemie babies everywhere since being shared.

But Lauren’s photo had an unexpected impact.

“As the gorgeous photo was shared far and wide, other parents came forward to share their own personal stories of heartache, stress, and joy after giving birth to premature babies themselves,” Bevan writes. “Little Freya’s winning smile united preemie parents everywhere, giving them renewed hope and a reason to stay positive.”

Lauren’s own pregnancy began smoothly, before a serious turn for the worse, which she documented on her blog, “Birth Without Fear.” As she wrote, “Everything was going great up until that point,” when she developed preeclampsia at 28 weeks.

Later Lauren told People magazine

“I knew something was wrong,” she said, “when I got so swollen I couldn’t fit my hands together around my ankles. Then I started seeing flashing lights.” Lauren made it through to 34 weeks under the advice of her doctors, but the worry didn’t stop there. Lauren was induced but quickly learned that Freya had turned sideways.

There was no decision to be made. Freya would have to be delivered by emergency cesarean section. Fortunately, the delivery went well,

Bevin explained that after the photo of her five-day-old, premature daughter “smiling” in the NICU went viral, Lauren wrote about her birth.

“That picture has always been a favorite of ours,” Vinje told Lauren told Terri Peters of TODAY Parents. “I knew it would put a smile on people’s faces…it’s nice knowing her smile has been able to put a smile on faces around the world.”

Added husband David in a prior interview, “It has been so cool to see the responses the photo has generated.” He added, “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.”

And a perfect conclusion. Freya has a baby sister, Elowen.