Katrina Mullen: Mom-of-5 NICU nurse adopts four more after 14-year-old gives birth to triplets
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA: Katrina Mullen was working as a NICU nurse when she saw a teenage girl trying to deal with a non-teenage problem head-on. 14-year-old Shariya Small was struggling alone as she delivered triplets in an Indiana hospital.
“She’d be there alone for days at a time sitting at her babies’ bedside,” Mullen told Today.com. She wondered if the teen had any support at home but could not ask her directly. “I knew if I gave her time, she’d likely open up to me,” the 45-year-old noted. Fast forward a few months, the teen and the adult now have an adorable bond with each other.
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‘I never judged her’
Teenage pregnancy was not Small’s only issue. Her triplets were born prematurely. The average gestation for triplets is reportedly 33 weeks, but they were born at 26 weeks. The babies — Serenitee, Samari, and Sarayah — were admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Community Hospital North in Indianapolis for over five months.
The time at the hospital helped Mullen and Small connect with each other. The nurse also opened up about her pregnancy to the new teen mom and told her she had to give her son for adoption after she gave birth to him at 16. “Something shifted after I told her that I was a teen mom. I never judged her,” Mullen stated.
‘I would listen and support her’
The nurse also gave the teenager her phone number and said, "If you need anything, you just call me. If you need to talk, or you have a question, I’m here.” Eventually, the time came when Small’s babies were discharged from the hospital, and after that, the two mothers started to bond via texting and FaceTiming.
“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,” Mullen told Today.com.
To find out the truth, Mullen one day went to Kokomo, Indiana, where Small was living at a relative’s place. But the condition there was not ideal for the teen or her children. Mullen asserted, “It was not a place for her to raise babies.”
Besides, one of Small's babies, Samari, was not in good health. He was taken to the hospital and the Department of Social Services (DSS) was informed. Soon after that, the DSS called Mullen, and a caseworker told her that “Shariya and her babies were being removed from their home. And then she goes, ‘Shariya said she’d like to come to live with you. Would you be willing?’”
‘She needed a safe place’
Mullen, who is a mother of five children, mentioned, “I knew it would be impossible to find a foster home that would take all four of them. No one was going to take a teen mom and her preemie triplets. 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.”
She revealed, “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.”
‘I'm her mom’
Mullen also went on to adopt Small and legally became her parent in February. She said, “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 also added, “Has it been easy? No! She pushes limits just like any other teenager. But I love her. I'm her mom — and I'm never going anywhere.”