14-year-old Shariya Small of Kokomo IN gave birth to triplets, a boy and two girls in 2022. Born prematurely at 26 weeks and only weighing two pounds each, the babies spent the first four months of their lives in the NICU under the care of nurse Katrina Mullen. During that time, Shariya bonded with Katrina and they stayed connected after the triplets were discharged.
Katrina, who has five children of her own and was a teen mom herself, sent baby gifts to the teen, gave her parenting advice, and even made trips out to see Shariya and the babies, a trip that was an hour each way. And when Shariya’s son had to return to the hospital for care, Katrina looked after her daughters while she was with him. But the hospitalization prompted a visit to Shariya’s home by the Department of Child Services who decided that Shariya’s children should be in foster care.
Katrina’s experience as a nurse told her it was unlikely that a foster home would take in a teen mother with three kids and she didn’t want them to be separated. So even though she had two teens and a seven-year-old of her own at her home, she sought to adopt Shariya, now 15, and the triplets. Life at the Mullen house has been an adjustment for everyone, but Shariya and the triplets are thriving and Katrina couldn’t be more proud. “It’s been great,” she says. “Stressful? Yes. Sleepless nights? Yes. But worth it? Absolutely.”