Sunny Side of The Stream: NICU Nurse Adopts Teen Mom and Her Baby Triplets

By Aliya Kuykendall Published on April 2, 2023

Katrina Mullen, a NICU nurse of 23 years, met Shariya Small when Small was 14 years old, the mother of triplets born prematurely. Now, over two years later, she’s an adoptive mother to Small and grandmother to the three toddlers.

After five months as their NICU nurse and almost two years of fostering Small, Mullen officially adopted Small on Feb. 6, 2023. She did so to keep Small with her babies.

Mullen is a single mother with five sons ranging from adult to 7 years old. That didn’t stop her from sharing her love with four more children. She befriended Small as a mother in the NICU and kept up with her through text messages, phone calls and Facetime chats after Small was discharged from the hospital. Mullen also visited Small, driving an hour one way. Eventually a case worker with Indiana Department of Child Services decided that Small needed to be placed in foster care, and Mullen became her foster mother.

“Just from being a nurse, I knew there would not be many foster homes that would take a teen mother with three kids… I didn’t want them to be separated. I wanted them to stay together,” Mullen told the Indianapolis Star.

Mullen, while still working as a nurse, helped to care for the babies and took the required foster care classes.

Small, who had paused her high school education after giving birth, found a school with a nursery, has quickly accelerated through her classes and is now on track to graduate early in May. She is considering going to law school or becoming a nurse like Mullen.

“Everybody told me that I wouldn’t finish school, that I wouldn’t achieve my goals, but now I’m graduating as a junior and was accepted into two colleges with academic scholarships,” Small told the Indianapolis Star.

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“It’s been great,” Mullen told the Indianapolis Star. “Stressful? Yes. Sleepless nights? Yes. But worth it? Absolutely.”

I love this story because it shows the power of women to overcome the narrative that babies hinder women in difficult circumstances and that killing their babies through abortion is the answer. Look at how powerful these mothers are! I love the adoption in this story and the beauty of supporting a mother in keeping her babies instead of separating her from them.

No doubt, more good men in this story would have alleviated more stress. (Perhaps Mullen’s five sons were a big help though?) But the death of children was not the chosen answer. Community was the answer. Reaching out with self-sacrificing love was the answer. Being family was the answer when broken family was the problem. What would it take for more of us to be like Mullen for someone in our communities?


Aliya Kuykendall is a staff writer for The Stream. You can follow Aliya on Twitter @AliyaKuykendall and follow The Stream @Streamdotorg.

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