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Touching backstory of the smiling baby in viral photo

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Posted at 4:25 PM, Oct 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-21 20:00:57-04
(KGTV) — A photo showing a 5-day-old girl flashing a beaming smile is sweeping the web Friday, but it's the little known story behind the photo that's warming hearts. It's also helping raise awareness about a potentially life-threatening condition that affects about 5% of pregnant women and give hope to preemie parents.
 
Lauren Vinje shared her story about her daughter Freya on social media sites and the blog Birth Without Fear, a site devoted to helping women and families experiencing difficulties during pregnancy. 
 
"Our first daughter at five days old. 3 lbs. 14 oz., she was happy to be alive! This picture was one I looked at often to get me through the ups and downs of our NICU days. Life is so precious,“ Vinje was quoted saying on the Love What Matters Facebook community page. 
 
She says she began showing signs of preeclampsia around her 28th week of pregnancy, but doctors weren't detecting anything wrong.
 
After several follow up visits to the clinic to check her high blood pressure, doctors told her she in fact had preeclampsia, and that “it was severe,” she said. That was four weeks after she started having symptoms, she said.
 
"In my head, I knew what it was but my doctor was not confirming it," Lauren Vinje recalled. "[With] preeclampsia, your body sees the placenta as being a foreign object and it’s almost like your body becomes allergic to it -- [that’s] what they told me. If you're not monitored closely, you'll lose the baby."
 
According to the Mayo Clinic website, preeclampsia -- a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system — usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy in a woman whose blood pressure had been normal. 
 
The plan was for Lauren to reach 34 weeks, she said, which she did. Then, on Nov. 25, 2014, Lauren’s doctor told her that the baby's heart rate was dropping and she'd have an emergency C-section.
 
Freya was born to David and Lauren Vinje on Thanksgiving Day in 2014 at 12:16 p.m., weighing 4 pounds, 4 ounces, according to a report on ABC News.
 
Five days later, Lauren captured the uplifting photo of Freya smiling broadly for mommy.
 
"I was talking to her and I had said, 'Should we send a picture to Daddy?' and right when I was about to take the picture, she had this huge smile,” Lauren told ABC News.
 
Freya remained in the NICU until Dec. 21.
 
In the interview with ABC News, Lauren added of parents of preemies: "Hopefully everything is going to be alright, every case is different. Especially when you are in the NICU, it feels like you're never going to get out of there. It was really hard for me. I didn't feel like I could enjoy this new baby of mine."
 
Freya's father David Vinje agreed. "Like Lauren had said, when you're going through it, you don't know what to expect when it's your first time having kids," he told ABC News. "I think [it's] for people going through this to have that idea of, 'Oh, there's other people going through this too.'"
 
The photo surfaced recently on the Love What Matters Facebook page where has since garnered more than 47,000 shares and nearly 10,000 comments.  Several of those comments come from parents sharing their experiences and include photos of their preemie babies.
 
Today, Freya is a happy, healthy toddler anxious to celebrate her second birthday next month.
 
“There were so many things I thought were going “wrong” in the moment they were happening. Looking back, it all went perfectly,” she wrote.
 
Nicole Pelletiere for ABC News contributed to this story.