Smiling preemie photo melts hearts, goes viral

A touching and inspiring photo showing a premature baby with a big smile on her face has gone viral after being shared on Facebook.

The baby's mother, Lauren Vinje, posted a photo of her then-5-day-old daughter to the Facebook community Love What Matters. Weighing less than four pounds, and in the neonatal intensive care unit, the infant girl -- named Freya -- appears happy in the photo.

"Our first daughter at five days old. 3 lbs. 14 oz., she was happy to be alive!" Vinje wrote in the post. "This picture was one I looked at often to get me through the ups and downs of our NICU days. Life is so precious."

By Friday morning, more than 300,000 people liked the picture, which has also been shared over 44,000 times. The photo also prompted some 9,000 comments, some of which included pictures from Facebook users who shared their own stories of having a premature baby.

Vinje, who lives in Minnesota, also recently shared the story of her daughter's birth on the blog, Birth Without Fear.

In the post, she wrote that she began showing signs of preeclampsia around her 28th week of pregnancy.

The condition is a complication of pregnancy that is characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, according to the Mayo Clinic. It can potentially cause fatal complications for the mother and baby if left untreated.

Vinje was admitted to the hospital about six week later, and her daughter was delivered via an emergency cesarean section on Thanksgiving Day, according to the blog post.

"There were so many things I thought were going 'wrong' in the moment they were happening. Looking back, it all went perfectly," she wrote.

The baby, born in 2014, remained in the NICU for nearly another month, until Dec. 21, according to ABC News.

Freya, who will turn 2 years old next month, is now thriving, the network reported.

"Honestly, she is the best thing that has happened to us," Vinje told ABC News. "We go to the store and she's the friendliest little girl and she says hi to everybody. She's so fun. She's so happy. That picture at 5 days old, you can see her little personality and you look at her now, and she hasn't changed. She's still the happy little girl in that photo."

Preterm birth -- which affected approximately 1 in every 10 babies born in the U.S. in 2014 -- is when an infant is born before the mother reaches the 37th week of the pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.