Liz Smith, a pediatric nurse at Franciscan Children's Hospital, adopted 3-month-old Gisele. As a result of her mother doing drugs, Gisele was born prematurely at two pounds with multiple health issues, including neonatal absence syndrome. After she was born, no one visited her for months, according to CNN.
Smith knew she always wanted children but faced a long and arduous journey during the years she tried to become pregnant. By the time she was 45 and adopted Gisele, she went through several unsuccessful treatments and faced fertility problems. After a long-term relationship ended, Smith moved back to Massachusetts and accepted a job at Franciscan Children's Hospital. While in the Boston area, she was heartbroken after discovering she wasn’t a viable candidate for in vitro fertilization.
During this trying time, a coworker discussed Gisele with Smith, stating Smith would be a perfect medical foster parent. After meeting Gisele and visiting her every day, Smith agreed.
“Literally, Gisele crossed my path in a stroller and we locked eyes and that was it,” Smith told CBS.
Gisele went into state custody in October of 2016 due to her biological parents’ inability to care for her. The state knew the baby needed a home outside of the hospital in order to thrive, so Smith stepped forward and volunteered to have the child live with her.
At first, Gisele’s parents visited every week and were supervised by the Department of Children and Family Services. Smith said her original goal was to reunite Gisele with her parents, but that goal quickly changed to adopting the adorable baby. Despite knowing there was a chance Gisele could be taken from her, Smith couldn’t help but hope they could stay together. Smith grew to love Gisele as if she were her own child with every passing hour.
“I had to go there in my mind because it was still a reality, but it made me sick to my stomach. You can’t just love a certain percentage. You have to give it your all,” Smith said in a Franciscan Children's Hospital blog post.
Smith’s wish came true. Soon the parental visits dwindled, then stopped altogether. When Gisele was two years old, the courts ruled that her parents were unfit to keep her. Their custodial rights were terminated and they didn’t file an appeal. It only made sense for Smith to keep Gisele in her care, especially since the baby was thriving.
She grew stronger every day and is now capable of eating solid food, so she no longer relies on a feeding tube as her sole source of nutrition. It seems like Gisele is happier, too. On the day the adoption was finalized, Gisele was the one who banged the judge’s gavel.
Looking back, Smith can’t ever imagine being unhappy; her daughter’s presence makes it tough to remember any difficult times. Smith and Gisele may not be blood-related, but they are definitely family.