A couple of years ago, Liz Smith, director of nursing at Franciscan Children’s hospital in Brighton, Massachusetts, was heading to the elevator when she set eyes on a beautiful baby girl with bright blue eyes and a single soft brown curl across her forehead.
Smith had never seen the baby before as it was a ward of the state and had been hospitalized for five months. “Who’s this beautiful angel?” Liz asked the nurse. “Her name is Gisele,” the nurse said.
Gisele, who was 8 months old then, had been born at another hospital prematurely weighing just under 2 pounds. Her mother was a drug addict using heroin, cocaine and methadone during her pregnancy, which resulted in the baby having neonatal abstinence syndrome.
The infant was transferred to Franciscan Children’s hospital after the state of Massachusetts took custody of her when she was 3 months old because she needed a feeding tube and specialized care for her lungs.
Social services were trying to place the baby in foster care as she did not have any visitors in 5 months, she was pretty much abandoned.
Liz Smith couldn’t get the baby out of her mind, “Gisele” is all she could think about. That’s when she realised, “I’m going to foster this baby. I’m going to be her mother.”
Smith grew up in Andover, Massachusetts, she lost her mother to liver cancer when she was just 19 years old. She adds, “My mom was a pediatric nurse who always put others first, so I grew up wanting to be a nurse, too.” Smith is a middle child to two brothers and two sisters.
Smith, who is now 45, also thought of getting married and raising a family just like others, and even though her parents got divorced when she was 9, her mother tried to keep the house full of good humor.
Most of her siblings got married and had a family of their own, which just didn’t happen for Liz. She added, “I never imagined becoming a mom would be a challenge, it’s a desire you can try to push away and fill with other distractions, but it never goes away.”
She has 13 nieces and nephews and being a great aunt for them was her priority till now, but her siblings knew her pain and one of her sister Elly Smith, 40, a homeland security analyst with three boys said, “I always pictured Liz as a mom, since she’s a nurturer by nature.”
Liz tried having a baby through in vitro fertilization, but her insurance wouldn’t cover the treatment, and she couldn’t afford it from her own pocket. So, her sister suggested adoption or fostering, but she was hesitant about it.
Everything changed the day she saw Gisele. “Since the moment I met her, there was something behind her striking blue eyes capturing my attention,” she said. “I felt that I needed to love this child and keep her safe.”
“She was behind developmentally, and I wanted to get her out of the hospital and get her thriving,” Smith recalled.
So she put in a request to foster Gisele and would go in to her room every day to look at her after work.
When Gisele was 9 months old, in April 2017, Liz got the permission to take her home with the clause that the state would try to reunite the baby with her birth parents.
Her friends threw her a baby shower and helped set up a crib for Gisele at home, and she took two weeks off work to settle in with the baby. “Leaving the parking lot of the hospital with Gisele and a car full of baby stuff, I was in shock that it was happening,I was excited but nervous, realizing that I was committing everything I had to this child who might not be in my life forever,” she said.
Gisele birth parents’ parental rights were terminated as they were granted supervised weekly visits but were later deemed incapable in taking care of the baby. There was no other family member in the picture, this is when Liz realized she could apply to adopt.
“The day I got the call that their parental rights were terminated was very sad, my gain was another’s loss. It’s a feeling difficult to describe when you are experiencing this life-changing moment that someone else is as well, in the opposite way. The bottom line is: It’s devastating for another family.”
With the help of her brother Phil Smith, who lived with Liz at that time and other caregivers, Gisele was thriving medically and achieving every major milestone. By the time Gisele turned 15 months old, which was Halloween 2017, she was talking and speaking several words. Liz said, “Her first word was ‘badoon,’ for balloon, today, we still call it that.”
Then the day finally came, when in October 2018, the courtroom in Brockton, Massachusetts when the judge ruled in Liz’s favour and signed off on Gisele’s adoption, she was now officially Gisele’s mother.
Her brother, Phil Smith, said, “This is the mother-daughter relationship my sister has waited a long time for, it’s plain to see that they have brought a completeness to each other.”
Gisele, who is now 2 years old, stills needs to use a supplemental feeding tube but she is in good health weighing in at 23 pounds.
Smith says, her daughter is super energetic, fun loving, and will burst into a song spontaneously, she enjoys eating cheese, avocados and pizza.
Smith adds, “Her new favorite song is ‘You Are My Sunshine,’ and every time she sings it, I think to myself, ‘You have no idea.’”
Liz’s kindness and sheer love for Gisele turned a sick infant who had no one to care for her, into a healthy child with a loving family. They gave each other a life they deserved and they truly are each other’s sunshine.
Date published: 12/04/2019
Feature image: @pizzuti_photography
Article source: www.faithpot.com