When we see a beautiful, helpless baby, we’d think anyone would want to help them, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes babies are left sick and alone until they become children who are still alone– unless someone intervenes. Two years ago, someone did intervene for baby Gisele.
Liz Smith worked as the director of nursing at Franciscan Children’s hospital in Brighton, Mass., and was going about her business on a normal work day when she was stopped in her tracks by a beautiful baby girl with bright blue eyes and brown hair.
She looked like something out of a fairy tale, but her life had been anything but a fairy tale so far.
“Who’s this beautiful angel?” Smith asked the nurse who was caring for the baby. “Her name is Gisele.”
The infant had already been through the ringer, and was currently a ward of the state, having been at that hospital for five months without a single visitor.
The eight month old was born premature at another hospital and weighed under two pounds. She had neonatal abstinence syndrome —because her birth mother using heroin, cocaine, and methadone during pregnancy.
The state of Massachusetts took custody of Gisele when she was just three months old and transferred her to Franciscan Children’s, where her lungs were cared for and she was fed with a feeding tube. But the baby was all alone. After five months, Gisele’s stay at the hospital was finally nearing an end, but with nowhere to go, she would be placed in foster care.
Everything changed the day she met Liz Smith.
Smith couldn’t get baby Gisele out of her mind all day. She knew what she had to do: “I’m going to foster this baby. I’m going to be her mother.”
Smith lost her own mother at a young age, and honors her in both her work and personal life. “My mom was a pediatric nurse who always put others first,” said Smith, who is the middle of five children. “I grew up wanting to be a nurse, too.”
Smith also wanted to be a mother, but had trouble along the way and could not afford the IVF treatment she hoped to get. Adoption seemed like the answer, but she couldn’t find the right baby who really needed her.
“Since the moment I met her, there was something behind her striking blue eyes capturing my attention,” Smith recalled. “I felt that I needed to love this child and keep her safe.”
She put in a formal request to foster Gisele, and while she waited to hear back, couldn’t resist visiting the baby’s hospital room every day. Smith made sure to talk gently to Gisele as she sat next to her crib.
“She was behind developmentally, and I wanted to get her out of the hospital and get her thriving,” Smith said.
Just three weeks later, when Gisele was 9 months old, Smith was finally able to take her home!
“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, since the child welfare system was still making efforts to reunite the child with her birth family. However, ultimately the birth family’s parental rights were terminated because they just weren’t in a position to care for a baby, and Gisele was Smith’s to adopt!
“The day I got the call that their parental rights were terminated was very sad,” she said. “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.”
Now, Gisele is walking and talking and Liz has officially adopted her.
“Her new favorite song is ‘You Are My Sunshine,’ ” said Smith. “And every time she sings it, I think to myself, ‘You have no idea.’ ”
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