In case you needed more proof that nurses are superheroes, a nurse from Brighton, Massachusettes adopted her daughter and patient after no one visited the child for five months. You read that correctly, the premature baby was in the hospital for months and no one visited her. Motherhood has a funny way of finding people and this nurse’s story proves it.
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Gisele is 2-years-old now, and she is everything to her mother, Liz Smith. The devoted mom and nurse is sharing Gisele’s story of adoption in hopes that it will inspire others to listen to their hearts.
It all started in 2016 when Smith first saw a baby being treated for neonatal abstinence syndrome.
According to Boston.com, Liz Smith was going about her day as the head of nursing at Franciscan Children’s hospital when she spotted an 8-month-old baby girl on her way to the elevator. The baby had the bluest eyes and cutest brown curls.
“Who’s this beautiful angel?” she asked a nurse who was taking the baby down the hall. “Her name is Gisele,” the nurse answered.
Little did Smith know, Gisele had arrived at the hospital five months prior. She had remained at the hospital as a ward of the state since she was born in July 2016. Gisele was born very premature and weighed just 1 pound and 14 ounces. In addition to being born premature, Gisele also was recovering from neonatal abstinence syndrome. It’s a condition in which newborns must withdraw from addictive drugs like opioids like heroin and prescription painkillers.
Gisele had been struggling for months.
Gisele had been taken from her mother and home after 3 months due to complications with her lungs. In addition to the specialized treatment for her lungs, Gisele also developed an oral aversion which meant she had to be put on a gastronomy tube. Although the baby’s health was improving, she was not hitting the developmental milestones for babies at her age.
“Franciscan was providing excellent care,” Smith said, “but she had just never been outside the hospital.”
For Gisele to develope properly, she would need to be put into foster care. While social workers unsuccessfully tried to find a foster home for the baby, not a single person had come to the hospital to visit the child for 5 months.
“Gisele,” Smith said to herself. “I’m going to foster this baby. I’m going to be her mother.”
Smith wanted to be a mother but life just had not presented the opportunity to her yet.
Liz Smith, Director of Nursing, knew from a young age that she wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a pediatric nurse. What she didn’t know is that her nursing career would lead her to find her daughter. Read more via @washingtonpost: https://t.co/SbQQGmrsHJ pic.twitter.com/VKrxIcuBzb— Franciscan Childrens (@FranciscanHFC) April 4, 2019
In an interview with the Boston Globe, Smith said that her mother had inspired her both personally and professionally, “My mom was a pediatric nurse who always put others first,” she said. “So I grew up wanting to be a nurse, too.” After her mother passed away from cancer when Smith was 19, she decided to live a selfless life.
As time passed and Smith was in her 40’s, she began to wonder if she’d be able to start her own family. “My definition of family was always: In my 20s I’ll get married, have kids, and have a big family like the one I grew up with,” she explained, “I think a lot of women can relate to the pressure that we feel that there’s an order to do things.”
Smith didn’t let her age stop her and tried getting pregnant with IUI, which did not work. And, she later found out she could not even attempt IVF. “I never imagined becoming a mom would be a challenge,” she said, “It’s a desire you can try to push away and fill with other distractions, but it never goes away.”
Then she saw Gisele and felt a connection.
“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.”
After Smith decided to adopt Gisele, she wasted no time getting the ball rolling.
Smith quickly put in the request to adopt Gisele and filed all the necessary paperwork. While she waited for everything to process, she visited Gisele every day after work. She would sit next to the baby’s crib and speak softly to her so she wouldn’t feel alone.
“She was behind developmentally, and I wanted to get her out of the hospital and get her thriving,” Smith said. After three weeks of waiting, Smith finally got the news that Gisele was her baby. However, the state would be making every attempt to reunite the baby with her birth parents.
“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.
For a short period, Gisele’s birth parents were granted supervised visits with the baby. Unfortunately, they were determined unfit to be the child’s parents.
“The day I got the call that their parental rights were terminated was very sad,” Smith explained. “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.”
Smith provided the love and care Gisele needed to thrive and by Halloween 2017, the 15-month-old could walk and started to speak. “Her first word was ‘badoon,’ for balloon,” Smith said. “Today, we still call it that.”
It was only until recently that Gisele and Smith officially became mother and daughter.
With friends and family in attendance, a judge signed off on the adoption and gave Smith legal guardianship and officially made her Gisele’s mother.
“When I became Gisele’s mom it really was a feeling I can’t even describe,” she said. “It was this relief and stability and just so much to look forward to without all of the questions and the unknown.”
“This is the mother-daughter relationship my sister has waited a long time for,” Smith’s brother said. “It’s plain to see that they have brought a completeness to each other.”
Gisele continues to do better and although she still needs a feeding tube, she is eating on her own. She also loves to burst into song and has lots of energy.
“Her new favorite song is ‘You Are My Sunshine,’” Smith shared. “And every time she sings it, I think to myself, ‘You have no idea.’”
Wow! What an incredible story. May we all live as selflessly as Liz Smith, a true inspiration.
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