There are times in our life when conscious thought goes out the window and we just know something is meant to be.
For Liz Smith, director of nursing at Franciscan Children’s Hospital in Brighton, Massachusetts, that moment of knowing came the minute she set eyes on a tiny child with bright blue eyes in the hallway at work. Liz took one look at her and fell head-over-heels in love. When she learned that baby Gisele was a ward of the state, a thought began to form in her mind that she simply couldn’t shake.
Gisele was eight-months-old when Liz first met her, but she’d already endured a lot in her short lifetime. Born prematurely and weighing under two pounds, she also had neonatal abstinence syndrome because her birth mom had used heroin, cocaine, and methadone during pregnancy.
The baby had been transferred to Liz’s hospital at three months because she needed specialized care. In the five months that Gisele stayed at Franciscan Children’s not a single person came to visit her. At eight-months-old this baby had no one in the world who truly cared about her.
That night Liz drove home thinking about the sweet-faced baby she’d met that day. In a flash it came to her: “I’m going to foster this baby. I’m going to be her mother,” she thought with certainty.
All her life Liz had imagined herself as a mother. She’d been close with her own mom, who was also a nurse. As her siblings grew up and got married and then expanded the family with children, Liz began to realize that motherhood might not be in the cards for her. Her long-term relationship had recently ended and she found that she couldn’t afford IVF on her own. Her sister had suggested fostering and adopting, but she had poo-pooed the notion at the time. Then, with a chance meeting in the hospital corridor, the path forward became clear.
“Since the moment I met her, there was something behind her striking blue eyes capturing my attention,” Liz said. “I felt that I needed to love this child and keep her safe.”
Liz applied to foster Gisele, and from that moment on she began spending all of her free time sitting with the baby at her hospital bedside. She dreamed of rescuing the baby from the hospital and bringing her home so that she could truly thrive. A nurturer by nature, Liz was already dreaming of helping Gisele grow stronger before she’d even officially gotten the okay from the state to foster.
Three weeks later Liz was give permission to take Gisele home. Her friends, family, and coworkers were ecstatic for the new mom, helping her set up a nursery at home and throwing her a baby shower.
“Leaving the parking lot of the hospital with Gisele and a car full of baby stuff, I was in shock that it was happening,” said Liz. “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.
The state made every effort to reunite Gisele with her birth parents, but after they determined that they were incapable of caring for her their rights were finally terminated. Liz says it was bittersweet to get the call that no one wanted her baby, but she was still thrilled to make their mother-daughter relationship official.
“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.”
Gisele continued to thrive under Liz’s care, and on October 18th, 2017 the big day finally came and Gisele officially became Liz’s legal daughter. The courtroom was filled to the brim with Liz’s loved ones who’d all come to witness their union and celebrate together.
“This is the mother-daughter relationship my sister has waited a long time for,” said Liz’s brother Phil Smith. “It’s plain to see that they have brought a completeness to each other.”
Gisele is now two and still has special healthcare needs, but she’s otherwise a completely normal and energetic child who loves to sing with her mother. It truly seems as if their relationship was meant to be, leading us to wonder if there is really a master plan for us all that brings us right where we need to be.
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