(CBS News) — A nurse in Massachusettsbut thought her opportunity had passed. Then she realized her dream could come true in a very unexpected place — work.
Liz Smith is the senior director of nursing at Franciscan Children’s in Boston, and it was there that her life changed forever. Approaching 40 with no children of her own, Smith had recently learned that having a baby through IVF would not be an option for her. “That was a bad day,” she said in an interview posted on the hospital’s website.
But at the same time, a baby girl named Gisele, who was born at just 29 weeks, was being cared for in the children’s hospital. Gisele weighed just 1 pound, 14 ounces when she was born, and her mother, who was addicted to drugs, could not care for her. She had complex medical needs, and after a while family members had stopped coming to visit.
“A few of the nurses at Franciscan Children’s Hospital approached me and asked, ‘Have you met Gisele?’ and I said, ‘No. Why?’ and they said, ‘She needs a medical foster home and you two are the perfect pair,'” Smith told CBS Boston. “I have never or adoption.”
A week later, fate brought the two together. “Literally, Gisele crossed my path in a stroller and we locked eyes and that was it,” she told CBS Boston.
The nurse and baby instantly bonded and Smith began visiting the baby frequently. Gisele had suffered several complications and medical setbacks, and Smith was by her side through it all. “I went to see her every day,” Smith recounted to Franciscan Children’s. “It was kind of my reward after a long workday.”
The state took custody of Gisele because her birth parents were not fit to care for her. Smith fostered Gisele, initially with a goal of eventually reuniting her with her birth parents. For a while they came for supervised visits with the baby, but the visits gradually decreased and then stopped entirely. Smith’s goal changed to adoption.
“I remember certain nights, one in particular, when she was hooked up to the feed and I was walking by the mirror and the thought went into my head of losing her,” Smith said. “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.”
Gisele would need an experienced caregiver to help her live outside of the hospital due to her developmental delays. It was clear that Smith was the right person for the job.
Gisele’s birth parents did not appeal their rights being terminated, the hospital says, and there were no biological relatives fit to adopt her. While Smith was relieved to know Gisele would be well cared for, she was sad about the circumstances.
“I was gaining her but they were losing her. And to try to battle addiction and being a mom, that’s impossible,” Smith said.
In her interview with CBS Boston, Smith said it was A photographer captured the moment Gisele officially became Smith’s daughter.that brought her and Gisele together. “To witness how [love] can transform a life, to witness how it’s transformed her life and mine, is unbelievable,” she said. To finalize the adoption, Gisele banged the gavel at the courthouse.
533 days after Smith first encountered Gisele, the two finally shared a last name. Gisele was 2 years old. Smith never expected it, but she quickly went from nurse to mom — and Gisele went from frail preemie to beaming little girl. And now, they’ll have each other for the rest of their lives.