Gisele Smith was born prematurely, weighing in at just 1 pound, 14 ounces. From the beginning of her life, she faced a number of health challenges. She received a diagnosis of neonatal abstinence syndrome, which results when infants become exposed to opiates while in utero.
Gisele was eventually transferred from the NICU to Franciscan Children’s, a Brighton, Massachusetts, hospital that cares for post-acute children with complicated health conditions. During the five months she spent in the hospital, despite the excellent medical care she received, the baby girl did not have a single visitor.
There, Gisele met a pediatric nurse who would eventually adopt her. Liz Smith heard about little Gisele from a colleague, and when she met the resilient baby, she knew they had a special bond.
In a perfect twist of serendipity, Smith had been struggling to become a mother, and it turned out that Gisele needed a medical foster home.
“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,” Smith told the Boston Globe. “I think a lot of women can relate to the pressure that we feel that there’s an order to do things.”
As she approached 40, Smith struggled through several failed rounds of intrauterine insemination (IUI) to try to become pregnant and learned that she was not a suitable candidate for in vitro fertilization (IVF). Although she tried to come to terms with the prospect of never becoming a mom, she still felt a longing.
Smith began fostering Gisele, and under the nurse’s care, the child began to flourish. She caught up on developmental milestones she had failed to hit. Now 2, Gisele attends preschool three days a week.
The original goal was to reunite Gisele with her birth parents, and Franciscan Children reports that the baby’s parents had supervised visits with Gisele weekly while this was the case. However, a judge terminated their rights after determinating that they could not adequately care for their daughter.
“When I got the call that the parents’ rights were terminated, I imagined that it would be a day of relief,’’ Smith said. “And it was a day I was really sad. I was really happy. But I was really sad for them. I was gaining her but they were losing her. And to try to battle addiction and being a mom, that’s impossible.”
On Oct. 18, 2018, Smith officially became Gisele’s permanent adoptive mother. Smith posted this photo to Facebook to celebrate the special event:
Today, Gisele is in overall good health and is improving every day. And Smith is grateful that she opened her heart up to the possibility of adoption.
“The things that made her giggle and laugh randomly, the times that she’ll notice that I’m sad and come up to me and give me a hug just out of the blue, or seeing her running to me from daycare. Those are the moments I love,” Smith had said of their relationship.
Here’s a snap of mother and daughter filming a segment about their story for NBC’s “Today,” posted to Facebook by Franciscan Children’s:
You can also check out their full interview from the “Today” show in the video below:
According to Franciscan Children’s hospital, little Gisele has made great strides under Smith’s care. She recently developed a taste for pizza and avocados.
“If you told me a year ago she would be asking for pizza I would not have believed you,” Smith explains. “She’s doing remarkable, it’s just a slow progression, but in the right direction.”
Despite the many legal and medical challenges they have faced, Smith says Gisele has now completed her family.
“We talk about the power of love, but to witness how it can transform a life and to witness how it transformed her life and mine is unbelievable,” Smith told WQAD. “I have never been happier or stronger and just I couldn’t imagine life without her.”
We love a happy ending — and a happy beginning! Best of luck to this lovely little new family.
What do you think of this sweet adoption story?