Two years ago, Liz Smith, director
of nursing at Franciscan Children’s hospital in Brighton,
Massachusetts, US, was headed toward the elevator at work when she saw
her: a tiny girl with bright blue eyes and a single soft brown curl
swept across her forehead.
“Who’s this beautiful angel?” Smith asked the nurse who was wheeling the infant down the hall.
“Her name is Gisele,” the nurse told her. The infant, a ward of the
state, had been at the hospital for five months, but Smith had never
seen her before.
that Gisele, then 8 months old, had been born premature at another
hospital in July 2016, weighing just under 2 pounds. She had neonatal
abstinence syndrome – a result of her birth mother using heroin, cocaine
and methadone during pregnancy.
The state of Massachusetts took
custody of Gisele when she was 3 months old and transferred her to
Franciscan Children’s because her lungs needed specialised care, and she
had a feeding tube. The baby did not have a single visitor in her five
months at the hospital.
Social service workers were trying to place her in foster care.
“Gisele,” Smith told herself all the way home that evening. “Gisele.”
It was at that moment, said Smith, that she knew: “I’m going to foster
this baby. I’m going to be her mother.”
Life often interferes with well-planned intentions, and for Smith, who grew up in Andover, Massachusetts, it was no different.
When she lost her mother at age 19 to liver cancer, Smith decided the
best way to honour her was to live a good life and follow her selfless
“My mum was a
pediatric nurse who always put others first,” recalled Smith, a middle
child with two brothers and two sisters. “So I grew up wanting to be a
She also wanted
to nurture in a more personal way. For decades, Smith, now 45, always
thought she would marry and raise a family as her mother had. After her
parents divorced when she was 9, her mum put a lot of effort into
keeping the house full of laughter and joy, Smith recalled.
When several of her siblings married and started to have children of
their own, Smith said she naturally thought that she would one day do
the same. But it didn’t happen.
“I never imagined becoming a mum 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.”
threw herself into being “the world’s greatest aunt” for her 13 nieces
and nephews, her siblings picked up on her pain.
“I always pictured Liz as a mum, since she’s a nurturer by nature,”
said one of her sisters, Elly Smith, 40, a homeland security analyst
with three boys.
who had hoped to conceive through in vitro fertilisation, found out her
health insurance wouldn’t cover the treatment, and she couldn’t afford
it on her own. Her sister suggested adoption or fostering, but Smith
didn’t want to consider it.
Then she saw Gisele.
Wow is all I can say!