“My definition of family was always, ‘In my 20’s, I’ll get married, have kids, and have a big family like the one I grew up with,’” she told Franciscan Children’s. “I think a lot of women can relate to the pressure that we feel that there’s an order to do things.”
But when life didn’t turn out that way, she decided to see about IVF, with the full support of her sister who encouraged her to try. At first, everything looked like it was going well, and the doctor wasn’t worried at all about Smith’s age.
But then the crushing news came: She was ineligible for IVF. “When that door closed quickly and suddenly, it was a bad day,” she said.
Little did she know that the same day she got the depressing news, she would meet her future daughter. The little girl, named Gisele, was less than 2 pounds when she was born at 29 weeks and had health issues related to her mother’s narcotic use during pregnancy.
Despite all the medical setbacks that Gisele went experienced, Smith was there, every day. She learned that both of Gisele’s biological parents were still addicts and had lost custody of their little girl.
“I went to see her every day,” she said. “It was kind of my reward after a long workday.”
“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.”
Smith was the perfect potential foster mom for a child like Gisele. Her nursing expertise meant she’d be able to help Gisele as she fought health setbacks, and her desire to have children meant she’d be a perfect nurturer.
While Smith ended up adopting Gisele, in the beginning she was hoping that Gisele would be able to be reunited with her biological parents. For a time that seemed like a possibility, as her parents visited her weekly, but that soon dropped off and Smith realized that wasn’t a viable option.
“When I got the call that the parents’ rights were terminated, I imagined that it would be a day of relief,’” she 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.”
When she went before a judge to officially make Gisele her daughter, the judge recognized her selflessness and as he entered he gave her major kudos.
“When a judge walks in the room, everyone stands out of respect,” he said. “But today I stand in respect for you, Liz because you deserve the respect from this room. A birthing day is a miracle. But adopting a child from miles away is destiny. That’s what brought you two together.”
“I remember some of the painful pieces at times, but when I look at her I’m so happy I can’t believe I was ever so upset,” Smith said. “I can’t remember the hard times because she makes me so happy.”