» RELATED: Valdosta nurse turned hard knocks into caring spirit
Without a single visitor in five months, the little girl was on the verge of entering the foster care system—until Smith stepped in and decided to adopt Gisele herself.
"My mom was a pediatric nurse who always put others first,” Smith told the Post. “So I grew up wanting to be a nurse, too.”
But while "becoming a nurse was easy... becoming a mom was not," she said in an interview with TODAY.
Smith didn’t marry and have children like the rest of her siblings, and lack of treatment coverage meant in vitro fertilization was out of the question.
It wasn’t until she saw Gisele, the Post reported, that she really considered adoption.
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The infant, who weighed less than 2 pounds at birth, was diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome, a result of her birth mother’s heroin, cocaine and methadone use during pregnancy. She had been transferred to Franciscan Children’s for specialized care.
"When you take these drugs during pregnancy, they can pass through the placenta and cause serious problems for your baby, March of Dimes reported on its website. "The placenta grows in your uterus (womb) and supplies your baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord."
“Gisele was in withdrawal from heroin and cocaine and was taking in nutrition via a gastrostomy tube 16 hours a day” when Smith brought her home, TODAY reported. But her experience as a nurse made a her a unique, trusted caretaker.
Between Gisele’s birth parents losing their parental rights and her continued need for supervised medical care, the process hasn’t been so easy for Smith. But she says it has been worth it.
Now, at age 2, Gisele likes to dance and play with Play-Doh. And she loves pizza.
“If you told me a year ago she would be asking for pizza, I would not have believed you,” Smith told TODAY. “It’s just slow progression, but in the right direction.”
Watch the full interview below:
Read more about Smith’s story at washingtonpost.com.