Nurse Liz Smith had brokered a fragile peace with the knowledge she would never have children. Then a tiny angel named Gisele crossed her path.
It was 2017, and Smith was walking the hall at Franciscan Children's hospital in Brighton, Massachusetts, peering down at a delicate baby with wide blue eyes and a sprout of brown hair.
"Who is that beautiful little angel?" she asked the nurse pushing the infant. That, as it turned out, was Gisele, and she would ultimately change Smith's entire life.
During the five months Gisele spent at Smith's hospital, the ward of the state had not one visitor. Born premature at another medical facility, the child weighed just 2 pounds, the offspring of a heroin-addicted mother and father.
Massachusetts authorities took custody of her when she was only 3 months.
"I can't even explain" the immediate tug Smith felt in her heart, she said.
"She needed me as much as I needed her," Smith, the director of nursing, told InsideEdition.com Friday. "There was something behind her eyes I connected with."
Smith, now 45, was carrying a sadness everywhere she went those days. Her insurance company had recently informer her that in vitro fertilization was not a covered procedure. She had always thought she would marry and have kids. But fate hadn't placed either option in her life, which was filled with long work hours and little time for a big social life.
And then appeared Gisele.
"I just knew," Smith said.
She hadn't considered adopting or fostering a child. She had barely rebounded from hearing the bad news from her insurance company. But after daily visits to Gisele's hospital bedside, Smith decided to let go of her sadness and embrace what was right in front of her.
Even if it meant she would have only a short time with this scrawny and struggling infant fighting to hang on to her very tiny life.
Gisele was 9 months old and tipping the scales at 11 pounds when Smith walked out the door of Franciscan Children's with the baby snapped securely in a carrier.
Smith comes from a big family. She has 13 nieces and nephews, siblings and a loving father and step mother. All of them are enthralled with Gisele.
"Oh, they love her," Smith said, as her 2-year-old daughter, with a stuffed animal clutched in each hand, squirmed on her lap. It is an understatement to call Gisele precocious. Appearing on CNN, she got up and wandered around, giggling to herself.
She has two favorite songs: "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and "You Are My Sunshine." She will sing either at the drop of a hat, with an ear-to-ear grin.
She likes pizza, avocados, ice cream and cheese. She has oral aversion, a side condition of being premature, that causes pain when eating and swallowing and has always had a supplemental feeding tube. "It's not comfortable for them to eat," her mother explained. "They don't like anything near their face."
Smith hopes Gisele outgrows the aversion. Many who have it, by about age 4, become good eaters, she said.
Meanwhile, Gisele and mom are in Fort Myers, Florida, vacationing with relatives. Gisele likes hanging out by the pool. Smith likes watching her swim and smile in the sunshine.
Smith has never had a single regret about rearranging her life and heart to make a place for this impish little girl with big eyes and curly hair.
"I couldn't be happier," Smith said. Gisele has taught her a great many things, she said. The biggest lesson is this: "If you're not open to things," she said, you might just miss the very best thing that's standing right in front of you.