‘My husband made the decision to leave. ‘Because you’re unmarried, you won’t be able to have a child.’ I was listening to the tragic stories.’ After her divorce, a woman becomes a foster mother, saying, “My life is full of beauty.”

“‘Make lemonade when life gives you lemons.’ I can’t tell you how many times this has been said to me throughout my life. I had no concept how difficult that task could be until August 24th, 2013. For years, I’d been creating lemonade out of sour situations, finding creative methods to turn them into delicious recollections. The lemons, on the other hand, were overbearing that day.

From the time I was three years old, I lived in the same city and in the same house. My parents still live there, and I now live a ten-minute drive away. For as long as I can remember, I’ve attended church with the majority of the same individuals. I had basically the same classmates throughout elementary, junior high, and high school. I was not a natural at adapting to new situations.

I married when I was very young and found out right away that I was expecting my first child, Hayley. Andersen, my second child, was born 16 months later. I became a stay-at-home mom soon after. It was a happy time. It wasn’t always easy, but I felt at ease and content.

Courtesy of Leyla Moss Photography

I’d never considered life in any other manner. The plan had always included marriage and motherhood. Growing up, I was never exposed to divorce. Despite the fact that I had one uncle who was divorced, I had never witnessed it firsthand. By the time we got married, mine and my husband’s parents had been married for almost 25 years. So, when divorce became a reality for me, I was at a loss about what to do. I was absolutely disoriented and shattered.

There were many events that led to our divorce, of course. I was well aware that we were far from perfect. But nothing, in my opinion, can prepare you for your husband’s decision to leave one day. I assumed we’d ebb and flow as we rode our roller coaster, with another ‘up’ on the horizon. Instead, the roller coaster came to a halt, and I was instructed to exit the vehicle.

Between 2013 and 2015, a lot happened in my life. My group of friends shifted, my religious beliefs shifted, and my political views shifted as well. Really horrific circumstances, I feel, can do that to a person. I began to look for the’me’ I want because, all of a sudden, that was the only person I could trust. As a result, I discovered that the person I wanted to be was not the same as the person I had become accustomed to. Most things in my life have gone from black and white to a spectrum of grey that I had never considered before.

Courtesy of Leyla Moss Photography

When I became a single mother, my children were 5 and 3. I spent the majority of my time with them, attempting to assist them in coping with their enormous loss. I also realised I needed to figure out how to support my children on my own. So I went back to college full-time to pursue my dream of becoming a high school English teacher. Despite the fact that I knew I could choose a profession with a higher pay scale, my primary concern has always been my children, and I wanted to choose a career that would allow me to spend more time with them.

In 2015, I was discussing the paucity of foster parents in our neighbourhood with a friend who worked for our local Department of Child Safety. She described how children would spend days at the placement centre after being removed from their homes due to a lack of families ready and able to take them in. ‘It would be too hard to bond with a child and then have to send them home to a terrible scenario,’ my husband would say at the time. ‘It would be too hard to bond with a child and then have to send them home to a scary situation.’ Foster care was not spoken much in our church, and no one close to me had ever been a foster parent, so I knew very little about it. As I listened to my friend describe these tragic scenarios, I told her that I hoped I could help but that as a single woman, I couldn’t be a foster parent. ‘Single folks can become foster parents just like married couples,’ she graciously corrected me.

Courtesy of Suzanne Guthrie-Maughan

That day, I didn’t sign up for any classes. In reality, it took me a year to determine that it was time to begin the process of becoming a licenced foster parent. Both of my children were in school, and I was almost four years into my college programme. I recall sitting down one day and suddenly feeling compelled to learn more about foster care and enrol in an orientation class. It felt like the right time, but I couldn’t put my finger on why it was the right time. I made the decision to follow my heart and begin the process.

I sat down with my two children and we talked about foster care and what it would mean for our family. ‘It will be difficult to love on a newborn and then have to say goodbye,’ I warned them. But I also mentioned how fortunate we are to have a stable home and how difficult it must be for those children who do not. I asked if they would like to be that safe haven for children in the middle, providing them with the love and stability they lack. This was something that both of my children expressed an interest in doing.

Courtesy of Leyla Moss Photography
Courtesy of Leyla Moss Photography

We were excited to meet our first placement when I became a licenced foster parent in February of 2017. I had intended to begin with children aged 0-1, as I enjoy being around newborns and want my children to share in the delight of those early developmental milestones. However, after weeks on the open bed list, I received a call about a toddler who was having difficulty finding a home due to her unique needs. We were a fantastic fit for what she was looking for in a home, and I was confident that we could assist her.

Yaya arrived with a large number of lemons that needed to be made into lemonade. As the days evolved into weeks, I noticed a physical change in her body. ‘Yaya is very blessed to have your family,’ others would say. That wasn’t how I perceived it, though. Yaya taught us more about love and resilience than we could have learnt on our own. Yaya was a passionate lover who spoke up for herself when she believed it was necessary. It astounds me how quickly a young toddler can adjust to a new environment and reclaim their childhood. Yaya was a fearless young woman. She had such a wonderful impact on my heart that she was able to live with her sister after only four months with us.

Courtesy of Suzanne Guthrie-Maughan

I went back on the open bed list after Yaya left our house and waited eagerly for a call. My agency had warned me that as a single working mother, I would almost certainly never be called for a newborn. So, when I got a call for a 2-day-old baby on Easter Sunday of 2018, I said yes right away.

Courtesy of Suzanne Guthrie-Maughan

It was not easy to take in a newborn. I was working two jobs, attending full-time online college classes, and raising two children, ages 8 and 10. So many individuals helped me raise Nixon by babysitting, bringing me clothes and supplies for him, and ensuring that I always had a healthy supply of Dr. Pepper in the fridge. The case of Richard Nixon was a roller coaster ride. Because I could see how much his biological mother loved him, I started to admire her. Nixon’s case shifted from reunion to severance as the months passed. The ‘why’ in this case is something I’ve chosen not to reveal anyplace on the internet because it’s Nixon’s tale to tell. I was asked if I would be interested and able to adopt when his case plan changed.

Courtesy of Blue Eyed Photography
Courtesy of Blue Eyed Photography

This question’s answer shouldn’t have been so straightforward. I was a single mother who decided to become a foster parent in the hopes of never having to adopt. I wanted to assist in providing a safe environment for children while their parents worked toward reunification. However, in this case, the answer was straightforward: yes. Accepting Nixon’s adoption was the simplest decision I’ve ever taken. I had strong feelings about it since the first time I met him, but I also understood I was there to support his reunification with his birth mother for as long as that was possible. Even if it meant loving him as if he were my own child and being heartbroken when he had to leave. Nixon, as well as all of my previous and current foster children, are deserving of the unconditional love that allows your heart to be broken when they go. “It is worth it to break my heart to help repair the hearts of the children that come into my home,” I’ve always stated.

Courtesy of Suzanne Guthrie-Maughan

Nixon was adopted in October of this year. That day marked a turning point in my life, as I went from the agony of divorce to the joy of becoming Nixon’s mother. Since that terrible day in 2013, I’ve created a lovely life full of the best lemonade you’ve ever tasted. After earning a Bachelor’s degree in Human and Family Development, I went on to earn a secondary education teaching certificate. I am the mother of three of the most amazing children on the planet. I am currently the foster mother of a wonderful little 11-month-old girl. I took a position as a high school English teacher, and I’ve had a strange and difficult start to my first year (thanks, Covid…). I’ve proven that I can take even the sourest lemons and turn them into something lovely.

Courtesy of Suzanne Guthrie-Maughan

Hayley, my oldest, is now 12 years old and doing well in junior high. She is a stunning dancer, but it is her altruistic heart that shines the brightest. With her younger siblings, she is the best assistant. Andersen, my second oldest, is set to be 11 and will begin golf lessons shortly. He’s the smartest and funniest kid I’ve ever met, and he’s a total mama’s boy. Nixon, my adorable baby boy, is now two years and twelve months old. Nixon has overcome numerous challenges and is the most intelligent toddler I’ve ever met. He is already familiar with all of his letters and sounds, as well as how to spell his own name. We all adore him since he is both aggressive and adorable.

Courtesy of Leyla Moss Photography

My life is filled with beauty, which I could never have anticipated seven years ago. I’m grateful for the generous amounts of sweetener that my lemons have received. I’ve learnt that our family is capable of not only surviving but also thriving in the face of adversity. We are more powerful when we work together.”

Courtesy of Leyla Moss Photography
Courtesy of Leyla Moss Photography

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