“Never did I think I’d be teaching my one of my toddlers to count to five by reciting all their siblings’ ages. But alas, here we are: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. We went from zero to five kids in just over three years. This was absolutely nothing like what I imagined my road to motherhood would look like, but I wouldn’t change a minute of it. These almost five years have been filled with trial and tragedy, with redemption, and above all love. God has woven my family together from tapestries of so many skin tones, of diverse histories and experiences all beyond my wildest dreams. And it all began with the first two boys to call me mom.
Motherhood has been on my radar since I could spell it. There was never a question it would be a significant part of my identity. I was baby-obsessed. ‘Baby sibling’ topped my Christmas list every year, and finally my mom sat me down when I was 11 and explained why I was her last. She also recognized that explanation alone was not going to suffice for her type A daughter, and so she suggested I start babysitting. And so I did. I nannied through college while majoring in child psychology. I fell in love and married my husband Liam, who knew zero things about babies, but knew he wanted to be a dad. We come from two very large Catholic families and wanted a very large Catholic family of our own, and I assumed that’s exactly what would happen as soon as we wanted it to. I mean, I come from a line of women where you barely whisper ‘sex’ in their ear and they’re pregnant. Little did I know, that was not going to be my story.
We tried for almost two years with no luck, which when you’re a young newlywed who has been dreaming of becoming a mom practically your whole life, that feels like an eternity. Looking back now though, I see God was doing work in those early years. He was prepping our hearts and our lives for this story He had already written. We knew we wanted to foster. It’s something we talked about before we ever got married. But in a ‘we want to foster teens when our own kids are grown’ kind of way. Naive. Uneducated. Blissfully ignorant. We were practically still babies ourselves. So God worked. He guided me through every negative pregnancy test. He kept randomly crossing our paths with foster parents, and not of teens, but of babies and toddlers. He smacked us in the face again and again with fostering, and finally one cold night in December He truly showed me His will. I was up all night having stumbled across the blog of now one of my closest friends, completely enthralled in her testimony of orphan care. It was honestly revelation after revelation. Suddenly, I heard His reassurance, clear as day, ‘You will be a foster mom.’ So simple. So definite. I was immediately at peace, and went right to work, burning out the Google search bar that night finding everything I needed. The next day at church, Liam and I were praying after receiving communion and I dropped it on him. ‘Babe, I think we should foster now. God’s been telling us this for awhile, and He told me extra last night. I looked it up. There’s an orientation meeting this week, and I want us to go.’ His reply: ‘Okay.’ I stayed on that kneeler for a while that night thanking God for this man.
So we went. I left that meeting more sure than ever this was our call. Liam left feeling this was not the time, that we were not established enough. We talked it through and came to a simple truth that has carried us through many valleys since: God put this on our hearts, and He will provide. My Type A tendencies prevailed again and I got us the last spot in the January training, because waiting until April felt like an eternity. And so we jumped head long into this complete unknown. We had another season of waiting during our longer than usual home study. We agreed to open our home to children age 0-5, any gender, race, or history. We didn’t care if they needed a bed for a night or for forever. We just wanted to be a safe place to land. Finally, we were approved. The same month we got our license the absolutely unexpected happened: our first positive pregnancy test. And I didn’t even have a second’s thought of ‘Phew! Guess we don’t need to foster right now.’ It was the opposite. It was a blindingly bright affirmation that this is what our family was meant to look like: a blend of biological, foster, adoptive. We’d happily take it all.
Three weeks passed between getting our license and getting our first call. Three weeks of jumping every time my phone rang, of endlessly wondering who that first child would be. Please note the singular. Because even though we were asked countless times in our 8-month home study about whether we would take siblings, and even though every single time we said yes, still my daydreaming was all singular. Zero parts of me thought our first placement would be a sibling set. And negative ten parts of me thought that first call would come during Liam’s first ever business trip. But God has a sense of humor, and so there I was, September 23, 2014, heart pounding as I saw the department’s phone number flash across my screen and immediately began to hyperventilate. ‘Mrs. Ramsammy, we’ve got a sibling set in need of a home tonight. They are 4 months and 15 months. Two brothers. Are you able to take them?’ I bit my tongue as I immediately just wanted to give her the most long awaited ‘Yes!’ But I’m a part of a duo, so instead I asked as many details as I could think of–spoiler alert: there was barely any information to get. She told me their names, and I gasped and yelled, ‘You’re kidding right??’ Probably not a response she was expecting, but they shared names with each of our brothers. Like what are the chances of that?? Then I told her I needed to call my husband. She said if she didn’t hear back from me in 20 minutes, she would keep moving down the call list. Admittedly, I was expecting this dramatic, emotion-packed call, but really it felt like such a business transaction.
I called Liam while bouncing off the freaking walls of our house, told him everything they told me and then finished with ‘We’re obviously saying yes right?? I mean their names!! That’s a sign!’ Bless that man for indulging my crazy. He said as long as I felt okay transitioning them in the next few days without him, then of course we’d say yes. ‘This is what we signed up for, right?’ Oh, how I love that man. I frantically called the placement worker back, praying with each ring that she hadn’t found them another home yet. She hadn’t, and about a half hour later they were being walked up our front steps in the arms of two social workers. I held Louis first. He came right to me, a hulking 4-month-old in a dino onesie that couldn’t button around his impressive rolls. I stared at his face trying to memorize it as quickly as I could, fearing our time together would be too short. He had big juicy lips, the roundest face, and these perfect eyebrows over a pair of big eyes that have always been able to look right into my soul. He quickly fell asleep–they spent most of that first week sleeping, catching up on what they had been missing for a long time–and I signed the mountain of paperwork with him in my arms as Tyson, who started crying the minute he came out of the car, calmed down and slowly started peeking out at me from the social worker’s hold. While Louis’s eyes peered into my soul, Tyson’s eyes immediately broke me. I had never seen so much fear in someone so small. It took weeks for him to relax enough just to unfurrow his brow. But I finished the paperwork, put still-solidly-sleeping Louis in the swing, and reached for Ty. He lost it again, and I still remember the social worker’s words: ‘This is going to be the hard part. He’s going to scream. He’s going to fight you. But you have to know, he’s not fighting you. He’s fighting his circumstance. You will soon be his safe place the same way he thinks I am right now. Just love him through it all.’
She was right. In just those few hours he had bonded to her, and he wailed cries of true pain and fear watching her leave. But even more devastating: his brain had already learned to trust whoever was going to be there the longest. So, it took almost no time once she was out of sight for him to transfer that bond and cling to me. That cling has not broken, only loosened over time. The first few weeks were a blur. Liam coming home two days later triggered Ty all over again, and we had to do a slow and gradual introduction. It was weeks before he could even tolerate being left alone in the room with him. I was down for the count with morning sickness, which left us staying home and taking it easy a lot. Looking back, that’s exactly what they needed. I lived that first month holding my breath. I had bonded with them instantly, which I can tell you is not the case every time with a new placement, it hasn’t even been my case every time and that is totally okay. But with them I did. They made me a mom in an instant. I had no idea how any of us would bear a goodbye. They had their first hearing on Halloween, where the judge would decide if they were staying for awhile or going home that day. I was so nervous I couldn’t even bring myself to buy them costumes, fearing that would surely mean their departure. But then, in a phone call that would become all too familiar, the social worker delivered the news that afternoon: ‘The Judge ordered for them to stay with you guys. Next hearing is in six months.’ And with that we dressed them up in the pumpkin costumes my sister had mailed, in full faith they would wear them, and we knocked on every door in the neighborhood. And that night we took our first ever family photo.
For a long time after that, we lived our lives in 6-month spurts, never planning for them to be there for longer than what we were given. Their case was just too fickle. It spanned five different social workers, three different judges, failed case plans, lots of second chances, mediations, terminations, and appeals. I mean they got ‘the foster care works.’ We had our daughter Elisha the following April. I worried she would trigger another regression in Ty with jealousy and anxiety, but the opposite happened. He adored her. She calmed him in the most fascinating way, and that’s been the case with every baby who has come through our doors since. We learned almost immediately that Ty had some trauma-based developmental delays and we began therapy and special ed right away. Louis’s delays hid at first, but then surfaced and we tackled those too. We took everything day by day.
Almost three years later, a relative came out of the woodwork, petitioning for adoption. My world was rocked. We got into this to foster, not to adopt. We hoped (and still do) to support birth parents through healing and reunification. But this was not that. I knew in my heart this was not what was best for them. I cried to God for weeks not to take them. The day I took the stand, I told the judge they were my sons, and they would be my sons for the rest of their lives no matter where they ended up. I sat in the galley white knuckled, waiting for her decision. I drove home, and went out back to find Liam in the yard playing with the boys. One look at them and I was a goner. He looked at me expectantly, waiting for the news, and all I could get out was, ‘She picked us. They’re staying forever.’
Of course they weren’t officially ours for another year and a half as we waited out appeals and adoption petitions. Despite the longevity of this case, my biggest point of gratitude is that these years of waiting have only been felt by us. Our sons have not left our care since the first day they came in. Despite spending almost five years in foster care, they have only ever known that they are home, they are safe, and they are loved. And in our seasons and seasons of waiting, we had the simple yet profound privilege and priority of parenting them: working through their special needs, watching them become big brothers three times over, teaching them to talk, to count, to run, to play, raising them from babies, to toddlers, to boys. Not a minute of that was taken for granted. The bittersweet truth in all of this isn’t lost on me. These great joys in my life are another woman’s great loss. The weight of that will always be on my heart and a part of my journey as a mother. Adoption is a beautiful event but it’s not a happily ever after. Adoption doesn’t erase the past or sugar coat the future. The words of the social worker who dropped them off that first day have stuck with me and prove to be true even today. Our boys still have to fight their circumstance. Trauma lives deep and resurfaces often. My joy in adopting my sons and my grief at their tremendous loss exist side by side in my heart. And I will continue to help them fight that fight as long as they need me.
Finally last week, all of our waiting came to an end. On April 3, 2019, we flooded the same courtroom I had sat praying in so many times before with overwhelming love. We had more than 60 friends and family members who have supported us so fully over the years show up for us once again. They flew in from all over the country, dropped their lives in the middle of the day in the middle of the week and showed up for our family, and we felt it all. Adoption is an ongoing and open conversation in our house, and we had been talking about it for months. But the boys are just 5 and 4 years old. We are all they have ever known, and we’re still catching up in the language department. So while I know the full impact of the day did not sink in for them, they know it was a celebration of love for them. They know it made them ‘officially family’ as Ty has been telling anyone willing to listen, and he says it with pride. While I know our discussions about this will be constantly evolving over the years, I’m so thankful this will be the backbone. A celebration of love for their lives, their place in this world. And so I sat there bouncing two kids on my lap, Liam had another. We were prying the microphones away from the big kids and keeping the toddler from blowing his nose for the 1000th time and keeping the baby from making any more tissue confetti out of said tissues. We were one hundred percent our typical circus act selves, and the judge asked if we were ready. Liam spoke the words of my heart without a second thought: ‘It’s just another day, right?’ And it truly was. So long awaited, but in the end just another day where they were loved, they were safe, and they were home.
We get asked a lot about foster care, and we always have the same response: Answer the call. This is my plea to you. Care for these modern-day orphans, however you feel able to. Whether you become a foster parent, a respite home, CASA, start your own ministry, or organize a fundraiser, every little bit of help is needed. Sometimes it’s as simple as showing up for another family. Every gesture is felt. And, I can tell you personally, the impact is immeasurable.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Taryn Ramsammy of Maryland. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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