Olympic champion Tessa Sanderson posed with her adopted twins for an exclusive photoshoot in HELLO! magazine in May 2016. In an exclusive interview where she talks about the adoption for the first time, the female athlete and her husband Densign White explained how they adopted Cassius and Ruby Mae when they were just four months old. "They are our world," she told HELLO!, saying the past three years have been a "fantastic journey". She explained: "I wouldn't swap it for anything. I'd say to anyone who's thinking of adoption, don't be put off. It's not always easy but keep going, it's hugely satisfying."
Tessa and husband Densign with their twins, Cassius and Ruby May
"It never even occurs to me they are not our biological children – they are absolutely ours," the sports star added. The couple had known each other since 1984, when they competed in LA, but didn't get together until Tessa's 51st birthday. They married in 2010 and soon afterwards investigated their options to become parents, signing up as potential adopters with Barnardo’s. After a few disappointments, they decided to look into fostering and, following a rigorous assessment process, were approved to be foster carers by a fostering agency. They had agreed to look after children of school age but in January 2013 they were asked if they could take in twin babies. They agreed and, a few days later, met Cassius and Ruby Mae.
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"I was elated – it was like winning a gold medal," explained Tessa. "Dens picked Cassius up and he fitted in his left arm. There was an immediate bond. I was nervous – they were very small. But I also felt great as I thought, ‘This is what I wanted. This is our family now.’ We’d been through the different [approval] stages, we had a good home and we would show everyone – ourselves included – that we could do this, that the kids would be happy."
Having been born premature, the children, who are of mixed heritage, had poor immune systems – they had constant colds and chest infections – and had to take regular medication for the first six months. Tessa and Dens rose to the challenge. "At first we’d say to each other, ‘How will we cope?’ But we’re both Olympians so we’re used to being flexible, on alert," said Tessa, who competed for Britain in six Olympic Games. "It was scary. I kept thinking, ‘What if I forget to give them a dose of their medicine?’ But once I got into the routine, it was fine. I felt more confident."
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After another assessment process, they were approved to adopt their babies in July 2013. "The social workers knew how fit we were, it had come up during the fostering process," confessed Dens. "We had proved we had the energy, time and commitment to do the job. "The [fostering] agency was just happy the kids had ended up in a good place. [It felt like] they were ours after a few weeks. They weren’t going anywhere." The fact that they will be nearing their 70s when the children reach adolescence isn’t something Tessa and Dens can ignore. "I hope I live long enough to see my children grow up," said Tessa. "I hope we’re preparing that journey for them, that they’ll be strong kids. We’ve got close family around us so I’m not fearful of it. We hope to live long, healthy lives."
Happily settled in their home, they officially adopted the twins in July 2013. And Densign said there was never an issue with his or Tessa's ages. "The social workers knew how fit we were, it had come up during the fostering process," he told HELLO!. "We had proved we had the energy, time and commitment to do the job. The [fostering] agency was just happy the kids had ended up in a good place. [It felt like] they were ours after a few weeks. They weren't going anywhere."
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