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Melora's Family Album

Our Adoption Journey

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Jeff and I met in early 1998, both divorced with kids. I brought 4 with me ~~ Chris (12), Sarah (11), Emily (9) and Alex (3) and Jeff brought 2 of his own ~~ Erin (5) and Kevin (3). Mine lived with us and his visited on the weekends. That made for some pretty crowded times since when we got started we lived in a 1200 sq ft apartment. Eventually we bought a house and Jeffrey Jr joined our crew in November 2000. What's one more when you've already got a half dozen?

We bought a bigger house in May 2003 so my mom (who was suffering from end stage Parkinson's Disease) and her live-in help could move in with us. That's 9, count 'em... 9 people under one roof.

My mom lived her last year with us and passed away in February 2004. It was the same month our oldest, Christopher set off on his own into the Air Force. I guess the sudden loss of 3 people created a rather large vacuum in the house because suddenly I needed to adopt a little girl from Russia. Having been adopted myself, I had always wanted to adopt a child.

Jeff had been adopted too so he understood the concept of wanting to give to a child what our parents had given us.

I spent a huge amount of time scanning the Internet looking through photolistings of adoptable Russian kids. It's illegal in Russia to post the children's pictures on the internet, but at that time it was not highly enforced. Probably a good thing because otherwise I would not have seen Katherine's picture.

She was so cute with her short cropped hair, thick winter sweater and no shoulders.... what more could you ask for? She looked a lot like Jeffrey and Jeff thought the agency was trying to pass a boy off as a girl and hope we wouldn't notice until we got back to the states. (Boys were much harder to place than girls.)

After the agency assured me that she was in fact a girl and that she did indeed have shoulders hiding under there, we started the adoption process in October of 2004.

Paperwork for an international adoption is daunting to the say the least. You need about 500 different pieces of paperwork and each piece must come from an official source. Each source must then be verified that it is official by another official source. This is accomplished by attaching verification stamps and signatures of officials who have been been given the power to use said stamps and make said verifications.

And if that weren't enough, each verification must be further verified by sending the pile of stamps and signatures to the state capital so officials there could further verify the verifications. 

And then they charge you $50 each for the pleasure of doing so.

Now Russia has this funny way about them. When they don't like how an agency is being run, they shut it down. Just close the doors and that's that. They eventually get around to reopening it again at their leisure but there is no telling when. 

Twice while we were waiting for permission to travel (Russia has to invite you before you are allowed to come over and play) they closed the branch of government responsible for foreign adoptions. They were the ones that would issue something called a "databank release letter". The golden ticket that releases Katherine's name out of the "adoption databank" and makes her available for visitation and possible adoption.

January rolled around with no news of when we could travel

About this time Russia also decided that they didn't like how we Americans were handling our side of the adoptions so they stopped re-licensing agencies. If your agency still had a valid license then you were fine, but if the license expired while you were in the middle of an adoption, you were screwed. We would be screwed at the end of February.

While I was waiting I met a very nice lady named Cathy who was adopting a little boy, Victor, out of the same orphanage using the same agency that we did. We emailed quite a bit and became friends while waiting to go and meet our kids.

During this time Jeff had been sick for a couple of weeks on and off. First a cold, then a fever, then he developed chest pain. We attributed it to a chest cold and overlooked the fact that it was getting slowly worse.

Two weeks after the pain started, while we were at the Honda dealer buying a new van, he sat down said we better get him to the hospital.

Hours and hours later and moments before they let him leave because they couldn't find anything wrong, a single test came back showing an elevation in heart enzymes, indicating the beginning of a heart attack. They rushed him to ultrasound which showed a piece of plaque had broken off and become lodged in his left descending artery. The lower half of his heart had stopped beating. They immediately inserted a stent and opened up the blockage. The good news was that he had no heart disease or even partially clogged arteries anywhere else. 

He spent 4 days in the hospital, 3 in the cardiac care unit. It was a complete blur for us. In the back of my mind I began to wonder if we would be able to go to Russia at all now. We knew we had to get there within the next 4 weeks and I had no idea whether the doctor would let Jeff travel.

I felt selfish to even be thinking of that when he had just been through a life threatening experience. It turned out though that he was thinking about it as well. His nurse pulled me aside one day and told me he kept telling them he had to be OK because he needed to go to Russia and get his little girl.

As it turned out the doctor didn't see any reason to restrict travel. He said the rest of Jeff's heart was in near perfect condition and he should be just fine. So Jeff came home and we began preparation in earnest for our trip.

10 days later Jeff's mom called. His father had had a massive stroke and was in the hospital in a coma. We waited through the weekend and it was obvious that things with his dad were not going to get better. Jeff booked a last minute flight and flew to Vegas for 24 hours to be with his mom. He came home and said things didn't look good but there was nothing we could do and his mom was insistent that we not postpone our trip.

We reluctantly agreed and within a week we received our OK to travel and were on our way to St Petersburg.