Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Our Yekaterinburg Adoption (Between Trips 1 & 2)




After Rob and I returned home from meeting Siena, the real paper chase began to complete the adoption and it was a nightmare. And incredibly expensive. The judge in Yekaterinburg was well known to be brutally tough. She had a list of requirements that had to be done to perfection or too bad. Because I was the one officially adopting and Rob and I were going to re-adopt when we got back into the USA together, I was busy gathering documents. The things I had to do included:
  • Getting FBI fingerprinted three times. I'd get fingerprints done once and, because everything took so long, they'd expire and I'd have to do them again. Every time I had to get re-fingerprinted, it cost more money.
  • Go to NINE different specialists. Yes, NINE. They included a pulmonologist, psychiatrist that specialized in addiction medicine (I could only find ONE of these in San Diego), oncologist, neurologist, gynecologist, ear nose & throat specialist... And after each of those doctors signed my form that I was in good health, I'd have to get them notarized, apostilled, and certified by the Medical Association that those doctors really were specialists in their particular field, and get that signature notarized and apostilled. These process took literally thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars. And then one of the doctors didn't date the form correctly, so the judge send the entire packet to be re-done. That meant I had to go back to every doctor and have them re-sign, re-notarize and re-apostille.
  • Go to the County Clerk to certify ownership of the home I was living in.
This is just a sample. Then December came and the judge shut down the courts for two months while she went on vacation and didn't do any adoption cases. And then a few weeks later, she shut the court down again while she helped certify the Russian elections.

And apparently, right before we traveled to Russia on our second trip for court, the judge required that Siena's social worker find the birthmother (Olga) to get her to sign relinquishment papers again. I'm so glad we didn't know this until after the adoption was complete. Anyhow, the social worker found Olga, a 17 year old girl, at her home. Her parents had both died and she was an orphan, too. She inherited her apartment from her parents-- a two-bedroom large apartment, which is hard to find in Yekaterinburg. The social worker knocked on Olga's door, which was answered by a very well dressed man. He said Olga wasn't there and asked who she was. After several days, she went back to the apartment. This time, there were several well dressed men inside. She told the men that if Olga didn't contact her, the judge would require that she cover all the costs of Siena's orphanage care and, if necessary, force her to sell her apartment to pay for it.

Olga called her back almost immediately and they met in a park. Olga said that she wasn't sure she would sign the papers, that maybe she would go pick up her child some day in the future. The social worker repeated that she either needed to sign the relinquishment papers, get Siena immediately, or start paying for her care. Olga signed the papers.

A few days later, Olga showed up at the orphanage demanding to see her child. The orphanage workers refused, saying she needed permission from the social worker first. They never heard from her again.

The social worker said that Olga was probably involved in some very illegal and bad stuff, like organized crime or prostitution. She was young, alone, and vulnerable. I think about her often. That poor girl. I want her to know that Siena is a happy, thriving, smart, loving and funny child who is doing so well and loved by so many.

Anyway, back to my story...

All this time, my grandfather was getting sick. We had just found out he had lung cancer. My grandfather was an amazing man. I miss him so much. He was fascinating and funny, kind, loving. He never smoked but he worked for years at the Hanford Nuclear Plant in Richland, Washington, which gave him lung cancer. He wanted to meet Siena before he died and I was desperately trying. As it turned out, he died right after we brought Siena home and he never got to meet her. Every day things were delayed with adopting Siena, I was getting desperate and sad and angry.

Rob's dad was also not doing well physically. Every day that Siena was in Russia was one precious day lost. It was making me physically sick. In addition to the paper chase, I was trying to manage a home, parent Morgan, cope with all kinds of drama with Rob and his daughters and ex wife, train a puppy, cover bills with not enough money, work a fulltime job, and fend of Rob's increasingly bizarre and aggressive behavior. It was a lot. Too much.

One day I called Rob and said, "I'm done! If they want to make it this difficult to take a child out of an orphanage, they can keep her."

Rob talked me off that cliff. "It's not your decision, Liz. This is our decision. She is our daughter. She needs a mom and dad and that's us. Take a day to calm down."

And he was right. The adoption kept moving forward, though so very slowly. Planning anything was nearly impossible. We couldn't plan trips because maybe (hopefully) we'd be traveling to Russia. I dreamt, slept and ate adoption. And while dealing with adoption nightmare, things were not going well at home. Rob and I were struggling in our relationship. On the one hand, we could sometimes be a great family. On the other, Rob's bizarre alcoholic behavior was becoming increasingly awful for me. The drama with Rob and his daughters was getting worse and worse. Everything at home was unpredictable and becoming more and more chaotic. I will write about that part in another post.

I had set aside $40,000 to finish the adoption but it soon became apparent that it wasn't enough money. I had sold one of the two homes in Utah that I owned to purchase the house with Rob. And Rob began pressuring me to sell my second home in Utah-- not to complete the adoption but to pay off the enormous loan from his mother to pay off his ex wife, Terri. I had already paid her some $40,000 of that loan from my personal funds but he still owed her a heck of a lot more money.

"We have to pay off my mom," Rob began saying endlessly. One day, I had heard enough. I called up my real estate agent and sold the house immediately. Every single dime of that money went towards paying off his mother. The adoption expenses started getting charged onto a credit card. After awhile, fatigued and stressed out beyond my breaking point, I didn't even know what I was spending anymore. I just pulled out that credit card and started charging.

Right before we finally traveled to Russia, I sat in front of Rob and started sobbing. "We will never recover financially. We are ruined," I said.

"We make loads of money, we'll be fine. Getting Siena is more important than any money," he said. At that moment, I felt love for him.

I am so grateful that I didn't know how difficult the adoption would be. Because if I had, I think I would have talked Rob into abandoning the adoption. I don't think I could have looked at that figurative mountain and climbed it. But now here is Siena and it was all worth it a million times over. What a blessing she has been and I owe having her to Rob. He pushed me through it and I will always be grateful to him for helping bring our daughter home.