GUEST BLOG POST: INSTANT MOM by Nia Vardalos (book excerpt)
I now know the many ways to become a parent. Sure, some methods are expensive and time-consuming, some can lead to heart-break. Some work for many. Some don’t. And some are amazingly simple and accessible to everyone. One way worked for me.
I don’t want to come across as proponent for motherhood for all women. Of course it’s not for everyone. Needless to say, it’s completely possible to live a wholly splendid life without children. I won’t send my gender careening back into the Dark Ages with any suggestions that we’re unfulfilled without motherhood. This applies to men too. Of course parenthood isn’t for everyone. It’s a choice. While there is pressure on all of us to get married and have babies, it would be absurd to suggest it’s the right fit for everyone. So the book isn’t saying that at all.
In the same way, when I was having difficulty becoming a mother, I was assured by good friends and my supportive family that I could be happy without parenthood. Observing my completely fulfilled professional friends and family who did not have children, I tried to accept this was what was intended for me.
But I wanted a family and had to walk over hot coals to find my daughter.
Being a mother . . . actually being my daughter’s mother has changed me. My daughter filled a raggedy hole in my heart. She is the love of my life.
When (brace yourself for a humblebrag) I received an award in Washington, in my speech, I vowed to continue to spread the word about adoption. Inwardly, I knew the reality: it’s been tricky to get the word out. But the occasions I was given more airtime, like on The View and The Talk, yielded incredibly positive results. The director of a child-placement agency told me they got so many hits, their site crashed. She said, “Keep talking, the kids are flying out the door.”
But how do I keep talking? As I said, it’s not like the morning talk-show circuit is itching to have me dryly list facts and figures about adoption. I’m not getting starring roles in hipster movies that will yield more talk-show bookings. I don’t want to get airtime by making a sex tape with someone in celebrity rehab. I mean, not right now. So I wondered how I could disseminate adoption information.
Both (here comes some name-dropping) Katie Couric and Joy Behar urged me to write an adoption book about my real experience. I said “I’d think it over,” which is my polite way of shrieking, “No waaaaaaaaaaaay.”
Then it happened: a friend asked me to counsel her friend who was going through infertility. I hesitated. The mutual friend’s entreating expression affected me, reminding me I was once in that position, reaching out for help. So I met with the woman. In a private, quiet setting, we began to talk, she told me her story . . . then she asked what had happened to me. And . . . I told her my story. I chronicled the events that led me to adoption. I told her the truth and understood why I hadn’t wanted to tell the real story before. It’s because I am an inherently optimistic person and I wanted to move on from that bleak time, not revisit it.
I am absurdly happy now because I am a mom. But I could see this woman was still so angry about her fertility experience. I told her the futility she was feeling would pass. We were quiet for a bit, both wishing she could accelerate forward to that better time. She then asked me to tell her how to adopt. I outlined what had taken me years to learn about the world’s adoptions systems—which routes were expensive, which were time-consuming, which foreign sites were shams, which weren’t. I told her how to do it.
Months later, the woman called me again. She had adopted a baby boy from Ohio, and the joy in her voice made me ecstatic. I walked around all day beaming like I’d just found a Twizzler in my coat pocket. Next I counseled a couple—and they adopted a four-year-old boy from another country. They I set up a gay friend with a Foster Family Agency—he is in the process of adoption a teenage girl.
I’m not telling you this for more humblebragging. I am telling you because I was experiencing a strange feeling—I felt useful. Like a good recipe you’ve just got to share, like a shoe sale you’ve got to email your girlfriends about, I enjoyed explaining the process of adoption.
I’ve never told the truth about my daughter’s adoption. The stories I have told publicly have glossed over the facts so I could quickly segue into circulating information. Although I do make fun of my family for fun and profit, plus often use relatives as the basis of many of the characters in my screenplays, I twist specifics so they’re not recognizable. Now I’m disquieted to write with veracity about what really happened. It’s not that it’s shocking and tell-all-y so if you’re looking for gossip, sit back. I’m merely nervous because I’ve never written the truth.
I’m a middle-child Canadian, which basically means I’m annoyingly nice and I like everyone to be happy. To describe the events that led me to my daughter means I will have to reveal information that is not exactly pleasant, not exactly funny. I’m not comfortable with the fact that trying to become a mother was a difficult ten-year process that sucked the fun out of me. I hate talking about infertility. Ever. I really hate it.
I fret I will have to fend off invasive questions for the rest of my life. I hope this can be the one and only time I have to delve into it.
(Reprinted with permission from Nia Vardalos and HarperCollinsPublishers.)
Nia Vardalos, a “later mom,” is the Academy Award and Golden Globe nominated actress and writer of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. An alumnus of The Second City comedy theater, she also starred in and wrote Connie and Carla and I Hate Valentine’s Day, starred in My Life In Ruins, and co-wrote Larry Crowne with Tom Hanks. Born and raised in Canada, Vardalos now resides in Los Angeles with her husband, their daughter, and many pets and is currently working on balancing her acting and writing career with motherhood and adoption advocacy.
Instant Mom is Vardalos’s hilarious and poignant true chronicle of trying to become a mother while fielding nosy “frenemies” and Hollywood reporters asking, “Any baby news?” With her signature wit and candor, she describes her and husband Ian Gomez’s bumpy road to parenting, how they found their daughter, and what happened next. Vardalos includes a comprehensive how-to-adopt section and explores innovative ways to conquer the challenges all new moms face, from sleep to personal grooming. She learns that whether via biology, relationship, or adoption—motherhood comes in many forms.
In Instant Mom, Vardalos shares the terrifying joys of parenthood and for the first time reveals her stubborn optimism and perseverance on her trek to finally becoming a mom, instantly.
The book, while relatable to all parents, also includes a resourceful “How to Adopt Appendix,” with information such as:
- Overviews of domestic, fos-adopt and international adoption processes, with typical timelines for each option.
- Criteria for prospective adoptive parents, including age and health requirements as well as background checks, with state-specific requirements.
- Adoption requirements and costs for specific countries, including Canada, China, Ethiopia, Greece, India, Mexico, and the UK.
- Resources to aid adoptive parents, including an organization that awards grants of up to $15,000 to help with adoption costs.