My close, personal friend, writer and actress Nia Vardalos, wrote a book about her journey to becoming a mom. Okay, okay—I’ve never even met Nia Vardalos—but her ‘voice’ comes so clearly through her writing—I felt like this optimistic, funny, honest, self-deprecating, and very determined woman was sitting across from me at the coffee shop (or wine bar, if she really was my friend) confiding in me about the amazing and somewhat bewildering sequence of events that led to the adoption of her daughter through the foster care system.
Nia Vardalos (let’s just call her Nia) is probably best known for writing and starring in the mega-hit movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. By reading this book, however, I discovered she is actually a rather prolific writer/performer, and an all-round creator and doer of interesting things. She starts her story by talking about the somewhat bumpy and roundabout path of her show business career, leading up to the overnight success of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. As with most “overnight” successes—there was nothing “instant” about it. Lots of dedicated work, a willingness to take leaps of faith, and a flat-out refusal to give up on her dreams led to being in the right place at the right time to show the right people what she was capable of – and thus, her big fat break in show biz. As she says, “I am the type of person to whom the word ‘no’ is a shortened version of ‘try a different way’.”
She starts Instant Mom with anecdotes from her career struggles to highlight “the personality glitch” that would sustain her on the long, difficult, but oh-so-worth-it road to motherhood. With candor and lots of humor, she talks about her “fistfight with Mother Nature” that included (brace yourself) thirteen in vitro fertilization attempts. After taking some (well deserved!) time off from, well, everything, and coming to the conclusion it was time to explore other routes to motherhood, she dives into the process of untangling the complex web of information surrounding domestic and international adoption, and discovers the American foster care system. Many twists and turns later, she finally gets the phone call from a social worker—she’s been matched with a three year-old little girl, and voila! An instant mom— just like that!
Well, not really. There’s still the six-month waiting period before the adoption can be finalized, involving home visits from social workers and LOTS of mutual adjustment for this new little family. The transition, both before and after the adoption becomes finalized, was not always easy, and Nia describes the ups and downs of the entire adventure with lots of heart and wit. After coming through it all, she realizes that every step she took—even though some steps were more emotionally harrowing than others— were necessary to get to where she was supposed to be—with this little girl, her daughter.
In the prologue, Nia explains that she wrote the book because she realized that she was in possession of some very elusive and valuable information about adoption that took her years to gather and absorb—credible and understandable answers to the question “so, how do you do it?” In fact, the last section of the book is entitled “This Is The How-To-Adopt Appendix,” and is chock full of useful information and resources. In addition to writing this book, Nia has been the spokesperson for National Adoption Day, and has become involved in adoption advocacy.
Instant Mom is most certainly for anyone thinking about adoption, or parenthood in general— that’s a no-brainer. But it’s also an inspiring read for anyone who is facing big and unexpected obstacles or detours on their way to achieving their life goals—but is bravely forging ahead anyway. Or for anyone wondering if all this hard work you seem to be doing is worth it in the end. Nia Vardalos’ stubborn optimism and hopeful determination about becoming a mother—getting up, dusting herself off, and plodding ahead after each bump in the road, ultimately led her to something even better than she had dreamed of—finding her daughter, Ilaria. A satisfying ending indeed.