Nia Vardalos, the Academy Award- and Golden Globe-nominated actress and writer of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, has written a book about a subject she once tiptoed around—her infertility and the adoption of a 3-year-old girl through the foster-care system.
In Instant Mom, which hits shelves April 2, the comedienne is brutally honest about her 10-plus rounds of fertility treatments, as well as the adoption process itself—which, in 2008, led her and husband Ian Gomez (Cougar Town, Felicity) to their daughter, Ilaria.
Why this book, Instant Mom, and why now?
The simplest answer is that in being asked about adoption over and over at social events, from cocktail parties to play dates, I realized that I had this fountain of information that I just couldn't cap any more. I should say geiser of information. The reason I didn't want to go public before—I say in the prologue I would gloss over the real facts—was because I was worried about how it would be perceived. Ultimately, my daughter is just so brave, and I realized in telling this story, how incredible it was that she walked in our door with 14 hours' notice and let us be her parents.
Just as I'm taking more risks with my clothes on the red carpet, I thought, if this kid can be brave, so can I.
You mention that you're a private person and how you've tried to stay away from mainstream shows that delve into personal details.
Ian and I have been offered a reality show every six months. The idea of cameras in my home that are just watching me scarf down that gluten-free bread sandwich—No! I just can't!
What's the biggest misconception about foster adoption?
I think it's the one that I myself had, and that is that the children are irreparably damaged or are in any way damaged. That is a myth that just needs to be dispelled. Number 1, I'm trying to do that with the book. Number 2 is to explain the many, many ways to adopt in as clear language as possible for anyone beginning the process.
And then, Number 3, it's a mom story, and it's a woman's story in that, even if you're not a mom, it's story about just saying "No" when you're up against a brick wall. Just saying, "I'm not going to take the cards that I've been dealt. I'm trading them back in and trying for a fresh hand."
What's your advice for women who are battling infertility and considering adoption?
Ask a lot of questions, because suddenly the route that one is supposed to take becomes clear to you.
It's very strange, isn't it? Like when you're shopping, shopping, shopping for a dress, and you see one, and you go, "That's it. That's the one." And that's how I felt when I heard about the foster-adoption route.
What surprised you the most about adopting Ilaria?
How I just never get tired of every hurdle she's gone over, every milestone reached, every new word learned, everything she's trying, like, when she was about 5, she said, "Hey Mom, shut it down."
I was like, "What? What just happened?"
And I said, "What's that?" And she said, "Me and the kids are saying it on the school yard. It's super funny. It just means 'Stop talking.'"
We just decided that we're going to use that expression—not "shut it down," but, "I'm proud of you for trying new things. That one's not appropriate. Let's try something else."
What Greek thing do you want to pass on to your daughter?
I think it's the joy of being surrounded by family and food. She seems to have taken to that very well.
You're raising your daughter in Los Angeles. What do you want to teach her about body image?
That she's more than her body. It's just that simple.
We call her Sporty Spice—she's just naturally athletic. Already one of the moms at a play center said to me, in front of her, "Your daughter has a hot body."
Later, Ilaria said to me, "Why did that lady say that? I wasn’t sweating."
So I have to be ever vigilant to counterbalance my own stupid things that I say and what other people say.
What would you say if Ilaria wanted to get into show business?
I would definitely have her enroll in dentistry school first.