Instant Mom-Nia Vardalos’s Foster Care Adoption

Dawn Davenport



Nia Vardalos and her daughter, who she adopted from foster care.

I thoroughly enjoyed actress Nia Vardalos’s new book, Instant Mom, and I enjoyed my interview with her on the Creating a Family show even more. She’s warm and funny, and both her book and interview reflect that. Instant Mom pulls off the difficult feat of remaining very very funny, while still conveying the incredible pain of infertility and the almost blinding desire to become a mother. We celebrate her ultimate success in adopting a toddler from foster care.

Nia (it speaks volumes that I don’t feel pretentious or presumptuous using her first name rather than the more journalistically proper last name) is nothing if she’s not stubborn determined. This same drive that got My Big Fat Greek Wedding made against all odds didn’t work for infertility, but not for a lack of trying. She and her husband, actor Ian Gomez (Andy on Cougar Town and Javier on Felicity), went through 13 IVF cycles and 2 failed surrogacies before finally calling it quits. Think about that—13 IVF cycles. Wow! She’s not the first person to learn the hard way that infertility simply doesn’t respond to sheer force of will!

Family building is incredibly personal (duh!) and each person or couple has to decide what’s right for them. Vardalos and Gomez decided against using donor eggs (she explains why in our interview) and moved to adoption. She threw herself into adoption with the same fervor that she attacked infertility, and initially had the same results. Since she was trying to adopt during the heyday of the Chinese adoption boom, I was curious why she didn’t go that route to becoming a mom. (She explains in the interview.) Eventually, they were matched with an almost 3 year old girl in the US foster care system.

I appreciated her honest (while still funny) description of their transition as a family. Human nature and memory makes it easy to gloss over the hard parts, so I appreciate that she didn’t hold her punches. Transitions can be tough, and someone else’s honest account helps the rest of us feel less alone. Their daughter is now eight and doing very well. Nia was cute when she indulged in some sweet mommy bragging.

Is Her Experience with Foster Care Adoption Typical?

We received a couple of emails and Facebook messages questioning how universal her experience was with foster care adoption. Well, the truth is that there really is no such thing as a typical experience when adopting from foster care. Nia and her husband did not want to go through the foster-to-adopt program, preferring to wait for a child who was legally free for adoption. They waited nine months which is in the ball park of what I hear. It is, however, not typical to be matched with a child under three whose parental rights have been terminated, and who had only been in foster care for a few months and had not experienced abuse or neglect. Most children in foster care have been removed from their birth families because of abuse and neglect, and usually the younger children are placed first in foster homes while the biological family is given a chance to get their act together. The average age of a child in foster care waiting for an adoptive family is eight. The goal of our foster care system is to heal families, which is how it should be.

What’s been your experience with foster care adoption? Do you think Nia Vardalos’s experience is typical?

I think you’ll really enjoy our interview.


What We Talked About In The Interview:

  • I love the irony in the title of the book—Instant Mom— because it took you 9 years of infertility treatment, 2 failed surrogacy attempts, and numerous adoption attempts to become a mom, but when it happened, your daughter was in your home within 14 hours
  • When did you realize that getting pregnant and carrying a baby to term was not going to be easy?
  • 13 IVF cycles-WOW! Why weren’t you able to stop sooner?
  • Did you consider donor eggs? It is a decision many in our audience have had to make—whether their next step should be donor egg or adoption.
  • How did you know it was time to finally stop treatment?
  • You say you moved quickly into adoption without much processing of the grief. I loved your line “any decision made in fear is a reaction, not an action.” Why was stepping back to experience the grief and loss of infertility important to you?
  • What adoption options did you consider?
  • I’m curious why you didn’t consider adopting from China becasue you were going through all of this in the heyday of Chinese adoptions.
  • Why did you choose to adopt from foster care?
  • How did you adopt a toddler from foster care system?
  • How old was your daughter.
  • What do you say to people who have had a bad experience adopting from foster care?
  • How do you adopt from foster care.
  • Why did you change your daughter’s name. And I love the naming story, so why don’t you tell it.
  • How was the transition into your home?
  • Why do you think the transition was hard?
  • What tips can you give others for helping their new child adjust to your home and family?
  • How is your daughter doing now? How old is she?
  • How did you get that cute photo of you on the cover of the book?

11/04/2013 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog, Fostering, Fostering Blog, Infertility, Infertility Blog | 7 Comments

7 Responses to Instant Mom-Nia Vardalos’s Foster Care Adoption

  1. Avatar Meg says:

    Saw her on Katie Couric’s show too, she was great. I can’t wait to read her book.

  2. Avatar Whole Child says:

    I love that she credits her acting success as simply a stepping stone to her real “call” in life…to be a mother through adoption. She uses her past success not to make herself look better, but to spread a positive message about adoption…and foster care! This country so needs to hear the positive stories of adopting through foster care b/c so many are hurting due to a broken system. Adopting through foster care is a very very very hard way to adopt…but it is oh so worth it!! Loving children who come from these “hard places” and navigating “the system” is probably the hardest thing someone can go through, but the very strength it takes to do it is what makes such happy endings.

  3. Avatar Kristina Grish says:

    isn’t she delightful?

  4. Avatar Carole says:
      listening to it right now, loving it
  5. Yeah, she was a fun interview. Her warmth really comes through.

  6. Avatar Becky Saer says:

    A very interesting interview, highlighting the pros and cons (but mostly pros!) of adoption and the frustrations of IVF/fertility treatment when things don’t work out. Nine months is not a bad wait. In the UK, it can take up to two years. My husband and I also had several rounds of IVF and things were bleak. Faced with a two-year wait, though, and demands by UK adoption agencies to cease fertility treatment while we applied, we felt IVF was actually the better route. Despite the pain, the setbacks add the emotional side, we persevered and got pregnant with donor-egg IVF treatment. We also considered embryo adoption at one stage, though the donor route worked for us in the end.

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