Instant Mom by Nia Vardalos

Sometimes when I read “adoption books,” I feel like I’m back in graduate school and trying to learn a foreign language.  So when I saw that Nia Vardalos (writer and star of My Big Fat Greek Wedding) had written a book on her adoption of a three-year-old girl from the foster care system, I thought I’d give it a whirl.  The book is basically a memoir of her experience, with some funny stories about her life and movie-making thrown in.

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Here’s what I learned: we would totally be friends if we ever met.  Even though I’m not Greek.  Here are a few examples of things she wrote that made me feel like we might be twins.

“Googling ‘adoption’ took me to strange places.  It was all a late-night Internet search haze.”

I totally remember during the first year of researching adoption the number of nights I would stay up until 2:00 AM clicking on link after link.  Eventually I wouldn’t even be on agency sites, but watching YouTube videos of some random family’s Ethiopian adoption.  Of course, that’s also where I met many of my blog friends and decided to start writing about our own process, so a lot came out of the world wide web that has enriched my life,too.  There is just so much information out there, and none of it corresponds to what you’ve been told or what the last site said.  It can leave your head spinning (and the lack of sleep doesn’t help either).

While waiting for the adoption process, Nia and her husband adopted a dog.

“That’s what I feel when I look at this yellow Lab with giant paws.  I love him.  I love him immediately.  Ian loves him, too and we sign the papers and officially adopt him.”

We adopted our dog Edgar when we’d been on the wait list for 10 months.  I can’t explain it, but I just had this need to bring ksomething else into the house to nurture.  The weird part is that I already two kids, so you’d think that would tide me over until something happened, but I just knew that I had to get a dog.  Andrew was sure that as soon as we brought home a puppy, we’d get a referral and we’d be housebreaking and helping two kids adjust. As it turned out, it was another 10 months until we got our referral and another six months till they were in our house, so the dog gave me something to do.
Upon meeting her daughter for the first time:

“Because now I know who I have been waiting for.  I know exactly why the other processes didn’t work.  I know I was supposed to wait for this little girl.”

As our wait stretched on, we began to request the files of a few sets of siblings who showed up on our agency’s waiting child list.  These kids usually have special needs or are older kids.  In all, we looked at three different files.  And each time, things just didn’t work out.  It was devastating to look at those files and fall in love with those kids, then have reasons that prevented us from moving forward.  But now, when I look at Ayub and Lucy in our family, I can’t imagine those other kids sitting here.  Ironically, we have become friends with two of the families who adopted those kids, and I feel the same way about them.  Everybody ended up where they belong. For a system that has so many flaws, it just worked.  It’s almost eerie.

“At social gatherings, Ian and I meet many other people who have adopted their children.  We all tend to gravitate toward each other with a dreamy expression in our eyes, as if someone just whispered to only us that there’s actually no fat in carbonara.”

So true.  Being an adoptive parent is like belonging to a secret club.  I now know the handshake.   Some families we’ve met through our blogs (and theirs), and some we’ve met in real life.  But there is just something so comforting in knowing that someone else “gets it.”

“When I met Ilaria, as I’ve described, It all went quiet.  That whirring in my head is quiet, like that moment you turn off the stove fan and realize that sound had been getting on your nerves.  That’s what it feels like when you meet your kid.”

Yes.  This.

“Also, when someone says your daughter is beautiful, you don’t have to murmur modestly.  You can just booming lay and boisterously concur at the gorgeousness that is your kid And even point out her perfect bow mouth and tiny fairy ears, ’til that person backs away slowly.”

With my biological kids, I also got comments bout how cute they were.  And I responded with a politically correct, polite “thank you.”  I guess because to gush on about them would be somehow celebrating my own genetic material.  But with Ayub and Lucy, I take others comment and run.  Instead of a polite thank you, I find my self agreeing and extrapolating on their comments.  Is this rude, or just true?

So don’t you think Nia and I would be best friends?

Overall, I thought the book was pretty good.  I think her goal was to encourage people to think about adoption, especially foster adoption.  She is very balanced, though, and realizes there are a lot of different paths that are equally valid.  It’s not an adoption how-to, although there are references and FAQs at the end.  It’s also not entirely about adoption.  There are some fun stories about Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks, as well as some fun family stories (yes, even involving Windex).  It was a fun read, and I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a lighter-than-Karen-Purvis book.