Nia Vardalos' Big Fat Greek adoption story

As soon as we decided we were kinda-sorta ready to be parents, it happened. I’m extra super grateful that Tokki came to us easily (as “easily” as the whole childbirth and raising a newborn into a toddler thing can be, you know).

Not everyone’s path to having kids is so direct. Last week, I met with Nia Vardalos to discuss her memoir Instant Mom, which is the story of how she came to adopt her little girl, Ilaria.

Nia is the creator of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Considering my obsession with immigrant stories and memoir, I’m kind of surprised I’ve never seen this film all the way through. Because I didn’t take part in the whole movie sensation at the time, until I read Instant Mom, I didn’t realise the scope of the MBFGW phenomenon. It’s still the highest-grossing rom-com of all time. And it all started with a one-woman play, written and performed doggedly by a single-minded and determined comedic actor. 

Nia brought that fierce focus to her desire to start a family, too. When fertility issues blocked her path, she tried in vitro fertilisation…thirteen times.

“I spare people the gory details,” Nia told me when I interviewed her last week for the Globe and Mail. “I don’t go into medical talk but I’m just honest about it, it happened.”

Nia insists she’s private, which may seem strange for someone who likes to “mine” her family “for fun and profit,” as she likes to say. But I get it. When you write material inspired by your own life, you have to be that much more clear about what you will and won’t reveal.

The fact that she tells her previously-untold story (including her struggling actor years, the MBFGW phase and her adoption and family life) is a testament to how much she’s pushing her own boundaries in order to help other families adopt. I admire it very much.

Throughout Instant Mom, she glosses over hardships (but is sure to make mention of them) and instead, lets her free, rambly sense of humour shine (this humour also makes for good book trailers).

Instant Mom is a book for MBFGW fans and for those who are interested in adoption but for me, it also served as a reminder of the immense humility it takes to greet the reality of parenthood, however it comes to your own life, and the ongoing challenge of having to suck it up with every meltdown or WTF moment. It’s not about doing it right or wrong, it’s about doing it all with big-time love.

And just as a post-script, this is the second mom author interview I’ve done recently that ended in a hug. It surprised me as much as when it happened with Dara-Lynn Weiss a few months ago. I said it before and I’ll say it again, I’ve done countless interviews and this never happens (ask me sometime about George Clinton licking my hand, but hugs? Seriously, nada).

There must be something about sharing stories about our kids that takes the interview to this other, huggable space. I don’t normally get to Mum-talk on the clock but on this day, I did, and with a mum who inspires me with the depth of her love and perseverance. It’s a good day when you can meet up with another mum and just talk about the little people we love so much.

You can watch Hannah Sung's interview with Nia Vardalos on the Globe And Mail's website here

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