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First Person: Nia Vardalos on Becoming a Mom – Overnight

05/10/2009 at 10:00 AM ET
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Talk about your big fat surprises: With one phone call, Nia Vardalos had a daughter. In this exclusive Mother’s Day essay for PEOPLE, the star of My Big Fat Greek Wedding talks in detail for the first time about the shock, chaos and “peaceful gratefulness” that came after she and husband Ian Gomez adopted a 3-year-old girl.

The Ritual

My daughter is a preschooler but I have only known her for a while. She is adopted.

After years of wanting to be parents, my husband and I were given 14 hours notice … then a little girl walked into our house.

Trying to adopt had been a long and frustrating process. But, when we connected with an American Foster Family Agency, it happened very quickly. One night, the phone rang – the social worker told me we’d been “matched” with a 3-year-old girl.

I hung up the phone and stood still for a second. Then, I had to sit down. Within a minute, I was laying on the floor. Yeah, this was real: A little girl was coming to our home. Tomorrow.

There wasn’t a baby shower, there wasn’t time to discuss with family and friends, there was no way to really prepare for her arrival.

She arrived without an instruction manual. I didn’t know if she had a sleep schedule, food allergies – there wasn’t even a note pinned to her shirt. She just walked in and looked up at me, like “got lunch?”

There isn’t a word for the elation I felt. I grinned like a maniac and jumped into parenthood.

Nia’s story continues below…

We got to know each other: we blew bubbles in the backyard, drew with sidewalk chalk, threw the ball for our dog, (who looked up at her, like “dibs on the big bed”).

Together, we decorated her new bedroom – arranging white furniture, laying out a pink rug, messily peeling and sticking purple flower decals on the walls.

I was delighted by her: Every facial expression, every tantrum, every small thing she did was fascinating and fantastic. Mornings were now a flurry of juice spilling, tiny clothes washing and frenzied kid-chasing. It was thrilling chaos.

Our families and friends were so happy for us, and our priest sweetly asked if he could bless her.

So, that Sunday we headed to church. Our daughter silently took in the chanting and the smell of incense as the sun shone through the stained glass windows.

After the service, the priest softly gestured for us to join him at the front of the church. He began to read. But I wasn’t hearing a standard blessing. This was new to me. It was a special prayer for … adoption.

The words and ceremony were a beautiful acknowledgment that some families are created in different ways, but are still in every way, a family.

The priest said the words, “Today you have given birth to your daughter,” and I began to cry. It all poured out. All the grief, all the anger, all the angst at the difficult and long journey to parenthood. And that outpouring of tears was quickly followed by a peaceful gratefulness.

I held my daughter in my arms and thanked God for bringing her to me. If the standard route of creating a family had worked for me, I wouldn’t have met this child. And I needed to know her. I needed to be her mother. And in that moment, I knew why it had all happened this way: So I could meet this little girl. She is, in every way, my daughter.

Curiously, we humans seem to need these rituals to get things into our skulls. There isn’t just one reason we need these rites. Sometimes we need to witness, sometimes we need the catharsis. That ceremony on that day was healing and more importantly, helped it sink in that I am a parent, no matter how my child came to me.

I thanked the priest for the ceremony and we headed home. And I realized … while I have walked into the church many times … on this day, it was the first time I walked out as a mother.

Source: PEOPLE

To learn more about American Foster Care, go to adoptuskids.org. To find your local FFA, go to childwelfare.gov/nfcad.

FILED UNDER: News , Parenting

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Showing 54 comments

Michelle on

I’m so very happy for them. I remember reading years ago about her struggles to have a baby, so I’m so happy they finally have their child. :)

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mommies out there!

Sarah K. on

I read this yesterday on People and I’m not gonna lie- I cried like baby. This was incredibly touching and the perfect Mother’s Day story. I wish Nia, Ian, and lil’ Vardalos-Gomez all the happiness in the world.

Erika on

Aww congrats to them! What a great story! I love the way that the priest referred to her as their actual child-which she is, rather than an adoptive child. And I love how she is so thankful to God for her miracle, while so many aren’t.

fergette on

What a beautiful memory. Congrats to them on finally having their family and Happy Mother’s Day to her!

french gigi on

anyone else have goosebumps?
her story is extremely moving and beautiful.
God bless them.

Barb on

Oh, this is so beautiful…I cried reading this too. What a wonderful post to read on Mother’s Day.

Gabriella Neves on

OK, I’m crying

kris on

Beautiful story. Totally made me cry too. God Bless to this family. There was a photo with with the article on People’s site. You can see Nia’s face but her daughter is sitting on her lap facing her so you do not see her daughter’s face. For whatever reason I really liked that you could not see the child’s face.

HeatherR on

This brought me to tears. Happy tears. What a beautiful story! They are so blessed :)

MomtoB on

The best celebrity article on parenting I have ever read. No mentions of when she is returning to work, how she will get her body back in shape etc etc. Just the joy of being a mom.

Nicole on

That was moving, it brought me to tears too.

CTBmom on

This story moved me too. As someone who is infertile, I know the pain and anger that she went through, and how I felt (like her) such a release of that hurt and such a sense of peace when I was blessed to adopt my son. I remember the first night home with him, how I held him in my arms feeding him a bottle and how we just stared at each other. I sat there with tears in my eyes, and for the first time in such a very long time, everything felt right with the world. My guy is now 12 years-old and there is alot memories that have blurred over time, but that first night home with him is one that I’ll always remember. By the way, Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

MomE on

I’m crying too! What a wonderful story for Mother’s Day! And what a wonderful mother Nia is!

k on

Aww, this totally brought me to happy tears.

natalie on

i remember being a little kid when nia debuted with my big fat greek wedding and i’ve loved her ever since. she’s always seemed to be a very humble, down-to-earth, sweet person with her priorities straight and reading her words confirms that about her. what an amazing story, i feel so happy for her and her husband. i truly wish them all the best.

meghan on

Count me among the people who were brought to tears by Nia’s moving words.

scherriea on

i am so happy for her and her hubby..i am 26, married, and not had a child as yet..i wasn;t trying but i wasn’t NOT trying..people start asking questions like; why haven’t u gotten pregnant as yet? and i begin to get depressed, because they don’t seem to understand that me NOT getting pregnant has nothing to do with me. I have NEVER taken birth control, so I have NEVER prevented myself from bearing a child. I sometimes get bothered about it, but I know that I will be a mother, whether it is through adoption or me conceiving.

Erica on

I love her story, especially the end–how for the first time she walked out of her church as a mother. Many blessing for Nia and her family on Mother’s Day!

shan on

Really great story, I was in tears. Glad she shared her experience!

RG on

Lovely, lovely story.

And Scherriea darling, wonderful things will happen for you one day. One way or another you’ll get your wish. I know I can’t make promises like this (who am I after all, lol) but I’m just hoping for the best for you. As for the folks on your back, please, PLEASE put them in their place. You have to explain yourself to NO ONE.

You sound like a wonderful mum already.

girlJordan on

This story is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read.

E's Mommy on

Thank you, Nia. Thank you for sharing your journey, and for summing up my whole experience adopting my daughter. We are both so very blessed.

Anna on

I’m glad that little girl was able to find a family, so often you see babies being adopted, but older children are left behind.

I just had a look at the adoptus website and it’s heartbreaking.

Amanda on

That is a very sweet story!

Cheryl on

Oh,that was such a touching story.And it obviously made all of us cry…I’m not an exception.My husband and I adopted a girl two months ago although we have ours and she gets on with us very well.
Congrats to Nia and Ian on their daughter:)Does anyone know her name?

carrie on

What a great story. Brought tears to my eyes. A beautiful read on Mothers day!! So happy for them.

Sam on

“I love the way that the priest referred to her as their actual child-which she is, rather than an adoptive child.”

No, she is both. An adoptive child IS someone’s actual child.

Sam on

“For whatever reason I really liked that you could not see the child’s face.”

Me too and also the fact that they didn’t reveal her name or really anything else personal about her. I think other celebs should take a hint here!

christina on

I am in tears over this. I am so happy for Nia and Ian and their daughter. I’m an Orthodox Christian, too, like Nia and Ian, and the blessing for adoption is so very moving. *sigh*

kai on

I can’t see the keyboard, am wailing like a baby.

Erika on

Sam- I completely agree with you. I guess I just worded it wrong. What I meant was, I know so many people who feel the need to say
“she is adoptive” or something and don’t consider them to be somebody’s real child and I was happy that it sounded like the priest didn’t. I am not adopted, but I know people who are and when the adoptive parents are the only ones they knew, it offends them.

Anna on

I think it is so beautiful how people love their adoptive children just as much as if they had been their biological children. That article was gorgeous :)

meghan on

I understand what you are trying to say Erica. It always annoys me when the press tries to differentiate between biological and adopted children every time they are featured in a magazine. If the topic is the joy of adoption, like Nia’s essay, then of course it is relevant. But when magazines runs a photo of Tom Cruise’s family and they go out of their way to say daughter Suri and Adopted Son Connor and Adopted Daughter Isabella it really annoys me. It just implies something that I think we, in 2009, with people like Angelina Jolie and Marie Osmond with their blended families, should be far past.

Misty on

This article made me cry too. It is so wonderful to hear such a touching story, and for her to finally have her child. I love the way the Priest put it too “Today you have given birth to your daughter.”

Mia on

I also read this from PEOPLE and I thought it was such a beautiful piece, very well written. I swear I thought I read her daughter’s name is Olivia, from like IMDB or wikipedia or something, but I can’t be totally sure.

I guess art imitates life, reminds me of her family scene near the end of my BFGW, when her/her husband are sending off their little girl to go to Greek school.

I’m very happy for them. Happy Mother’s Day to all!

Mrs. R. on

I read this story yesterday, and just totally cried. I was getting married around the time My Big Fat Greek Wedding was hitting it big (although my mom and I had seen it months before, and were so happy to see it become a cult hit). I have such a fondness for Nia Vardalos – her sense of humor never is hurtful, it’s always kind and sweet. I am sure she will be a PHENOMENAL mother!

Sam on

“If the topic is the joy of adoption, like Nia’s essay, then of course it is relevant. But when magazines runs a photo of Tom Cruise’s family and they go out of their way to say daughter Suri and Adopted Son Connor and Adopted Daughter Isabella it really annoys me.”

I agree! Why say “This is so-and-so’s adopted daughter/son” when you don’t say “This is so-and-so’s biological daughter/son?” The media never says “Heidi Klum and her biological daughter Leni.” And what parent introduces their child as their “adopted” son/daughter?

If it’s relevant to the article, such as this one, to say the child is adopted, then great. But otherwise the adoption shouldn’t be mentioned. Elizabeth Taylor used to complain about the press doing that with her and Richard Burton’s daughter. Michael Reagan once said he wished the media could refer to him as just the president’s son rather than his adopted son.

Lux on

Oh! This was very touching.
I’m happy for this new family!
Adopted child are very special because they didn’t grow up in our uterus but in our hearts.
Happy mother’s day!

Sarah on

This post by Nia just about made me cry. Walking out a mother, indeed! Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there no matter how they got to becoming a mother. There are all types and today we celebrate that. Thank you to the mothers who had the sons that became our husbands, thank you to the mothers who had the daughters that became our wives, thank you to the mothers who gave us all life. Well done Nia, well done, and congratulations on becoming a mother :)

Amanda on

This brought me to tears. My father is adopted, I’m adopted, and I adopted my three children. This story is wonderful, and I wish her and her family all the best! PS Also, Nia and Ian? Those names are so perfect for each other!

erinbeth on

oh what a beautiful, beautiful memory to share with her daughter, and so well written as well.

NELLA on

What a nice and moving story!! I loved reading this ,one of the best articles I’ve read on CBB. Nia is a great actress and sounds like such a lovely human being and a good mother. Happy Mother’s day!

a mother on

One of the best pieces CBB has ever published. Thank you!

Jennifer on

This was such a moving story. Happy Mother’s Day to Nia! :)

Tori on

I am so happy to see someone who has money and could probably do a private adoption choose to adopt a foster child!! I have 4 children I adopted from foster care and they are in every way my children. I wish more people would realize that once you open your heart to a child, once you nurse a sick child back to good health, once that child looks to you for all his needs-that it really doesn’t feel any different than a biological child.

My children range in colors and what surprised me on a plane trip from Chicago to Los Angeles when my now 2 year old was 5 months was this: He is my only full african american son, he has very beautiful dark coloring and in no way looks like he could be biracial but everyone watching us interact really thought he was my biolgical son. They just saw the love between mother and son and assumed he had to be biologiacally mine. I want people to know that there is so much more to family than biology. Love is a very amazing thing!!And there are so many kids waiting to feel that kind of love.

Lis on

“The best celebrity article on parenting I have ever read. No mentions of when she is returning to work, how she will get her body back in shape etc etc. Just the joy of being a mom.”

MomtoB – you are so right on. I wholeheartedly agree with you, and felt the need to re-post your post. ;) You make very good points!

That little girl is so blessed to have such a wonderful mommy like Nia!

Anna on

I can completely relate to Nia’s story she shared. My husband (who is in his 4th year of remission from Stage IV cancer) and I spoke of adoption on our first date. We always wanted to be parents, no matter what form it took. We endured a miscarriage early into our marriage and multiple failed attempts at having a biological child. In the interim, we worked with our local DCF office, took the required classes and began a search for our child that was out there looking for us. One day the phone rang (October 3, 2008) and that weekend we met our 5 year old daughter. Her adoption was finalized April 6 and she is so much like my husband and I, God couldn’t have planned it any better. It took 3 years of waiting to meet her, but your life changes literally overnight. The same as bringing home a newborn. We have already begun the search process for a little brother or sister for her and have become advocates for the adoption process. There are many WONDERFUL children waiting in this country for a forever family. Please take a moment to consider opening your home and heart to a waiting child. The benefits far outweigh the pain and patience required. Same as giving birth, you forget and can’t wait to do it again.

amelita on

Beautiful. Absolutely moving.

msscatter on

I can also relate to Nia’s story only I didn’t get 14 hours to prepare for my son, I was given less than 14 seconds. Our little boy was literally handed to us by the mother, that’s how much time I had to prepare. He was 5 months old at the time. Being an infertile couple, we had nothing but love and wonderful friends with “stuff” to help. Seven months later his biological mother gave birth to a premature little girl that we took home from the hospital also. The joy is something I can’t express.

Congratulations on your adoption! I have to agree, this is the best celebrity mom article I’ve ever read.

L on

OMG…this is so touching…im sobbing like a little baby…such an incredible outlook on everything..may God continue to bless their family in the future!!

txgal on

I am glad to know I wasn’t the only one bawling over this. She is so eloquent and they are all truly blessed. Congrats :)

dup on

A beautiful story. The making of a mom! And a family!

Natasha on

I completely agree with those saying you hate when the press says “adopted”, ESPECIALLY with the Cruise’s. I understand the curiousity of it, but it’s not like it changes anything when one is adopted or when one is biological.

SouthernBelle on

Absolutely beautiful and touching story that moved me to tears! I’ve always like Nia…she’s someone so relatable, down-to-earth and genuinely nice. There is no question as to whether she and Ian will be great parents. Nia was born to be a mother…God just had a specific plan in mind in how she would become a mother. So refreshing that she shared that she was willing to do it His way because He knows best. Yes, she will be one terrific mother and I respect her even more after this article. Truly one of the best articles I’ve ever read on CBB.

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