If my boys and I were walking down the sidewalk and Nia Vardalos was walking the other way, I would catch her eye and put my fist out toward her. She would look at me, look at my boys, and fist bump me. If the boys, who make my connection to her obvious, were not with me, I would have to blurt something out so she would understand. ("Oh hey! I was adopted and two of my kids were adopted, too!) I wouldn't try to force her into a conversation or ask if I could get a photo with her. I would say quickly, as we passed each other, "Instant Mom. So great." Then I would give her a dorky thumbs up and probably add, "You rock!" (which I would later regret) Of course, if she wanted to talk, I would tell her some of the things I am going to tell you.
I recently finished Nia's Vardalos's book 'Instant Mom', where she shares her story of infertility, including 13 rounds of in vitro, and then various adoption attempts none of which made her a mom and the story of finding her daughter through the foster care system.
Although I am an adoptive mom, I was not brought to adoption because of infertility. But my life was forever changed by the infertility of my parents, which led them to adoption and thankfully to me. My parents showed me what love is and what makes a family. Love does that. Love can form a family where there is no shared DNA. That kind of love changed my world.
I thought about my own parents a lot as Nia (yep...first names now) shared her and her husband, Ian's deep desire to become parents and the pain of that desire not becoming a reality. My parents tried to have a baby for 10 years before turning to adoption. If they were still alive, I would call them right now and thank them for not settling for no as their answer. I would thank them for making calls, talking to people they trusted, and boldly opening the doors that led to them to adopt.
All those disappointments, all that hurt, all that wondering if it will ever happen, led Nia and Ian, to their daughter, who was almost 3 when they met. Sometimes the saddest things lead us to the best things. I hate the thought of my parents' sadness as they tried to start a family, but I am grateful that it lead us to each other.
When I think about my parents and my sons, I know one earth moving truth. If not for adoption, I probably wouldn't have had the pleasure of even knowing them. Because of adoption, we got to be each other's family. We needed each other. We found each other. Pretty cool stuff.
When Nia and Ian's little girl arrived home, it wasn't all sunshine, flowers and happily ever after. It was hard. There was hitting, kicking, insomnia, fear and therapy. There was also awe and big, giant love.
It reminded me so much of when Mikias arrived home, a four year old, Amharic speaking, quick moving, overstimulated, scared little boy. (Jem's homecoming was remarkably calm...hard came later for him.) Oh, you're here. You are really here. You're beautiful. I love you. You're mine. I'm yours. Our lives will never be the same. I am so glad. You're so scared. I'm scared too. I don't know what to do. I am winging this. I love you. I have been waiting for you. There is nothing you could ever do that would make me stop loving you. I am your mom. I am so tired. I didn't know this would be so hard. I didn't know I would love you so much. But I do. Can we sleep for a while? No? Okay.
It is comforting to hearing similar experiences from other adoptive parents.
When I talk with other parents about the early days of bringing home an older child, they often ask me, "How was it for you guys?"
I say, "So hard. So amazing. But so hard."
The reply is always the same, palpable relief, followed by, "Us too."
Then like old friends we share stories, coping tips and relief that it got better and that it was totally worth it.
That's how I felt reading 'Instant Mom'.
For every person who has ever said, "I've always wanted to adopt." Maybe you should. Just maybe. If you don't know where to begin, this book is a great place to start.