Nia Vardalos on Her Emotional Journey to Adopt Her Daughter – and Why It Delayed My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

The My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 star reveals her struggle to become a mom delayed the sequel

After finding incredible success with her box office hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding in 2002, Nia Vardalos couldn’t wait to make another one of her dreams come true: becoming a mom.

Unfortunately, Vardalos’ road to motherhood took much longer than she ever expected.

“It was a sad process for me to become a mom and a long process,” Vardalos tells PEOPLE.

The actress and her husband, former Cougar Town star Ian Gomez, 51, tried for years to have a child. But after 13 failed IVF treatments, unsuccessful surrogate attempts and several miscarriages, the couple realized having a child was not going to happen as they had hoped.

“I felt so embarrassed that I couldn’t have a biological child,” Vardalos, 53, tells PEOPLE.

Nia Vardalos

She also admits this was the main reason for the 14-year wait for the follow-up to My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which she wrote and produced.

At the end of the original comedy, she had written that her character had become a mother. Yet, without having the real-life experience, she felt she couldn’t write the role authentically.

“I wouldn’t know the emotions of what to write. I just said, ‘I can’t do it,’ ” she says.

But Vardalos never gave up and found her solution by turning to the American foster-care system. In 2008, after more than nine years of struggling to become parents, she and Gomez got a call they’d been matched with a 3-year-old girl.

Nia Vardalos

Today, the couple’s 10-year-old daughter, Ilaria, is the joy of their lives and Vardalos couldn’t be happier about being a mom.

“I am so grateful and can’t imagine my life without her.”

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 hits theaters March 25.

For more on My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 and Vardalos’ personal journey to motherhood, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

— Mia McNiece

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