It is hard to believe that BirthMom Buds has been hosting retreats for 10 whole years now! I, for one, am very grateful for the presence this group of women have had in my years as a birthmom, thanks to the founders Coley and Leilani. The theme for this year’s retreat was a celebration and it truly was a celebration during the retreat. We celebrated our founder's friendship that lead to so many other friendships forming and, of course, the love we have for our children that bonds us as birthmothers.
The retreat itself started on Friday, but there were a bunch of us who arrived through out the day on Thursday to meet and greet each other and get acquainted with Charlotte before the activities started happening. The weather upon arriving was gorgeous, perfect for our get together. Thursday is always pretty low key, so upon the suggestion of Melanie, we decided to have dinner at a lovely restaurant called Dish. The food was amazing, and the setting was very homey. Perfect! Afterwards, most of us capped off the night with a trip to the Melting Pot for some chocolatey goodness!
Friday morning was pretty relaxed as well. Since our festivities didn't kick off till later in the day, a few of us went to get manicures or pedicures, while others opted to get massages. We all pretty much did our own thing in little groups until the Pajama Party Mxer. The food, which was delicious, was provided by The Hilton where we were all dressed up in our pajamas for the pajama party. We had a selection of meatballs, egg rolls, cheeses, fruits and more. Delicious! When we were done eating, we were pleasantly surprised by an adorable dance intro by Lani and Coley (mimicking how Ellen dances into each show) followed by an even cuter Hashtag skit Jimmy Fallon style! (This is the year of the hashtag after all!)
After the skit we played really fun, quirky games. My favorite was How to Spell Your Name...With Your Butt. It was hilarious and really fun for those of us, like myself, who have absolutely no dance skills. We also checked to see what we all had in our purses, and played a fun game seeing what we could remember about another person when we were back to back. We also had some yummy cupcakes once again provided by Gigi's. Yum!
After that, we all got changed and did different things for the night. I, personally, went swimming with a few friends and then we finished the night getting some munchies at Buffalo Wild Wings.
Saturday we had an early start on the busiest day of the retreat. Walking into the room, I saw that it was decorated with fun hot pink, orange, and yellow party decorations for the occasion. As usual, the handmade center pieces and fun touches didn't go unnoticed! Throughout the day we enjoyed hearing the fun facts on Coley and Lani's friendship, how BirthMom Buds and the retreats came to be, how their logo was designed, and the Bible verse that lead their vision: Ecclesiastes 4:0-10.
After our early morning welcome, we split into our always awesome breakout sessions. I (Leah) lead one on Coping with Grief and Anxiety, while Amanda A. lead a session downstairs about How to Cope with an Adoption that Suddenly Changes. During the second session, Amy S. lead a group Navigating Relationships as a Birthmom while Terri G. spoke about Boundaries as a Birthmom.
Then it was my personal favorite time of the day: craft time! This year we made birthday date books using a page for each month to remember special birthdays. Each month was already printed with lines on photo paper and hooked together with a ring; our challenge was to decorate the plain cardboard front and backs! For some, decorating came easily and for others it was a challenge indeed, but they all turned out beautiful and will be useful.
Our lunch was a delicious meal of grilled chicken, steamed vegetables, pasta salad, garden salad, fresh potato chips, and sandwiches. The cake provided by Desserts byDebolt was phenomenal. I had the carrot cake and it was the best I have ever had! After stuffing our bellies and mingling with our new and old friends, we headed outside for the annual balloon release. We each had written a note to our child, or for whomever we felt the need to send a message up into the sky for, and tied our pieces of paper to the string. After a prayer lead by Lani, we released them to go wherever they go. It is always a touching moment for many ladies attending!
Once back inside it was time to settle in as we were surprised with guest speaker Patti Hawn (Goldie Hawn's sister!), who is a birthmom who placed back in the 1950's when it was a very closed and hush-hush era for adoption. She spoke of her reunion with her birthson 40 years later and has written a book based on her experiences called, “Good Girls Don't,” of which she read several moving passages from as she told her story. We then were able to ask questions and get to know her heart more, as well as get signatures and take pictures with her!
Next, we heard more from Coley and Lani as they spoke of how their friendship began and how it has lead us to today. The monologue they did of how they first reached out and met over the internet was heart-rending and I know we could all relate to their loneliness that sparked their bond. It was wonderful to hear the behind the scenes of Birthmom Buds and their friendship!
Following that excitement, we watched the 2014 Slideshow and then had the candlelight ceremony. As each woman lit the candle of the woman next to them and said a word in honor of their child, it lit the darkness of the room and the darkness within our hearts that many of us face. Those traditions can be filled with emotional moments, and that certainly was true for me this year. It is so good to know, and see, that we are not alone!
After a few hours break, whether to nap or have some one-on-one chat time back in the hotel rooms, we had dinner at BlackFinn as we did in 2013. Once again, it was wonderful food and company!
Each year the group grows in size at the retreats, it is amazing to think of how many lives BirthMom Buds has touched over the last 10 years. I look forward to another 10 plus years of BirthMom Buds Retreats.