{dsdn rockin mom’s retreat 2018}

Tears of understanding, laughter, connection, rejuvenation. All words I would use to describe my weekend away for the DSDN Rockin Mom’s Retreat in Phoenix.

I’ll admit. The week of the retreat, I started to get cold feet. I went away a short couple of months ago {she speaks 2018} and while it was an amazing and packed weekend, I still missed my people while I was gone. And, it’s a lot to prepare for a weekend away. Get myself packed and ready to go. Get the kids and house ready for the team of people helping to care for my three girls while I’m away. Cram therapies into the beginning of the week. A pre-op appointment over an hour away from home for Bernadette. That all felt incredibly overwhelming to start. Thankfully, I pushed through and made it onto that airplane to head to Arizona.

I remember that feeling of being nervous and excited so well before attending the NDSC last summer with David and Bernadette. She was so tiny back then, hardly tube-weaned, still considered more medically-fragile after her illness with RSV. I felt anxious going. I didn’t know anyone, but it was a great opportunity I couldn’t pass up and was incredibly excited for. The moment we got there and started meeting people, I just had this instant connection. These families were there because they loved someone so deeply with Down syndrome. I learned so much from other mamas on that trip. I felt as if it were a tribe of people I instantly connected to because of our commonalities.

In a similar way, that’s how I felt the moment I arrived at the airport to meet up with some of the mamas in my area who happened to be on my flight. It was my first time meeting most of them too and I instantly felt welcomed into the group. Our rockin kiddos bringing us all together for a weekend out-of-town and connecting with other rockin mamas.

The resort was even more lovely than the pictures. Upon our arrival, I felt as if I could let out the biggest sigh of relief. I had finally made it, after having had the retreat booked and on the calendar since January. It felt surreal to be there but so wonderful.

The weekend started off with a 5k fun run. And if you know me, you know how I can’t pass up that opportunity! Even if it meant running in the extremely hot weather, at night, in the dark. Trust me, it wasn’t until after the fact that I realized there are creatures out there in the dark we don’t have at home. Had I would have known that prior, maybe I could have reconsidered. It really was the perfect way to start out the weekend. There was such a buzz of excitement in the air as us mamas gathered at the starting line. Yes, I got teary eyed at the start like I often do in races. I think what was going through my mind was the fact that I was actually there, with all of these mamas, our kiddos that we love and adore bringing us altogether. It was magical. 

Friday brought more rockin mamas to the resort and even more excitement as the rest of the events of the weekend got underway. 400 mamas, all gathered together, reconnecting with mamas they have previously met, meeting new ones, and welcoming one another, swapping hugs, and shedding tears.

The first speaker shared her story on Friday evening after dinner. Her words brought tears to my eyes as she encouraged us to share the stories we each have been given. She talked about her experience with her child’s diagnosis and the emotions she experienced following. I found myself relating to so much of what she said and thought back to those early days of Bernadette’s diagnosis and how I felt so alone in my own emotions. Her story encouraged me to keep doing what I’m doing, to keep sharing with others my own story and shout the worth of my beautiful daughter.

The first session on Saturday morning was an amazing panel of moms answering questions from moms attending the retreat. Laughter erupted and tears were shed as we related to their answers and thought to our own struggles or even things that lay ahead. The understanding in the room was thick as I looked around to the other 400 other moms, walking a similar road I was, with the knowing look in their eyes that they get it too.

There were so many good options for breakout sessions on Saturday. I only wish I could have gone to them all instead of having to pick only two. I chose two on writing and blogging. They both felt most pertinent to where I am at as I seek to share our story through these blank pages on my blog and in the social media world. What an encouragement it was to hear how these other moms were using their stories to change the perception of people with Down syndrome.

The rest of the day I spent relaxing with my new mama friends by the pool, in the lazy river. Just chatting and enjoying getting to know each other as we shared stories about our kiddos. It’s funny that it took me a weekend away to finally connect with them. How hard it is sometimes to take time out of the endless therapies and appointments to make time to connect with others.

The night ended with Mom’s Night Out. It was a great excuse to dress up, put on makeup, and head “out” for a night of fun and dancing. The best part was, it was still at the resort. I didn’t have to go far after I got ready. Midnight came all too quickly as I went back up to room to pack my bags.

Sunday morning rolled around far too fast. I felt so grateful as I made my way back to the airport with the other moms to get back to all of our littles. There were so many new connections made, so much laugher, and tears of understanding. There was refreshment and relaxation. All of it felt like exactly what this mama needed.

I arrived home with a full heart, ready to head into the crazy week ahead. The DSDN is such an amazing organization and I am so thankful I had the opportunity to attend this year’s Rockin Mom’s Retreat.

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