First, they smile -- a lot. They laugh. Finally, they take a deep sigh, realizing they will have 24 hours of grown-up woman time with the sisterhood of mothers.
.Mom (pronounced Dot Mom) -- the first event for mothers of all ages sponsored by the LifeWay Women area of LifeWay Christian Resources -- was hosted by Sophie Hudson and Melanie Shankle, both prolific bloggers in the "mom blog" world.
"Sophie and Melanie are known around the country for their blogs," said Melissa Wilson, LifeWay Women event coordinator.
"Sophie's 'BooMama' blog and Melanie's 'big mama' blog are fun and fresh and full of personality, just like they are," Wilson said. "We thought they would be fun people to host the .Mom event, and they were great."
Conference participants were treated to a surprise when the Duggers, the Arkansas family from the TV series "19 Kids and Counting," were welcomed onto the stage.
"They were already in Birmingham , so at the last minute we asked Jim Bob if they would come say hello," Wilson said.
The Duggers were working with Impact Alabama, helping to rebuild homes destroyed by late April's tornadoes.
"They happened to be staying at our hotel," Wilson said, "and since LifeWay already has a relationship with them , we asked them to stop by. We were thrilled when all of the family was able to show up and sing for us. Only Michelle, the mom, and the youngest baby were unable to be there since they were both sick."
Melissa Greene, formerly with the group Avalon, was the conference's worship leader. .Mom's featured speakers included Angela Thomas, Vicki Courtney, Priscilla Shirer and Angie Smith, all popular authors and speakers.
"All these women are well-known to our moms-of-all-ages audience," Wilson said. "They all have written wonderful Bible studies for LifeWay Women. Besides that, they are all moms themselves -- some with very young children and some with adult children -- so they know the world our audience lives in."
Thomas, in her time onstage, said moms have to remember every day is filled with trial and error.
"None of us have this parenting thing down," Thomas said. "But I hope we're just all passing notes around here. I'll share something that has worked for me with you, and you share something that has worked for you with me."
The women chose from dozens of breakout sessions during the Sept. 23-24 gathering on such topics as adoption/infertility issues, raising girls, raising boys, exercise and nutrition, body image and parenting adult children.
A panel of women, each of whom had dealt with infertility, shared stories about the joy of creating their families through adoption.
Heather Platt from Birmingham is a mother of two boys, one adopted and one biological. She and her husband David -- pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham and best-selling author -- are in the process of adopting a girl. She said she was angry when she realized becoming pregnant was going to be extremely difficult for them.
"I think I hosted 18 or 19 baby showers while we were at seminary," Platt said. "I still grieve a little bit, but adoption has been such a blessing for us."
Kris Seidenkranz from Franklin, Tenn., the mother of two adopted children, a boy and a girl, said that while she and her husband were disappointed when they realized they would not have biological children, they have never considered their adopted children "second best."
"These adopted kids are absolutely my first best," Seidenkranz said. "I almost hate to talk about my infertility issues because I know, looking from the other side, adoption is our very best. It's God's perfect design for our family."
Wilson, noting that .Mom was designed for moms of all ages with children of all ages, said, "It was incredible to see three generations from a family -- all moms attending together. We offered speakers and conferences from young moms in their 20s all the way to some great-grandmothers. … Our prayer had been for moms to walk away encouraged, energized and excited about being the mom God has called them to be."
Wilson said next year's .Mom is being planned, Sept. 21-22 in Birmingham. "We learned a lot from the first event, so the 2012 event should be even better," she said. Registration is underway, with early .Mom registrants receiving a discounted rate.
Polly House writes for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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