MommyCon Memphis 2014 Recap

Last weekend I drove over 1600 miles within 2 ½ days, while 31 weeks pregnant, with a 22 month old in the back seat. My husband came with me but couldn’t share in the driving (I drive a stick, and it wasn’t exactly a good time to teach him) and since I’m expecting I couldn’t caffeinate myself the way I normally would on a road trip. Somehow I managed to get us there and back in one piece, and I have to say it was completely worth it.  If you’re looking into attending future dates look at their schedule on the website or follow them on Facebook for real-time location announcements.  

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I hit the road to reach Memphis, Tennessee, the closest city to me that hosted MommyCon this year. I’d never been to MommyCon before, and I knew the various conventions I had attended (DragonCon, SuperCon, MetroCon, etc) were not going to prepare me in any way. I heard about it from some friends I met online a couple years ago who had babies the same month my daughter was born, we’d bonded over mutual experiences and keep in touch daily. They were attending in other cities earlier this year, and told me what a fun and eye opening experience it is.

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This convention brings together parents and parents-to-be in an incredible whirlwind of educational panels, entertaining playgroup sessions, and rooms full of vendors offering the best and brightest in the family/natural parenting market. Every attendee receives a reusable shopping bag filled with all kinds of swag, including full size products and samples as well as coupons and literature relative to what they’ll encounter at the event.

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My excitement grew as I read up on some of the speakers expected, including Jamie Grayson of TheBabyGuyNYC, Jessica Martin-Weber of The Leaky Boob, Bunmi Laditan of The Honest Toddler, and Jennifer Labit of Cotton Babies among many other fascinating guests. I missed out on the VIP sessions (special add-ons that cost a little extra but allow an exclusive play date with one of the speakers for a very small group of lucky attendees including a themed gift bag with loads of pricey merch hand picked based on the theme) since they sold out within hours and I missed the announcement email while I was at work. Hopefully next year I’ll be quicker on the draw. The VIP sessions at Memphis this year included the Expectant Parent VIP with TheBabyGuyNYC, the Babywearing VIP with Beco and Ergobaby, the Motherlove VIP with The Leaky Boob, and the Mighty Morning VIP with Honest Toddler.

One thing I noticed right away when I arrived Saturday morning was how well I fit in with this crowd. Nearly everyone was babywearing, I saw hundreds of babies in cloth diapers, people of every age wearing Baltic amber, breastfeeding (not just in the plush lounge filled with comfy club chairs, couches, nursing pillows, toys, and lactation cookies from Milkin Cookies, but all over the event, with no raised eyebrows or looks of apprehension… These are my people!) and the parents in attendance just looked so happy to be there. Throughout the day strangers would approach me to ask a question or comment on my wrap/child/bump/etc and within moments we would be chatting like old friends.

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I was introduced to some newer companies I hadn’t heard of before, and was really excited to learn about some products on the market now that just weren’t available when I was pregnant with Harper. I attended most of the panels and learned a lot (and laughed a lot, especially when Bunmi read from her hilarious book The Honest Toddler). I made some new friends and found some fantastic deals, I even got to pick up a Marie print bumGenius diaper for Harper from Over The Moon just two days after they were announced online! We’re at the beach so often I had to have a mermaid print diaper for her, I couldn’t resist. And the girls at Over The Moon are so nice, and I even got a sweet little woven bag full of samples with my purchase! It’s so rare to get to buy in person from retailers like that, with such amazing modern and natural parenting products, it was fantastic to have a chance to do so!

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Jennifer’s panel on cloth diapers was really fun and interesting. I love that I can learn as much as I have about cloth diapers and still have a good time and learn something new! She spoke a lot about how important cloth diapers are, not just for the environment and your baby’s skin, but also for families on a budget. My favorite moment was when she stated point blank “A diaper is something waterproof covering something absorbent. That’s all there is to it. If you need to, you can cut a triangle out of a shower curtain and line it with a dishcloth. What’s important is that your baby is in a clean diaper and you can still afford to pay your bills.” Having heard (and said) similar many times, it was surprising and endearing to hear someone with such a popular and profitable company speak so frankly about the truth of the matter. We’re here for our babies, and we want what’s best for them (including paying the electric bill).

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I also got to attend a really fun Babywearing 101 lesson where I saw many of my favorite carriers being demonstrated (pictured here is a Catbird Baby mei tai, which I’ll be sharing a review on next week!) so parents can see how babies can be accommodated in different carries and at varying sizes/ages.

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Jamie presented a panel called “Don’t Buy Things That Suck” and he was so funny and sweet and seemed genuinely surprised when the room filled to capacity with mothers sitting on the floor and toddlers absolutely everywhere. He even tossed Angry Baby into the crowd of little ones, playfully shouting “Here, play with this!” as though he were offering a dog a bone. An adorable but very assertive toddler named Lorelai quickly took ownership of the famous doll, and kept him by her side until nearly the end of the panel (though she did allow him to be shared a few times, thanks to her sweet, attentive and very patient mother keeping a close eye on her).

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While the show itself was a whirlwind and quite memorable, the goodies I brought home made it all the sweeter. I won a gift bag from Cotton Babies as well as some lovely organic pregnancy and baby products from Motherlove that will prove invaluable in the coming months (both were won as a result of being pregnant and due fairly soon, many prizes were awarded based on need/interest which I considered to be very thoughtful). I also love the goodies that were in our swag bags. I’ve been told that many bags held different items, but ours each held a teething necklace from Zen Rocks, Sage Spoonfuls BPA free snack jars (perfect for making your own baby food, storing breast milk, and bringing snacks in your diaper bag, it’s freezer, microwave, and dishwasher safe), Babyganics alcohol free hand sanitizer, Molly’s Suds detergent, and loads more.

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I think the most valuable thing about MommyCon is that many of the parents or soon-to-be parents attending the event may not know about all the wonderful modern and natural products currently available. After all, many of these retailers are not something you’ll find at a big box store. And much of what I love the most I only know about through word-of-mouth, talking to other mothers and seeing what they find most helpful. Bringing parents together, giving them a chance to connect, and teaching them about so many sanity saving options and natural alternatives is a huge bonus to any overwhelmed or nervous mom or dad. I had an amazing time and am looking forward to attending a MommyCon event next year.  (Editor’s note: as a blogger Lara was able to attend for free at this event but was planning to buy a ticket, she lucked out!)

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