Far and Wide is the Cut’s practical and fantastical series about exploring.
The worst part of going on a babymoon is saying the word out loud. You’ll be forced to eventually, even if you stand in front of the mirror with clenched fists and practice, in your least defensive voice: “It’s not a babymoon; it’s simply a trip. We’re just two people going on vacation and one of us is pregnant!”
That might work in your head, but before a jury of your peers? “We, uh, we’re going to [California, Portugal, Japan] next week,” you might try, gamely, over brunch.
“Really, what for?”
“Oh … just to go. Just a little trip. You know, before the baby comes.”
Take a sip from your iced tea and make quick eye contact, like you’re daring them to defy you. You can try flipping through the menu and changing the subject, but if you look up you’ll see the shit-eating grin spreading across the face of at least one of your dining companions. Let the sigh escape just as she slaps the table: “YOU’RE GOING ON A BABYMOON!”
Roll your eyes but do it with a little half-smile, otherwise you’ll really be in for it. Take your punishment.
“Wellllll. Okay fine. We’re going on a BABYMOON.” (A babymoon is almost always said in all caps, and with an air of resignation.)
“What the hell is a babymoon?” your one friend who’s never read Cup of Jo might say.
Now is the time to sit back, put your hands on your cartoon stomach, and let the embarrassment wash over you. Leave it to your friends to derisively school each other on the intricacies of this relatively recent phenomenon.
“You know, like a honeymoon? But where you go on a vacation with your partner, to spend time with each other before the baby comes.”
“Except instead of a new beginning celebrating romance or whatever, it’s a last gasp,” you could offer, dryly.
You can shrug and act apologetic and make jokes all you want, but remember this: You can’t have a baby ironically, and you can’t go on a last-ditch vacation at a critical remove. Like it or not, reproduction is hopeful and earnest and excruciatingly vulnerable. The least you can do is enjoy yourself. Go on a trip! Go somewhere you’ve always wanted to go but seemed a little too goofy or indulgent.
It’s fine. You don’t need or deserve anyone’s approval. You’re pregnant, which means you’re already acquainted with choosing ineffable biological desire over self-presentation or even rational decision-making. You’re standing on the edge of the great unknown and you can’t seem to figure out whether you should be trying to enjoy what time you have left with your old life, or immersing yourself in baby preparation, in all the (mostly unnecessary) pregnancy rituals, which are as stressful as they are nice (the baby shower, the “belly” photos, the goddamn “gender reveal,” the prenatal yoga, the nursery decoration, the ultrasound photos posted to Facebook).
It’s all so easy to dismiss. Is the word “babymoon” a late-capitalist invention dreamed up (albeit ingeniously) by the travel industry in, as far as I can tell, the more innocent era of the early aughts? Yes. Is it corny as hell? Yes. Does it trigger our internalized misogyny and make us think of mommy bloggers and people who are paid to stay in resorts and then post photos of their vacations online? Yes. Do we like to fancy ourselves “not one of those people”? Sure, sure. Of course! Who doesn’t?
And yet! The babymoon — terminology aside — is arguably one of the few pregnancy-related quasi-obligations that is fundamentally pleasurable and, arguably, worthwhile. It is a vacation. A vacation transcends embarrassing industry trends. Ask your nonpregnant travel companion to make all the arrangements. It’s only fair. Go somewhere cozy and cooler if you’re pregnant during the summer, and warm if it’s winter. When I went to Mexico at 32 weeks pregnant, it was mid-March and already getting nice out in New York. I asked my best friend to comment “Wow, it sure is chilly here, if only I were in Mexico!” on all of my Instagram photos, which she did, and which gave me a moment’s smugness before I remembered it was all a joke.
Go while you still have days off to spare and disposable income (if you do). Go to Iceland even though it seems like everyone in your social circle has been in Iceland at all times for the past decade. Iceland is strange and beautiful enough that it exists outside the realm of coolness. That makes it a perfect match for the BABYMOON, which is all about being corny and pleasure-seeking in the face of impending doom. Other perfect places: VERMONT. BIG SUR. PARIS.
Pause, for a moment, and double-check the Centers for Disease Control’s Zika travel advisory map, if you don’t already have it memorized.
Take a babymoon somewhere nearby and easy to get to, if that’s what’s appealing. Either way, research the nearest hospitals to soothe yourself and vow ahead of time to load up on snacks.
If you’re feeling masochistic, spend a few evenings browsing the babymoon packages at hotels around the country, full of semi-humiliating promises of “pampering,” and couples’ massages, and snacks (mostly truffled chocolates). Mellow Mommy in Sonoma County will teach you the art of relaxation (spoiler: the art is a massage). Bundle of Joy at the Westin in Phoenix boasts a 24-hour “Cravings” Chef Service. Read these out loud to whoever’s within earshot and laugh. Or sign up for them unabashedly — it’s unlike you, but then again you’re about to become a different person. A parent. Or maybe you’ll stay relatively the same, but will eventually care less about phrases like “mellow mommy.” Just a few months ago, remember, the very word “mommy” sent shivers up your spine.
Go on a babymoon and sit in front of a fire and read a bunch of novels, a little afraid you may never read a novel again. Or go swim at the beach and freak out, feeling like a sort of human Matryoshka doll, your body floating in the water and a fetus floating in the water in your body. Either way, go somewhere where there is nothing much to do, aside from reclining in various side-lying positions and trying to wrap your head around what’s about to happen to you. (Another person! Another person is about to happen. To you.)
Go on a babymoon, not because it’s not-embarrassing, or because it’s another damn thing you’re supposed to do. Go because you want to, if you want to. Do it because this is big, and it’s happening to you — in you. Sit in the sun somewhere and think about what’s happening without rushing to your laptop to read stroller reviews in a fugue state. (Don’t bring your laptop on a babymoon.) Or just sit anywhere. Let someone take photos of you pregnant, which you hate, but know you’ll want later. Thirty weeks pregnant, and you think you’re huge — to everyone else, it just looks like you don’t have a waist. Go on your trip and enjoy your giant tits and your decent excuse to fall asleep at 9 p.m. Get up to piss a million times a night and on one of those wakings, go stand on your balcony and watch the sun rise. And think about how maybe it won’t be so bad, you know, to wake up at 5 a.m. because of a screaming baby. Ha. Ha. Like maybe this is what you needed? To become a morning person? A person with time-management skills. Some kind of push, a kick in the ass.
Eat and eat and eat and eat. Order a lot of random smoothies that cost too much money to make up for the fact that you can’t drink. Scowl. Insist that your partner get something with rum in a coconut, despite their protests, and despite the fact that you will actively resent them for it. Make them be the chump who asks if the cheese is, “uh, pasteurized?” Look into outer space while they say it, with a little eyebrow raise, like, “Yeah, I dunno why he’s like this,” (but also don’t believe anybody, even when they say the cheese is okay).
Do not go snorkeling in a bat cave, not to get too specific, but you don’t have to prove anything to anyone and you might have a panic attack.
Go for walks in comfortable shoes and hold hands and think about how your body is a runaway train. Or maybe the baby is the train, and your body is a … tunnel? A too-small tunnel that the train is going to pummel through. Cringe and wince but close your eyes and try to enjoy the breeze and your nonalcoholic smoothie. You’re on your goddamn babymoon, remember? It’s supposed to be fun.