Once Upon a Babymoon
No poolside margaritas or ceviche. No hot tubs or saunas. No horseback riding or waterskiing. Still, taking some time out as a couple before the baby arrives may turn out to be the vacation of a lifetime. It was for us.
I had never heard of a babymoon before, but in my fifth month of pregnancy, when it seemed we were really and truly on our way to parenthood (two miscarriages had made us cautious), I began to fantasize about one last fling with my husband.
We needed it. Everything about pregnancy and babies evolved into a research project—from childbirth classes to the cloth-versus-disposables debate. My head filled with to-do lists, to-buy lists, and to-read lists. As I looked for a suitable place for a getaway, I visualized the best milieu for my expanding belly. Living in landlocked Colorado, I longed for water and to feel oh-so-pregnant belly weightless and fluid. Massage and beauty treatments would, of course, be welcome too. Good food was nonnegotiable, as second trimester hunger surges had replaced the first few months of nausea. And the final coup de grâce? A touch of romance to look back on when our lives became dominated by burps, bowel movements, and sleep deprivation.
In the midst of exploring locales via the Internet, a distant pocket of my mind recalled the perfect search term: babymoon. I must have read about it in one of those dauntingly cheery pregnancy magazines I browsed through while waiting for yet another OB/GYN appointment. Google brought up babymoonfinder.com, a site that included more than 100 babymoon packages. Some of these packages, which sport names such as “The Last Hurrah,” offer belly casting—a plaster of Paris cast made of the mother’s belly—childbirth classes for both parents, and even a special late-night-cravings menu for the mom-to-be. The trend reflects an idea whose time has come: A 2005 survey by Liberty Travel and the online parenting resource BabyCenter found 59 percent of new parents have babymooned. For parents coached in the importance of date nights, a pre-baby vacation makes perfect sense, and many couples, who have postponed starting families till later in life, have the financial means to really splurge.
Renowned childbirth educator and author Sheila Kitzinger is attributed with coining the term babymoon in her book The Year After Childbirth (Fireside, 1996). But as one of the babymoon’s founding mothers, Stacy Denney, creator of the spa Barefoot & Pregnant, explains, couples have been taking that one-last trip before impending parenthood for a long time. In recent years the concept has taken off. She started the first maternity spa in the US in 2003 and a year later created packages for out-of-towners. She came up with the idea after her pregnant sisters and friends complained there were no spas that catered specifically to them.
“We wanted to make sure that we were focusing solely on pregnant women and that everyone involved, including the staff and receptionists, had the ability to understand the psychological, physical, and emotional process that a pregnant woman goes through,” says Denney.
For Melvin and Alana Holloway of Houston, Texas, the idea to take a babymoon came from watching Oprah. Melvin loved the idea of his wife getting some prenatal pampering and organized the whole trip at Barefoot & Pregnant. “In the middle of getting the room painted and furniture ordered, this gave us a chance to get away from everything,” says Melvin. “The babymoon allowed us to spend quality time together and strengthened our relationship.” Although he focused on booking treatments for his wife, Melvin surprised himself by getting hooked on massages himself, despite the fact that pre-babymoon, he considered himself somewhat massage averse.
For Alana, the experience bordered on revelation. “I recommend it to all our [pregnant] friends,” she says. “Every pregnant woman should experience it—there’s no spa in Houston that just pampers pregnant women. It’s the perfect release for all the stress and anxiety you have during pregnancy.”
After sorting through the numerous babymoon choices (see the “Prenatal Massage Pointers” sidebar), I picked Las Ventanas, a resort in Cabos, Mexico, known for its decadent but oh-so-discreet hedonism and mesmerizing infinity pool. We booked ourselves in their new spa suites—3,800 square feet (double the size of our house!)—for three nights. We embarked on our trip when I was just seven months along, still OK to travel but when the craving for coddling was strong.
I bought myself an olive green tankini that flattered my swelling bump, got my legs waxed, and read up on dolphin therapy. We planned to augment our babymoon by checking out Cabos’ dolphinarium, where we could swim, play, and even ride on dolphins. When I called to make sure it was OK for pregnant women, the spokesperson assured me that the dolphins could often sense pregnancy and usually responded by being extra protective. (However, they don’t recommend the dolphin program to women in their first or third trimester.) I couldn’t resist the idea that our baby would have the chance to commune with dolphins—we welcomed every opportunity for him to be exposed to healing pulses, wavelengths, and sonar rhythms.
Everything at Las Ventanas seemed designed to seduce the senses, from the choice of three different kinds of salt to season our dinner (French, English, and Nepalese) to the menu of aromatherapy turndowns at bedtime. As the days unfolded, the babymoon worked its magic on both of us. Each day, I had a pampering session—one day a manicure, another day, a prenatal training session, and the third day, an ayurvedic in-suite massage. The treatments served as garnish—what mattered most, in the end, was how incredibly taken care of we felt. The babymoon was more than just a vanity weekend. The staff at Las Ventanas, according to their director Andres Araya, “wanted to help couples celebrate one of the most beautiful times in their lives, to create a meaningful memory.”
Although it might sound odd, this relaxation was also great for the baby. As Kolakowski says, “The mother’s state during pregnancy is the baby’s state—the baby shares the deep relaxation of the mother.” Numerous studies have shown that massage even has a positive effect on the neonatal outcome, such as fewer incidences of prematurity and low birth weight.
But ultimately the most tangible reward was how our stay at Las Ventanas affected our relationship. We no longer needed to discuss who made dinner and who would clean up and when—probably one of our relationship’s biggest killjoys. As we went about savoring our meals, the stars, and the décor, we also remembered to savor each other. The transactional subtext between us disappeared, and who we were, when unclouded by petty grievances and expectations, could flourish. Ah, this was the man I loved, the one who delighted in singing bowls, passion fruit sorbet, and the rings of Jupiter.
Needless to say, my husband and I have become babymoon fans and wholeheartedly recommend taking the time to book one. Whether you create one yourself or choose from the scores of packages available, you’ll no doubt agree that a well-thought-out babymoon can offer you a chance to celebrate how two becomes three, and how the ability to enjoy the present can lead you to a joyful future.
Elizabeth Marglin is an associate editor at Alternative Medicine who recently gave birth to a son named Jordan.