It really was the perfect day. We took a lazy drive through wine country, ate a cheese plate at every meal, stopped at an independent bookstore to pick up the new David Sedaris book and then cuddled in bed with a bucket filled of truffle flavored popcorn and a movie marathon featuring Ryans Gosling and Reynolds.
And my husband, Nick, was hundreds of miles away.
I’d mentioned the idea of having separate babymoons to Nick, a couple of months earlier.
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“I hate the word babymoon,” Nick said. “It’s ridiculous.”
“Well, what about a man adventure? Would you like to go on a man adventure?”
“That’s still pretty bad.”
I’d gotten this nutty idea in my head while on book tour for my latest book, How to Be Married. One of the pieces of advice I talked about in the book was the importance of traveling without your spouse in order to maintain your independence and to remember how much you miss them when they’re gone. I felt like we needed to practice what I’d been preaching. For the first time in our marriage, with me eight months pregnant, neither Nick nor I had any trips planned without the other. We hardly had any trips planned at all. That’s why I decided that we needed to take separate babymoons before we spent the next 18 years trying to keep a child alive.
It would be one last hurrah doing the kinds of things each of us liked to do, the kinds of things the other wasn’t particularly fond of. Nick hates pool lounging and spa-going. He can’t sit still for more than five minutes. I will happily lay by a pool and read an entire novel in one sitting. He loves camping. I tolerate sleeping outdoors.
Nick headed south from San Francisco with seven dudes from various stages of his life for a camping and kayaking adventure in the wilderness of the Channel Islands.
When people asked him about the trip he would shrug and say, “My pregnant wife said to get the guys and get out of town.” The response of every man he talked to? “Your wife sounds amazing.”
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My best girlfriend from college flew in from Nashville to join me for a relaxing spa weekend at the Calistoga Ranch — home of truffle popcorn and private lodges with personal hot tubs where no one would gawk at my tummy or ask me if I was having twins — in Napa.
The few women I’d told about taking separate babymoons looked at me like I was crazy, or perhaps on the verge of a divorce. So, before I left I asked an actual marriage expert if she thought what we were doing made sense. I got in touch with Alexandra Solomon, PhD, a clinical psychologist, the professor of the wildly popular Northwestern University class Marriage 101 and the author of the book Loving Bravely.
“I am all in favor of couples taking separate babymoons,” she said right off the bat. “Marriage is always a mixture of togetherness and separateness. There is a me, there is a you, and there is a we. All three need attention. The happiest marriages are the ones made up of two people who know what ignites their unique fires and who carve out time and space to pursue their unique passions.”
During my solo babymoon weekend, at 37 weeks pregnant, hobbled by regular Braxton Hicks contractions and larger than I’d ever been in my entire life, my unique passions involved day tripping from the Macrostie vineyard in Sonoma to the Stag’s Leap winery in Napa and having an ice cream sandwich for dinner while I spent more one-on-one time with my best girlfriend than I had in years. A few people mistook us for a pair of lesbian moms on a proper babymoon. One guy hit on me in the pool using the line, “Is that David Sedaris book any good?” before my enormous belly floated to the surface like the Loch Ness monster peaking out of the water to say hello.
Meanwhile, Nick hiked to the top of a small mountain, kayaked around an island, and battled it out with petite grey island foxes who tried to steal his dinner from his campfire two nights in a row.
It was indulgent on both of our parts. We each spent three days doing the things we loved without the other person. Even though the whole thing was my idea, I couldn’t help but wonder: How was this going to make us better parents? Solomon assured me that taking solo vacations pre-baby was an actual good thing for our relationship post-baby and that good things for our relationship were good for the baby.
“The transition to parenthood is hands down the most discontinuous transition that a couple ever makes, meaning that life before the arrival of baby and life after the arrival of baby look dramatically different,” Solomon explained. “Each parent undergoes a massive reorganization of their own identity and the marriage undergoes a seismic shift as well. This transition is eased for couples who are able to fall back on the stability of the ‘we.’ Separate babymoons may help you fill your individual buckets so that you enter this phase of profound we-ness with greater generosity of spirit and deeper empathy for each other.”
In the nine months of my pregnancy both Nick and I had gotten a little lost in the minutiae of making a small human — the doctor appointments, the nursery preparation, the childbirth classes, the strange stuff already coming out of my nipples. We were both exhausted and a little burnt out on planning for baby.
Taking the time apart let us re-group and remember who we both were before we decided to take this gigantic step into the unknown. For three days neither of us felt like expecting parents. We just felt like us again, and that was completely magical.
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