What is a babymoon? Experts weigh in on when — and where — couples should go on a pre-baby getaway
We often use travel to mark special occasions. The most common example, the honeymoon, is the first trip a couple takes together after they've tied the knot. Bachelor and bachelorette vacations, a growing trend, mark the last trip a person will take with their friends as a single person. And then, there's the babymoon.
We take trips to celebrate milestone birthdays, graduations and retirements: We'll come up with almost any reason to take a well-deserved and long-awaited vacation. But what about having a baby? The babymoon trend — the last vacation a couple will take before becoming parents — has been around for about a decade, yet couples still wonder whether it's worth it.
Kim Van Dusen, a licensed marriage and family therapist and host of the Parentologist podcast says, "there's an emotional and mental shift that takes place when a couple becomes parents."
"Going on a babymoon can help emotionally solidify a couple's relationship." Van Dusen tells Yahoo Life, adding that, when a couple feels emotionally secure with each other, they view each other as a team and get the sense they can handle anything together.
Why take a babymoon?
When I got pregnant, I found myself growing increasingly anxious that my relationship with my husband would change. If I'm being honest, I was terrified our marriage would dissolve entirely. After 15 years as a couple, our relationship had always been about the two of us: realizing our dreams, taking big adventures, working on our careers and celebrating personal and professional wins.
As parents, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew is I wanted to spend as much time as possible with my husband as a couple before we brought a new — and completely helpless — stranger into our day-to-day lives.
What I felt, Van Dusen says, is a type of grief. "[Couples] may mourn the relationship the way it was before the baby," she says. "They may work through steps like denial or even anger before working toward acceptance of their new life stage. Some feel like they're giving up independence, freedom and the relationship the way it was before the baby."
"Couples essentially add an identity when having a baby," she adds. "They're not just a couple anymore, but a family."
The month before I found out I was pregnant, we lost my husband's father to cancer. The whirlwind of his death — trips to the hospital, planning the funeral, executing his last wishes — was supplanted by the whirlwind of pregnancy: doctor's appointments, registries, endless researching and the cravings and exhaustion of the first trimester.
Between all the concurrent personal grief and elation, our demanding jobs never stopped. We barely had time to connect, which sent me even further into Van Dusen's grief spiral over our impending role changes. Would "us" ever be the same again?
Spending those precious, waning moments with my husband — where we could just let it all fall by the wayside, have some fun, be in a new place, meet interesting people and eat amazing food — was non-negotiable.
According to Van Dusen, it's not just moms who have these concerns. "I typically notice fathers in particular having a sense of loss when a baby is born," she says, "especially when the mother may start paying more attention to the baby's needs than their partner's needs." Because mothers often take the primary role in childcare, dads may often find themselves left out and emotionally unattached to their partner before finding their footing as a partner and father.
Deciding on one last vacation together before becoming parents, disconnecting from work (and even technology, if you can stand it) and just focusing on each other as partners and lovers, can help.
Planning your babymoon: Where to go, what to do and how to connect
When we talked about our perfect babymoon, I had a tropical location in mind where a butler would bring me endless virgin piña coladas and I could float my gigantic pregnant self in a refreshing pool surrounded by swaying palms and singing birds for hours. Luckily, my husband had the same vision.
Van Dusen suggests spending lots of time on your babymoon focusing on physical touch, tactile stimulation and sensory integration to ignite or reignite your spark and intimacy as a couple. "Sexual intimacy tends to change quite significantly for many couples after a baby is born," she says, "so focusing on physical and sexual intimacy during a babymoon should be of top priority."
Obviously, getting busy in a plush hotel bed or a shower built for two was also on our list. Doctor's orders.
Where we went: We booked a trip for my sixth month of pregnancy — while I still had that second-trimester energy to burn — to the boutique hotel Casa Velas, an adults-only escape in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Our room's balcony, which sported a private plunge pool overlooking the main pool area with a swim-up bar and plenty of tucked-away cabanas for canoodling, overflowed with colorful bougainvillea flowers. Far from the crowds and cruise ships of the city center, Casa Velas felt like a secluded romantic enclave, exactly right for a quiet long-weekend of relaxation.
What we did: Our usual vacations are jam-packed with museum visits, hikes, boat trips, cooking classes, wine-tasting and cultural events from dawn until dusk, but this time, it was all about relaxation and connection.
The best time to go on your babymoon is between your fourth and sixth month of pregnancy. In the first trimester, you'll most likely hate everything you eat, so if you're a foodie, save your trip until the fourth or fifth month of pregnancy. By your third trimester, you'll likely be so uncomfortable, tired and hot that most activity will wear you out quickly.
Instead of a snorkeling excursion, we opted for a day trip to the laid-back, charming, artsy beach town of Sayulita, where we strolled the streets, popped into artisan shops and jewelry stores, feasted on fresh octopus tostadas and shoveled more guacamole into our faces than we could handle. We walked along the gold-flecked black-sand beach and watched as dogs and kids hopped over the waves.
We booked a couples massage, and since my prenatal version came with a restorative facial, my husband simply took a post-massage nap on the table next to me, snoring softly while my face got exfoliated, cleansed and moisturized. Relaxation achieved.
What we ate: One morning, we spent a leisurely breakfast that melted effortlessly into lunchtime at the hotel's acclaimed restaurant Emiliano, where my husband enjoyed trips to the well-stocked buffet and I ordered my go-to mid-morning dish when in Mexico: chilaquiles divorciados — tortilla chips covered in both red and green salsa and topped with shredded chicken, cotija cheese and a sunny-side-up egg.
One of the bartenders even brought me a michelada (my favorite Mexican cocktail) made with Heineken 0.0% non-alcoholic beer while my husband enjoyed his umpteenth piña colada with rum floater. Adios, cocktail FOMO.
Since food poisoning is of greater concern than usual while pregnant, good practice is to stick to your hotel or resort restaurants instead of hole-in-the-wall spots. They're held to higher sanitation standards. If you choose to visit a country where the water quality is questionable, bring bottled water wherever you go and avoid ice in your beverages when possible, especially outside your hotel.
Our evenings were filled with live music, fresh seafood pasta, surf and turf and romantic tete-a-tetes, including a private dinner at the hotel's Tau Beach Club overlooking twinkling lights and neon party boats in the Bay of Banderas, where from October through March you can watch the humpback whale migration while lounging at the pool or in a cabana on the sand.
Van Dusen says this sounds exactly like what couples should aim for on their babymoon. "I recommend completely unplugging and living intentionally in the moment while [on your babymoon]," she says.
Bring your babymoon home to stay connected to your spouse
"When you get home," says Van Dusen, "I suggest sprinkling some memorable moments from the trip in conversation to relive your special time together, which will continually remind you of your love and bond."
I often think about how fabulous it felt to hold my husband's hand while on a taxi ride, feeling his arm around me and a kiss on my temple as we walked on the beach in Sayulita, how it felt to laugh with him, take so many selfies and reminisce about our previous adventures and dream about the ones we'll take with our daughter.
Van Dusen counsels, "When a couple is on a babymoon, they can intentionally and mindfully focus on each other. They can talk about their fears, their emotions and their hopes for each other, their family and their future." She says communication alone helps strengthen a bond between a couple: When each partner can allow themselves to be vulnerable with each other, this helps their connection as a couple. If verbal communication isn't a strength, consider a shared journal to write down your thoughts and share them with each other.
We also brought home some physical reminders of our babymoon that still make me smile and calm my fears, including a handmade doll that adorns the door of our baby's nursery and a bottle of tequila, with which we've made margaritas now that alcohol is an option again for me after giving birth.
In the months since our pre-baby getaway, I've held onto those memories when I'm feeling anxious or concerned about the changes in our family. Van Dusen says to focus on what's in your control and have an open communication about each other's expectations for when the baby comes. "Proactively discuss what you love most about your current relationship and how the baby will fit into your lifestyle as an addition and enhancement, not focusing on what will potentially be lost or forgotten once the baby is born," she says.
While any relationship goes through a transitional phase when a new player comes into the game, keeping communication lines open is essential, says Van Dusen. She also suggests couples schedule date nights, mindfully create time for each other and even schedule — yes, schedule — sex.
"Write, 'I love you,' on a sticky note and put it on your mirror for your partner to see when they wake up. Stop for a quick kiss in the hallway," she suggests. "You're not giving up your relationship once a baby is born, you're adding more love to your family. You can have an intimate, fulfilling relationship and have a baby."
Want lifestyle and wellness news delivered to your inbox? Sign up here for Yahoo Life’s newsletter.