Not Your Mama’s Motherhood: Renewal through a New Momma Vacation
By Laurel House
Two weeks before I finally went into labor, I started craving a vacation. I imagined my non-pregnant body, barely covered in a bikini, tanning on the beach in Maui or Mexico beside a man I loved. But instead I continued to lie there, uncomfortably rotund, alone, and stressing about the birth. Then at 3:30am on a Wednesday, with a forced induction scheduled for the next day, my contractions began. I called my parents, and within 15 minutes they were in my driveway.
Ten hours of laboring later, my little man’s heart rate started to crash and I was suddenly wheeled into the operating room for an emergency C-section. I went into shock, started shaking, and couldn’t speak. Then it was merely four minutes to deliver my son and 20 minutes to sew me up; I didn’t feel a thing—physically or emotionally and I was afraid that something was wrong. Where were my tears of happiness? Once the drugs and shock dissipated, I started feeling so much deep love for him. But I didn’t cry. I just transformed from the inside. Imbued with a new purpose and responsibility, I felt calm, with a strong sense that I knew how to do this—how to be a mom. It was as if I awoke a side of myself that had been there all along. For the next week I stared at him. I watched him practice facial expressions, quickly shifting from a smile to a frown to my favorite serious face.
Five days after returning from the hospital I went back to work. Thankfully I work from home so I was able to spend ample time with my curious little man who made life make sense. For the first few weeks I worked only couple of hours (one-two clients per day), then I upped my workload to as many as six clients per day. My days were a daze and my nights were focused on Finley and his regular feedings. Soon I was able to establish a routine and life eased into a new normal. And then the vacation craving again took hold.
I couldn’t stop thinking about sun-bathing on the beach, but knew that a plane trip with a four-month-old could be difficult at best. So, in a vacation state of mind, I booked a room at Casa Del Mar in Santa Monica. I loaded up my car with a portable bassinet, a play mat draped with squeaky toys and light up shapes, a week’s worth of diapers and wipes (just in case), and a rolling bag filled with clothes and accessories. I brought a friend whose experience with children was sure to bring me at least a few moments to exhale.
Casa Del Mar was a perfect setting for a first vacation. We checked into our ocean view room to find a teddy bear and baby bath essentials on the bed. Finley was due for a nap so I situated his bassinet at the foot of the bed and shushed him to sleep. Then, per my friend’s suggestion, I eased myself into the deep jetted tub, and indulged in a candlelit bubble bath. The peek-a-boo shutters between the bedroom and bathroom allowed me to fully relax, knowing that all I had to do was sit up and my son would instantly be in view.
I wanted to do nothing more that day, so instead of getting dolled up for a romantic dinner for three, we opted for room service; dining in bed was just the right indulgence. Panini, fries, a plate of cookies plus a friend to help hold Finley and help bounce him to sleep allowed me to be hands-free to eat—and exhale.
The next morning, after a fruit plate breakfast (the vacation convenience of room service again), my nanny arrived to help take care of Finley while my friend and I enjoyed adult time at the spa. Having my nanny nearby without the need for an additional hotel room was definitely a benefit of staying local! My massage therapist’s hands kneaded my muscles so thoroughly that I felt devoured, and even fell deeply asleep for a much-needed moment of respite.
Finley awoke from his nap as we re-entered the suite, perfect timing to feed him, slip on his waterproof diapers, and head to the ocean view pool. At first he was unsure about being chest-deep in lukewarm water, but quickly he started kicking his feet and finding it funny when he splashed water in my eyes. Every moment of newness for him was a treat for me.
After a group nap we dressed and headed to the Viceroy nearby for an outdoor dinner in a poolside cabana complete with sofas that allowed Finley to stretch out, play, and eventually nap while we indulged on Dungeness crab salad rolls, deviled eggs, and short rib grilled cheese. This dining location was perfect for allowing for me to eat without having Finley on my lap.
Slipping into my robe, easing into my slippers, and listening to the waves breaking back in my room was the ideal close to a perfectly nourishing day.
Brunch at Casa Del Mar’s Terrazza may have been pushing Finley’s patience (you can only ask so much of an infant). After a couple very fussy minutes, we relocated to the lounge where I lay Finley on a sofa and he immediately fell asleep. We toasted with mimosas to a successful staycation.
5 Suggestions for Traveling with an Infant
- Keep your baby’s needs and routines in mind. If your infant doesn’t enjoy being in the car (like mine) then make sure not to go far; the last thing you want to do is bookend a relaxing trip with hour-long backseat baby meltdowns. If nap time is at 10am, don’t schedule brunch for 10:15. If a room spray puts him instantly at ease—don’t forget it. If he can only sleep in that one bassinet—bring it!
- Be flexible with your schedule. The less you plan the better. If this is your baby’s first trip, being in a foreign environment with new sounds and smells could make for a fussy baby and a sleepless night for both of you.
- Bring a bassinet, familiar smelling blankets, favorite toys, and LOTS of diapers and wipes. It might feel like you have enough gear for a month, but if that one extra item will keep your little man occupied and calm for one extra hour, it will absolutely be worth it.
- Give yourself and your baby a break. If he doesn’t stick with his sleep schedule, if he isn’t pooping as usual, if you feel more exhausted than normal… it’s okay.
- Give yourself permission to stay in the hotel room the entire afternoon. Doing absolutely nothing is still doing something—you are caring for an infant, tending to their every need, and trying to fit in some relaxation for yourself. In fact, the only plan you might want to make is a bed day. Have room service, watch TV, take a bath, and snuggle.
Laurel House is an international dating coach, born and bred Angeleno, and single mom. SingleMomDatingCoach.com