Ok look, we both know that the early postpartum days and weeks are nothing like a vacation. Those days, and those long nights, with a newborn are hard, hard work. They may even be some of the most challenging and transformative of your life. But when it comes to making plans for your family’s maternity leave, your baby moon, your fourth trimester, it may just help to look at it like it’s the vacation of a lifetime…
The trip is smoother when planned thoughtfully in advance. You wouldn’t wing an entire overseas vacation and your postpartum should be treated with the same care. How will you get there? What books should you read about your locale? What local guides do you need to book ahead of time? What will you eat? What special clothes will you need? What do you need to pack in advance and what can you pick up along the way? What’s the budget look like? It’s perfectly ok, often even necessary sometimes to improvise along the way, but get that itinerary outlined before you leave.
You focus on spending time together. The most important parts of any vacation are the people you travel with. The same is true in the first six weeks. This babymoon is like a honeymoon for your new family where you celebrate and steep in this new person at the center of your universe. And like you wouldn’t take just anyone with you overseas, consider your postpartum travel companions carefully. Choose those who add positivity to the experience, not those who add stress or anxiety.
You don’t do chores. No one goes on vacation to do chores. Vacation time is for maintenance only, not deep cleaning. You eat out, you pay the hotel to wash your linens, you live out of a suitcase and maybe you wear the same things a few days in a row. Take the “I’m on vacation” mindset with you into those early postpartum days and weeks. This is special time that you don’t get back. Do what you need for comfort and function and the rest will be there when you return.
You treat yo’self. On vacation you eat nourishing food that makes you feel good, and as much of it as your body wants. That spa menu looks pretty dang tempting. ROOMSERVICE. You’re recovering from your journey into parenthood and adjusting to spending your days keeping an entire other person alive so if there was ever a time for a little lux in your life, it’s now. So get that massage. Schedule the house cleaner, the dog walker and the landscaper. Visit your chiropractor and acupuncturist. Find a postpartum yoga class. Call your postpartum doula.
Your schedule is wack. Birth is some serious jet lag, friend, and you’re going to need plenty of recovery days built-in. Days and nights flow differently on vacation and in those early days with a baby, and that’s ok. Take naps, eat whenever you feel like it, watch movies in the middle of the day. Newborns don’t have schedules, so don’t fight it, just embrace the weirdest sleepover party of your life.
You keep an open mind as you traverse new terrain. Being a new parent is a lot like waking up in another country. You don’t know the language or the customs and the info from the guide books only gets you so far. The best way to learn your way around is to dive on in. You’re gonna get lost a few times, but you’ll be a local before you know it.
The landmarks all look different. There’s nothing like finally reaching a landmark that you feel like you already know from every angle from your research on Pinterest, Instagram and your friends’ travel photos: It’s never quite the same in real life as it was in photographs. The same is true for parenting milestones with your IRL baby. Uniquely beautiful, meaningful, celebrated and hard-earned, yes, but they never quite the same as they appear online.
You don’t always come back feeling rested. Have you ever taken a trip and come home worn out, needing a vacation after your vacation? There will be bumps in the road, blisters, sunburn and rainstorms. You will get turned around, maybe miss a flight or lose a reservation. But life with a newborn is just as wonderful, just as exhausting, just as frustrating and just as worth it.
Image: Bergen Howlett Photography