About 2 and a half months before Molly was born we went on the obligatory ‘baby-moon’. The important break away with your partner before the impending arrival of a small creature who is about to take over your lives forever more. Time to put your feet up, time to relax, go for a massage and time to gaze into each other’s eyes over a romantic meal and half a glass of bubbles (all I really allowed myself to drink during my first pregnancy – per week, and only in the last trimester. Let’s just say, I have been slightly more ‘relaxed’ with that this time round). You will know from my first blog ‘The Pregnancy Glow’ that me-time, time off, relaxing/pamper time, or whatever you want to call it was hardly something I desperately needed during pregnancy number 1. You are so acutely aware that you are pregnant all the time and totally indulge in this. Long baths, feet up after a long day, not being able to lift a thing. And family and friends seem more than happy to let you get away with this – I feel like second time round they are more like “well, I’ve seen you do this before and you were fine so…get on with it.”.
Now don’t get me wrong – we had a blissful break in Sandbanks pre-Molly, but if I’m honest, it was wholly unnecessary. What did I actually think I was having a break from? The lovely quiet home we lived in? The access to a spa down the road? The one to one time with my beloved? These were all things I was able to enjoy daily. Of COURSE it’s lovely to get away and stay in a hotel, go to the coast, have nice meals out etc, I’m not denying that, BUT in order to fully understand the difference between my first and second ‘baby-moon’, I want to be clear that going on a baby-moon ‘break’ for your first child is a totally pointless luxury that we don’t actually need. But all it takes is one person to say “Ooo are you going on a baby-moon” and suddenly you are knee deep in the SecretEscapes website, bombarding your partner with hotel options and dates.
Baby-Moon #1; so young, so relaxed.
Now let me tell you about my idyllic second baby-moon. Again we headed to the coast, the promise of massages, lie-ins and lovely meals which we could finish in peace without desperately scrabbling in my bag for any source of entertainment to keep the toddler quiet while stuffing our meals down our throats with such gargantuan effort we could be mistaken for taking on some kind of Man vs Food challenge. “Babe, seriously, she is going to kick off any second now, just get the bloody bill.” But there would be none of that because we would be on our baby-moon and we were going to child free for TWO WHOLE DAYS!!
First of all we had to drop Molly off with my Mum and Dad – Nana and Papa. They were beyond excited to have her for the weekend and for them, we couldn’t drop her off soon enough. But there was the packing to consider. The sheer volume of items she may require for this massive two days. Toys, books, bedding – obviously there is an abundance of all these things at my parent’s house but she’ll want her own things in case she feels unsettled. Then the clothes – god bless the British weather – everything from shorts and sun dresses to wellies and woolly hats. I sent her with 7 outfits. That seemed reasonable. She was going (and might I say, already dressed) on Friday and we were picking her up on Sunday morning. Yes, 7 seemed about right. Two pairs of pjs obvs. In case her nappy leaks and set one gets wee on. I mean it hasn’t happened for about a year, but you can never be too careful. Snacks, fruit, dummies (x 1000), nappies, wipes (“Don’t worry darling I have these”. Ok so just 3 packs).
And she’s packed! Now for me. Of course I’ve had no time to consider what I might need or want to take so I just throw everything I can find that still fits me into my bag then do a dramatic sweep of all the skincare and makeup on top of my dressing table. Plus 6 pairs of shoes (for those interested, I wore 2 pairs on the whole trip). While this is going on, my dear husband is ambling around the house sorting out his outfits without a care in the world. I find him ironing shirts – IRONING?!?! – and asking me if I have seen a variety of his clothes which I didn’t even know he owned. So 2 hours behind schedule, exhausted, sweating and raising my voice on a number of occasions we get in the car. My husband is now cross that I am cross and then angrily says the same phrase he says EVERY time we go away “seriously Nat, I think we just shouldn’t go away again – it’s just not worth it.” Silence until the M25, then we make up.
Of course there is traffic on the M25. There is ALWAYS traffic. So we are now even later. Now, I don’t want to throw my first world problems at you, but I have a full body pregnancy massage booked at 5pm and I am not missing it. So help every/anyone. Aside from the fury at the transport systems of the UK and going over everything I have packed to ensure we (I) haven’t forgotten anything, I spend the rest of the journey thinking about how much I am actually going to miss my little girl (I know, it’s only two nights but shockingly I haven’t actually been away from her for more than one night for about a year!). She’s a brilliant sleeper at home but we haven’t been able to crack sleeping away from home so immediately I start to worry about whether she’ll sleep ok, will she be up all night and the fact that I can’t bear the thought of her being sad and me not being there.
I spend a good half an hour at my parents’ house making up Molly’s room, laying out her excessive number of outfits and taking Mum through the routine. She’s had two children. I know this and yet I still feel a full briefing is required. Finally we kiss our precious girl goodbye, her blunt “bye Mummy” as she grabs Papa’s hand and heads off to watch Moana with him makes me happy and sad – I mean, she could show a BIT of sadness that I’m leaving her.
We are off – our time alone! I keep looking in the back of the car in case we’ve forgotten to leave anything – or in case she has managed to open the car door, climb into the car and hide in the back without any of us seeing. But we are good. I’ll just send a quick text to ask if she was sad when she realised we had gone. She wasn’t.
By the time we get to the hotel I am shattered. I race down to my massage which is of course, heavenly. If there is one thing I recommend to every pregnant (and non-pregnant) woman out there, it’s the power of a really good massage. Aside from the obvious release of tension in your weary muscles, I find the fact that you have an hour to just lie there and totally switch off, something of an absolute treat. I force myself to push away any tendencies to think about the ever-growing list of things I need to get done, ignore all my concerns and worries and simply focus on where I am, the music playing and the total indulgence of the massage.
The rest of our mini-break followed a very relaxed and plan-free theme. We did way less than our first baby-moon. But the difference this time is that this is actually a break. A break to recuperate from the hectic and full-throttle life. A break from toddler tantrums and regimented timetables. But a break from your favourite thing in the world? You find yourself constantly thinking about them. Are they eating? Are they behaving for Nana and Papa? Is she sleeping? Is she?? Why won’t they answer my messages immediately?! I know they want us to have a good time and not worry but of course we do.
Having casually booked a table at 8pm for dinner (how child/care free I must have thought we’d be when I made this reservation), I get all dolled up, full make-up, dress, the works. Knowing full well in less than 1.5 hours I will scrubbing it all off again. And as we indulge in an amazing dinner, I find myself yawning and thinking about whether or not the bed is going to be comfy. It is lovely to enjoy a relaxed meal with my husband and we definitely try to talk about other things, but inevitably our conversations drift to Molly. If there is anyone out there who doesn't do this when they aren't with their kids, please get in touch and advise how this is done.
And at 9.45 we are back in the room, pjs on, eye mask (for me) applied and snuggled up with the TV on. On a Friday. THAT is luxury.
I would love to tell you that I woke up feeling refreshed and revitalised, but the truth is, despite my eyes looking considerably less tired (which I can only assume was thanks to the eye mask - see link above if you need this little miracle in your life) I slept appallingly. The bed was smaller than our one at home and without my 500 pillows to mould around my body, everything was achy by the morning. Perhaps I went to bed ‘over-tired’…which I now appreciate is a real thing.
BUT, the rest of our trip was absolutely lovely. We relished in the freedom of doing things when we wanted to. “Shall we drive here for a drink?” Great. “Oh this looks like a nice beach, let’s get out and go for a walk.” No need to decant the mountain of paraphernalia required for a 20 minute pit stop. Just us.
We hadn’t even booked anywhere for dinner for the second night. How maverick of us. “Let’s just see where we fancy”. And although we were back in bed pre 10pm that night too – this time we substituted face masks for ice-cream - just that one day of mentally and physically switching off from the usual routine was enough to send me into a deep sleep and I woke up feeling like a new person. I’m not sure I even checked to see if Molly was asleep the night before – it turns out she was…at that point. But she wasn’t at 4.45am when she decided she wanted to sleep in Nana’s bed…sorry mum. She was probably still buzzing from the trip to Nana’s Salon before bed…
Switching off and allowing yourself to relax is not easy when you are a Mum. It’s as easy as that beyond irritating “sleep when the baby sleeps” advice everyone offers up when you have a newborn. We are not machines. We need to wind down properly and actively think about ourselves. And that takes a bit of time and a bit of practice. But once you manage to do it, you will get the well-earned break you need and deserve. And if I can offer you a last bit of advice, it is that your most precious little one is having an absolute blast with her grandparents/uncle/aunt/godparent so you really don’t need to worry. But definitely enjoy that cuddle as they run towards you, arms out, on your return. It's actually worth going away just for that.