Editor’s Note: In this article, the author discusses child loss which could be triggering to some readers.
Four generations sprawled out on beach, sand so soft it squeaked under our sundresses: my grandma, mother, sister, and the next generation inside me, floating in a bellyful of amniotic fluid.
As I crept in on my third trimester, my sister (also pregnant) and I went on a babymoon with my mom and grandma. We were two young, round women alongside the women that carried us first.
My husband, the money-saving maven of the decade, opted to stay home. “Why don’t you go somewhere with your mom,” he suggested. It was a good idea. And when we asked my grandma to join, she lit up like the Fourth of July. In the pit of February, we would follow the migration path south as active sunbirds. If only to spread our wings in time’s wake and enjoy one another before the baby season.
Babymoons are often reserved for expecting parents, but what if we flip the script a bit? Here’s why I think everyone should babymoon with the women in their life.
You’ll laugh, and cherish everything you hear
Going on a trip with them built a bubble around a sacred space we couldn’t make at home. Metaphorically, it felt like opening up a blank page in a notebook. OK ladies, fill this up. And we did. Grandma told us stories about her sisters. She told us about how she and grandpa accidentally ended up at a drag show in the ’60s. On a hike, we asked grandma what she was most afraid of. Her serious answer? Bears. We laughed into the dunes.
We laughed even harder in a CVS when buying toiletries. We were choosing travel bottles for contact solution. “I can’t take a bottle of six ounces on the plane…” my mom said. My grandma, jet-lagged, accidentally responded, “You couldn’t take six inches.” And we laughed until we almost peed in the aisle.
On the airplane, my grandma told me a story I’d never heard. I don’t remember how it came about. Perhaps it’s a story she waited to save for this moment, suspended 30,000 feet in the air, with a baby inside of me. The story was about her middle child, Tina, who died a few days after their birth. My grandmother’s male doctor, “who wasn’t the friendly type,” didn’t think she was ready to have that baby. So, he took an extended coffee break and didn’t return for hours. But the baby was ready. And so was my grandma. Tina came, breeched. And the nurse, not well-trained and visibly scared, couldn’t flip Tina over.
Tina didn’t survive. I asked my grandma if she would have stopped having kids (my mom included) if Tina lived. And she shrugged like she was ordering the dressing she wanted for her side salad.
“That’s not how it was back then. We just kept having babies until we couldn’t anymore.” My grandma had three pregnancies after that. I don’t know how often she was pregnant, but she gave birth to six children.
I thought of my own path to parenthood. At first, I felt pulled into childbearing as if motherhood was a bourgeois zombie thing. But, during this trip, I realized my journey to motherhood was so much different than my grandmother’s. I felt allowed to take my time and make my own choice.
What did her story mean for future generations? Were they going to be in an even safer, more supportive place? As I sat with my grandma on the airplane, I felt that truth. Although it was difficult to hear her story, her experience gave me a sliver of light. I was grateful.
This babymoon reminded me that motherhood’s journeys and stories stitch us together, despite loss. There are so many ways we can break: our rights, our relationships, the health care system, through healing, through pain… and yet our breakage is the way we survive. We laugh through the middle moments. Stories carry us along.
Being together reminds us we aren’t alone
Going on a babymoon with my mom and grandma was a simple decision. We thought, “wouldn’t this be fun” and bought the ticket. But it meant so much more than a trip. Exploring with them alongside the coast was a poignant reminder that we are a surviving, powerful force—and not alone in that journey.
As we stood with our feet in the water, youngest to oldest, my entire life flashed across my eyes. While I grew inside my mother, I developed all the eggs I’d ever have. So, in a way, the baby inside me started their journey with my mother. Imagining this made me feel like the galaxy, a splice of diamonds and infiniteness.
We shared hundreds of conversations. Some were small. Others, as deep as the current. How do we get from this place to the next and—even more—how have we done things before? How do people do things here and how can we listlessly compare them to home? Talking with these women and experiencing warmer water reminded me that we can take them home with us anywhere. What a peculiar gift to carry the little squash inside of me, a home we all have made inside each other, each of us a part of the other.
Time is a gift to be cherished
Every morning, we filled our styrofoam cups with crappy coffee and walked the beach. My grandma would stay behind, sitting on the giant bridge that separated the dunes from the water, and watch our stroll.
My mother, emotional about this, said to my sister and me one of the mornings, “I was you two once.” She watched her mom and waved. “My mom stood in my kitchen, and you two ran around us. I am her now.” I know she was thinking about the day she would stand on that bridge and watch our children and us. “The weirdest part is that the kitchen felt like yesterday.”
And perhaps that’s what life is. A gorgeous copy/paste of energy and time. The one inevitable truth: we get older. We see ourselves in the people that make us. Over and over again. In a blink of an eye, if we’re lucky, we all stand on that bridge.
My sister, the most intense realist I know, said with sorrow, “Do you think grandma wonders if this is her last time seeing the ocean?” We all went quiet. We tested out grief.
That night, after dinner, we made grandma walk to the edge of the water instead of staying on that bridge. When the water nipped her toes, she squealed like a little girl. And we didn’t have to ask or answer anything.
Spending intimate “mundane” hours of daylight with my mom and grandma reminded me that I never had to feel alone. Every day in the sand, we discussed birth stories, child loss, baby names, the mating cycle of lizards, when turtle eggs hatch on the dunes, how well we slept, and how badly we wanted key lime pie. How deep is the water? How thick is the fog? How expensive is the house on the shore? What do people do here? What do people miss here? What do people want here? What time do we want dinner? What time should we leave for the airport? What time is it right now, right now, right now?
Going on a babymoon with my mom and grandma reminded me that the circle of life is a bittersweet thread. Moments can be a dozen things at once, and we should make the time to paint a canvas with the ones we love. These women, the peach pits of my life, made me laugh hard and see my pregnancy in a new light. And as we stood in the ocean’s air, we breathed in and out. We were one.
Going on a babymoon with my mom and grandma reminded me that the circle of life is a bittersweet thread… and we should make the time to paint a canvas with the ones we love.
So, here’s to survival. And the stories we tell, the products we share, the beaches we lay on, the noise we make, nearly peeing with laughter in a drugstore, and the paths we choose… to stitch our permanence together.