The sun was shining, the ocean waves were beckoning and there wasn’t a child within hundreds of miles asking me for anything. So why, in the middle of paradise, was I sobbing on the bathroom floor in the fetal position?
Welcome to my first “parents-only” trip after having a baby! Also known as “Hormonal Hell in Cabo,” or “My Husband’s Worst Nightmare.”
It turns out that inner Mom Voice that helps us detect red flags around our kids is often trying to help us protect ourselves as well. Sometimes we need protection from other people’s opinions, advice or criticism. Other times, we need protection from our own unrealistic standards or expectations.
Did my husband and I – and do all parents – deserve a break? Absolutely. Is there a wrong time to take that break? Unquestionably.
We naively booked our getaway when our son was about two months old and I needed something to get me over the newborn slump I was experiencing. It was that period when the post-delivery adrenaline runs out and your kid still isn’t sleeping or making readable facial expressions (you say he was smiling at you, but he had also just pooped, so…).
When days have no real beginning or end, it’s easy to feel like a trip that is several months down the road might as well be a lifetime away. So we thought it was safe to reserve three nights at a beautiful Mexican beach resort, leaving our 5-month-old at home in capable, trusted hands.
How wrong we were.
I should have listened to the increasingly anxious voice in my head as the trip approached, the one telling me, “Too soon, you’re not ready.” But I’m someone who follows through on plans, and all the logistics were in place! Plus, my husband was clearly excited to get away just the two of us, and I did miss having uninterrupted one-on-one time with him. So into the suitcase went my bathing suit and my breast pump, and off we went to the airport.
The first tears came as we exited the front door to our house, which wasn’t a good sign. But I did feel a bit better once the plane was in the air and we were “really doing this thing!”
I made it to Day 2 with just a few hiccups (checking the nursery cam from my phone so often my battery died, for example). Then I completely unraveled. Gripped with anguish and panic, I felt as though I might not make it another hour without seeing, touching and smelling my baby. I knew he was fine; I wasn’t. Our much-anticipated break was turning into a breakdown, and I had the added guilt of feeling like I was letting my husband down even as he pretended otherwise.
Of course, I did make it another hour, and another day, in fact, until our scheduled flight home. We got some sun, caught up on some sleep, had some delicious and unhurried meals. But that first post-baby trip is not something you should “make it through.” It should be savored – it is hard earned! And because I ignored my true feelings, I wasn’t able to do that.
There is no accurate timeline that dictates when you’ll be ready to leave your child for the first time. Some of my friends have spent a blissful night away during the newborn stage and been just fine. Others have waited years to do it. Many moms I know have jobs that make the decision for them, and I am in awe of how gracefully they handle themselves even if they are struggling emotionally.
For those of us who get to choose, a good rule of thumb may be to wait until the excitement about a trip overshadows the doubts (because there will always be some doubts). In that way, it’s similar to when you decided to try for a baby: When the desire is stronger than the terror, it’s probably the right time.
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