"Not every mom-to-be gets to take a lavish, pre-baby trip to Tuscany. A 'babymoon' is an enormous privilege and it requires, at the very least, some thoughtfulness."
Author with family and friends in Newport
Courtesy of Alyssa Shelasky
| Credit: Courtesy of Alyssa Shelasky

It takes a lot to offend me.

When I had my daughter four years ago with an anonymous sperm donor, I heard the most cringe-worthy statements. An Uber-driver warned me that “fatherless children” never turn out well. I could have reminded him about a certain guy who did okay named Barack Obama, but...not worth it. "Aren't you worried no one will ever want to date you again?" a friend also repeatedly asked me. Again, whatever. Luckily, I'm pretty tough (most single moms by choice are). I understand that good people say stupid things, so it's fine. And she was wrong, by the way. I did date again and I've been with the same amazing man, who is now my daughter's father, for more than three years. We're now expecting a baby boy in November.

But still, the one thing I can't seem to shake off is the idea of a "babymoon." I find it so offensive! I love to travel, I write about travel, and I'm always happy to see my friends travel—so I was surprised to feel so angered with all the “babymoon” content on my pregnancy apps, and likewise, on friends’ Instagram feeds. What's my issue with this particular brand of vacation?

Alyssa Shelasky in Newport
The author in Newport during her second pregnancy. Photo: Courtesy of Alyssa Shelasky
| Credit: Courtesy of Alyssa Shelasky

First, I was curious about the origin of babymoons. So I asked Amanda Montell, author of the new, super-woke book, Wordslut to help me do some digging. She said it appears the term was coined in Sheila Kitzinger's 1996 book The Year after Childbirth, to describe the period after the baby is born when new parents can bond with their child. By no means was this phrase used to describe a luxurious week-long spa trip to Aruba with your S.O. before the baby is born. Yet somehow, here we are.

"Over time, American culture, known for its fixation on image and wealth, have turned this term, initially created to represent an abstract, relatable, emotional concept, into one with more capitalist undertones," explained Montell. "American English-speaking culture also loves a portmanteau—that's a hybrid of two or more words—because it's a clever way to brand something. Think brunch, chocoholic, staycation, labradoodle, and cronut. 'Babymoon' has all the trappings of good marketing language, so of course, America had to go and turn it into something extravagant and class-dividing."

Class-dividing. Yes. For me, she nailed it. Because, what about the women who work several jobs to stay afloat, jobs that don't come with vacation days; women who have to save every last penny before the baby comes; women who are too busy surviving life to take a lavish, pre-baby trip to Tuscany….A "babymoon" is an enormous privilege and it requires, at the very least, some thoughtfulness.

Economics aside, you can’t assume every pregnant woman can, or should, go away. There are women with disabilities for whom travel is really hard, and women on bed-rest. Not to mention—the thing I can relate to most, from the last time around—women who don’t have anyone to “sweep them off their feet” and retreat somewhere sunny and glamorous.

Bottom line, there is a tone-deafness that I associate with the word, especially because I will always identify with the more, let's say, fringe moms.  Though I am no longer a single mom, it was the hardest, most powerful decision of my life—and it’s always going to, to some extent, define who I am.

Last week, my boyfriend, daughter and I did decide to go away, but despite my big, maternity bathing-suits, you better believe there was no B-word hashtag. We went to the famous Newport Folk Festival where we sat, blissfully, on the grass and listened to Brandi Carlile and Dolly Parton. I even got to sing—at the top of my lungs—Are You Strong Enough To Be My Man, to my boyfriend, with Sheryl Crow rocking the stage. It was pretty incredible.

Author's daughter
The author's daughter at the Newport Folk Festival in Newport, RI. Photo: Courtesy of Alyssa Shelasky
| Credit: Courtesy of Alyssa Shelasky

At one point, all the badass women on stage performed, "Both Sides, Now" by Joni Mitchell and I began to cry.

I've looked at life from both sides now; From win and lose and still somehow, It's life's illusions I recall, I really don't know life at all….

This might sound corny, but I've looked at pregnancy from both sides now—alone and not alone—and I can't pretend it hasn't profoundly changed me. I will never forget the endurance and grace that goes into single parenting, and I only wish every pregnant woman dealing with her own share of struggle could have been there with us.

Because the fringe moms are forever my people.