The most obvious reason to travel north in winter is for off-season deals. The second-most obvious, at least when you’re pregnant, is the lack of Zika. Logistics aside, it’s beautiful and quiet, a good excuse for hotel room fireplaces and sleeping until the late-rising sun starts to burn off the fog.
I was six months pregnant when my husband, Tanner, and I flew from New York to Seattle to spend four days in Olympic National Park. We followed that with two days in Seattle for an urban decompression before we headed home so we wouldn’t miss the trees too badly when we got back to Brooklyn. I could still fly, but not without compression socks and a little sling to make a footrest for my restless feet. I could hike, but nowhere treacherous and not too quickly. I could wander through an art museum, but only for so long before I had to sit down. Travel had never before been so much about the facts of my body.
In a way, my body was the whole reason for the trip. It would be—I can’t say it without the widening eyes and raised eyebrows of ironic distance from the term—our babymoon. It’s an embarrassing portmanteau, but a beautiful idea: one last vacation, just the two of you, before the baby comes. It could be considered a celebration, but it’s more like trying to bank up vacation vibes for later on when you’re sleep-deprived and stuck at home, truly desperate for a break.
I didn’t let myself dwell on the longer-term implication that this could be our last vacation just for the two of us. (I was determined, anyway, that this wouldn’t be the case; check back with me in five or 10 years to see how that pans out.) Travel has always been when Tanner and I feel most connected. Babymoon does have a secondary meaning—“a period of time for parents to spend alone with their new child shortly after the child’s birth”—but we were after the more common, more selfish usage. More than banking relaxation, I think we wanted one last chance to anchor our identities—as ourselves and as a couple—before everything changed.
You’re not supposed to fly too late in pregnancy. By that biological timing, my babymoon fell in January, at the end of my second trimester. I work from home, so walking through the airport made me feel publicly pregnant in a brand-new way. Riding the AirTrain, going through security, browsing terminal snacks—with every interaction I wondered, Can they tell I’m pregnant? I was only just crossing that line. I rested my hand on my belly a little self-consciously, but also because I loved to feel the baby move, the only convincing reminder that I wasn’t just enduring an arbitrary sequence of physical annoyances. There was a baby, and he was with me.
In Seattle, I fitted the rental car seat belt under my belly and realized that, for all the other reasons to take this trip now instead of when I was nearly fully cooked, I wouldn’t be able to fit in the driver’s seat for much longer.
We drove two-and-a-half hours from SeaTac through smaller and smaller towns, into denser and denser forests until, in the last hour, night fell and we could feel more than see the trees towering at the roadside. The air smelled like cedar and soil and rain.