Taking advantage of our last few weeks as a couple …
In my last post, I mentioned I was starting my maternity leave, legally required in the Netherlands at least 4 weeks before your due date. Knowing we had these precious few weeks, Charlie & I booked a short babymoon to kickstart the time off.
Oxford Dictionary: baby|moon [NOUN] A relaxing or romantic holiday taken by parents-to-be before their baby is born
For the uninitiated, the aim of a babymoon is to have a break before baby comes along. We saw it as one of the last opportunities for a while to be with the two of us. It would also give us time to get excited about our imminent arrival and do some fun, practical things: choose a name, make a birth plan, discuss our expectations from each other as parents.
Our chosen babymoon destination was nearly very different. When we started planning I had grand ideas of a road trip to the south of France, a sweet, secluded cottage with a garden for our dog and daily trips to the local boulangerie. My finger was on the ‘book’ button when it dawned on me that I’d be 36 weeks pregnant and spending 10 hours each way in a car. More when you factor in pee stops. Gazing into my pregnancy crystal ball, I predicted this wouldn’t be a pleasurable way to start a holiday. Add to this the outside chance of an early birth (probably why a lot of couples babymoon earlier in the pregnancy), which would inevitably mean a dash to a nearby French hospital, and we scrapped that idea. We’re planning a meisje, not a petite fille.
Plan B was a two day, three night spa hotel break a more sensible two hour drive away. As my bump is now the size and consistency of a basketball, this was 100% the right decision. Besides, cottage breaks might happen again as a family. Luxury spa for two? … hmmm … probably not in the near future.
Having crossed the Netherlands border into Belgium and arrived in the browny-grey nondescript town of Lanaken, we were delighted to reach the end of a long turning and find our beautiful hotel nestled on the edge of a national park. With the sun shining, what better way to start the indulgence than with a five hour, five course Sunday brunch on the terrace.
I like to think of myself as a girl with a decent appetite. More so when presented with a culinary cornucopia of deliciousness, including lobster claws, smoked trout and a dozen different salads. Unfortunately little bean (or ‘basketbean’ as we’ve taken to calling her – see basketball comment above) has alternative ideas. My stomach is now her domain and any attempts to eat a big meal are met with grumbly knees and elbows. Frequent small snacks are much easier. Or, during a long lunch, skipping main in favour of dessert. Priorities.
The hotel did help guests by encouraging short strolls in the sun-soaked grounds between courses. Or, short waddles in my case.
For those guests able to enjoy a drink (boo hiss) there was flowing wine with each course. The hotel gets big bonus points for offering me a sparkling, non-alcoholic, muscadet-based drink to start. It’s always great to have a choice other than water, sodas or fruit juice.
Other than giant brunches, our babymoon involved spa activities, including the most fantastic pregnancy massage. For the first time in a while, I felt totally relaxed and free of any bump discomfort. I’ve also rediscovered the pleasure of being in a swimming pool for blissful weightlessness.
One of the highlights for both of us was the time we set aside to talk about baby-related topics. To have the opportunity to do this with no time pressure, away from the distractions of home, meant we could really give our attention to it and make it an enjoyable rather than practical experience. I’ll post separately on names, plans and expectations. Each one was more involved than we’d expected. But it was reassuring to discover we’re mainly on the same page and interesting to learn where we had different ideas.
We wove in some local sightseeing into our babymoon; a short visit to the local city of Hasselt, with a sugar and caffeine pit stop at Sweet Coffee and a few hours shopping in Maastricht, the chic Dutch city with a French vibe.
I can’t express enough how happy I am that we took this babymoon. The time together to put the pregnancy world on pause, enjoy each other’s company and think about the future has renewed both of our excitement for the adventure that lies ahead.
If you’re in the Netherlands / Belgium area and looking for spa hotels, I can recommend La Butte au Bois.
Have you been on, or are planning a babymoon? What were your highlights? Or maybe you’ve successfully taken a 10 hour road trip at 8 months pregnant and have some tips?