I’m lying face down on a massage table under a thatched roof, rain pinging the walkways and plumeria flowers just outside my open cabana. I’m on my honeymoon, and while you might suspect that I’d be reaching over to hold hands with my newly-minted husband during a couple’s massage, gazing dreamily into his eyes, I’m by myself. Happily. Enjoying the first moments of quiet and relaxation on this, the fifth day of our seven-day honeymoon in Kauai, Hawaii.
My husband, Rich, is back at our hotel room, maintaining peace between our 6-year-old, 4-year-old, and 8-month-old daughters. That’s right — we’re on what I’m calling a familymoon; a honeymoon in which a newly married couple takes their kids with them. One thing I know for sure is that we’re not alone in this.
While upwards of 75 percent of weddings were postponed from April 2020 through Spring 2021, many couples did not want to wait to grow their families. That means there is and will be a whole lot of honeymooning happening with babies in tow now that wedding season is back in full fury and the world has opened back up. In fact, earlier this year The New York Times published a gift guide specifically for “newlyweds who are also new parents” based specifically on this demographic — a unique, but prevalent, subset of folks defined by our times.
Some might ask, why not drop the kids off with grandparents? In an ideal world, I would pile bottles and frozen milk and diapers and onesies and books and baby dolls and twirly dresses and toothbrushes into my mother’s arms and wave the kids goodbye through the car window as we make a break for the airport. But that is not our reality — baby Goldie has never taken to drinking from bottles. She won’t find her thumb or take comfort in a pacifier. I am her human lovey and pretty much her sole source of sustenance — save for a few bits of baby food here and there — so leaving her behind was out of the question.
If Goldie was coming, I knew I couldn’t leave Lucia and Wyatt, who are from my previous marriage but are ours full-time. One baby is a heck of a lot easier than three kids, but my own memories of being in Hawaii as a child — swimming with dolphins and neon fish, water-sliding under 4th of July skies — gave me an odd form of projected FOMO for them. I couldn’t let them miss out on feeling the warm trade winds on their own skin.
So, here we are, spending more time talking to parrots in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt hotel, trying to sneak our petite 4-year-old onto the water slide and prioritizing 5 pm dinner reservations over sipping pina coladas and mai tais while sun-bathing. Quietly.
My first moments alone with Rich came unexpectedly on our six-hour-long flight from LAX to Kauai. After boarding, headphones at the ready in each girl’s hands, we found out there were no screens anywhere on the airplane. Cue the cringe. Luckily, our daughters’ favorite neighbor — who happens to love kids and has none of her own — was also on our flight with her 9-year-old niece. So the girls spent over half of the flight playing made-up card games with her in her row while we sat together (an anomaly — usually one of us sits on one side with the two older girls while the other sits alone across the aisle), baby sleeping, and flipped through photos and videos of our wedding just two nights before.
After we landed — at 7 pm Hawaii time, but 10 pm California time, where we live — we drove in the dark from the airport to the town of Princeville, at the entrance to majestic Hanalei Bay, with a rental Jeep full of sleeping girls. We celebrated our moment of silence by swinging through the Burger King drive-thru and cheers-ing our French fries.
Our luck continued when the girls slept until 6:30 am on our first morning there — what I would call “a lazy morning.” Another win!
Relaxing into those tiny pockets of freedom — those moments when we weren’t getting snacks, changing diapers, putting sunscreen on squirmy bodies, or making sure everyone peed before leaving the house — is not what many would call a honeymoon (or, ahem, even a vacation). And, in fact, neither do we. We’ll plan a trip, just the two of us, once Goldie is old enough to stay with her sisters at her grandparents. But, regardless, we felt that the time right after a wedding was important to protect — especially as parents, when the rigidness of routine wins the day most days because, well, most days, routine is just easier for everyone in the family. I couldn’t imagine feeling blissed out from our wedding on Saturday and then returning to the measured cadence of our normal lives on Monday — preschool, nanny, work, meals, bedtime, etc.
We needed to decompress from the overwhelm of the wedding planning process, connect as a family, and make space for each other in this transition. We wanted to honor the commitment we were all making to each other at that moment. (My husband proposed to Lucia and Wyatt and asked their permission to marry me before he posed the question to me). I’ll point out, too, that you can also recognize the union of a family without a wedding or a far-flung trip — that’s just how we chose to seal the ritual we’d gone through.
However symbolic the notion, feelings of letdown still existed. While floating along in the Grand Hyatt’s lazy river next to the adults-only pool with our kids behind me in their inner tubes, trailing me like ducklings, I found myself jealous of couples I saw lounging worry-free. Even women on their babymoons who were visibly uncomfortable from pregnancy made me yearn for the time when my only responsibility to any baby was to keep her healthy on the inside by nourishing myself and staying active.
We booked a nanny one night for Lucia and Wyatt so that Rich and I could go out on a “date night,” Goldie in tow, as we’d done back home in Los Angeles. Like I said, one baby feels like a break when you have three. We often joked that people who saw us figured this was our first baby and we were in it as I remember experiencing with my first. Luckily, Goldie is a pretty social, jovial baby who goes along for the ride. That night, however, she was not. I’d made a reservation weeks prior at an upscale restaurant in Hanalei where it’s hard to get a table. We sat down and Goldie would not stop squirming and whining. No amount of at-the-table nursing would quell her upset. I stuffed some of the most delicious appetizers I’d tasted on our trip, like turmeric naan bread with lemon-cumin yogurt, in my mouth and downed my sauvignon blanc, and we went home to put her to bed — a mere two hours after we’d left.
We accepted the failure with some frustration, knowing that it was impossible that we would win 100 percent of the time. No matter how briefly romantic our honeymoon was, it was still worth it. I’ll definitely savor surprising the kids with pineapple soft-serve at 9:30 am after an impromptu mile-long hike through a stunning botanical garden overlooking the ocean. Or giggling with my kids as we floated over the warm waves a few hundred feet out in Hanalei Bay, hugged by mossy green mountains. We had time to relive our favorite moments of the wedding — our family dance, our family tree-planting ceremony — to watch sunrises together, and to stay up late to watching surfers on the beach after dinner, instead of heading straight for bath, books, bed.
“Look,” my middle daughter called out from the porch of our Princeville condo one morning. A rainbow beamed down from the clouds into the ocean straight ahead. She was pointing at two geese in the grass below. “Its name is ‘Panini,’” she said, “And that one is ‘Other Panini.’” We still laugh about that to this day.
On July 4th, we flew back into LAX just after sunset as fireworks shot up all around our plane. We were sad to miss our friend’s annual 4th of July party but also grateful we wouldn’t miss fireworks altogether. As our plane descended, the fireworks came into view — first, just tiny pricks of color on the fading mountains below but, eventually, as we got lower, eye-level with our windows. Everyone on the flight was watching the show and talking about it. Goldie faced me but turned her head to watch the glorious display — red, blue, silver — glittering from every angle through the plane’s windows. I was watching, too, a tired, dazed smile on my face.
“Hey babe,” Rich said from across the aisle to get my attention, “Goldie’s puking all over you.”
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