In the summer of 2018, about three months before my baby was due, I flew to Croatia by myself. Over the next three days, I ate (mostly pizza and gelato), I napped and I cheered on the Croatian World Cup team. I enjoyed a prenatal massage and indulged in my favorite activity: reading by the pool, submerging myself into the water like a tea bag when I got too hot and repeating the cycle all over again. I felt anonymous, well-rested and free — a sensation that, after more than four years as a single mom by choice whose last vacation was to Legoland and who can typically be found with a toddler clinging to me, climbing on me or jumping off me, is all too fleeting (in the best way) these days.
Search #Babymoon on Instagram and your feed will be filled with photos of mostly young, straight couples jetting off to an exotic locale or squeezing in one last trip to a tropical resort before welcoming the arrival of a new baby. Since not having a partner or co-parent hadn't stopped me from having a baby, I reasoned, why let it stop me from having a babymoon — or in my case, a solo babymoon?
As it happens, fellow single mom by choice Crystal Yardley also chose to take her solo babymoon In Croatia, too. The Colorado native had long set her sights on traveling to 40 countries by the time she turned 40, a goal she planned to meet before trying to conceive a child on her own. Her fertility doctor, however, encouraged her to prioritize getting pregnant first. In September of 2021, six months after undergoing a successful IUI (intrauterine insemination) and four months after celebrating her 40th birthday, Yardley set out to visit the final four countries on her list: Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. The six months' pregnant mom-to-be had her maternity photos taken in Dubrovnik, in the same location where Cersei's "Walk of Shame" scene was filmed for Game of Thrones.
Over the years Yardley has come to prefer traveling on her own, but doing so while pregnant, on her terms, felt even more meaningful.
"To make this decision to start your family by yourself is so difficult yet so empowering," she says. "It gave me this boost of confidence and I wanted everybody in the world to know I’m doing this on my own."
Yardley "felt almost like a princess" during her babymoon, whiling the days away with long walks, sightseeing and trips to the beach. She appreciated the relaxed attitudes she encountered abroad; "I don't feel that I got crazy stares or any of that," she says. Back home, however, "everybody had an opinion about me traveling while I was pregnant, and no one held back."
By contrast, writer and entrepreneur Rachel Sklar got plenty of support eight years ago when she decided to raise her daughter as a single mom. Sklar's own babymoon involved flying to California to see her parents, who spend the winter in Palm Desert. She spent the time shopping for nursing tops, hanging out with her parents and marveling at her good fortune in being able to give them "this surprise gift of a grandchild nobody had been banking on."
"This wasn't a planned pregnancy," says Sklar, who conceived her daughter with an ex who lives in her native Canada. "It was so lucky for me. I got pregnant when I was 41, so it just felt like a gift … I couldn't have been more jolly and unbothered."
She admits she first started calling her trip a "babymoon" because it "amused" her to buck convention.
"I just thought it was hilarious," says Sklar, who acknowledges that she had an "emotional privilege" in approaching single motherhood without any heartbreak or longing for a partner. "I was very well aware of the connotations, but why shouldn't I get one? Like, of course — anything that can be available to me without a partner should be … I just thought it was funny. I loved hashtagging things #Babymoon. I loved saying 'I'm on a babymoon.' It started out as a joke, but then I realized that it was a really precious time."
But it's not only single moms who are embarking on solo babymoons. Rachel Grindle is a married mom with three toddler boys, including 4-year-old twins. She and her husband enjoyed a babymoon in Hawaii together before welcoming their twins. But ahead of welcoming her fourth baby (another boy) in late January, the Knoxville, Tenn.-based mom decided to treat herself to a solo trip.
"I just need a couple of days where I'm not touched," Grindle laughs. "[Soon] I'm gonna have a baby attached to me and touching me all the time, and my kids are young enough that they want to be with me all the time and they're touching me. I'm like, I don't need my husband to touch me. I don't need my kids to touch me. I just need to go and have one last hurrah where it's just me getting to do what I want to do without the demands of anybody else."
Sarah Ezrin, a writer, yoga educator and author of the upcoming The Yoga of Parenting, also experienced a more traditional babymoon in Hawaii with her husband before having her first baby, who is now 3. For her second pregnancy, Ezrin opted instead for a solo staycation not far from her family's home in the San Francisco Bay area. The trip last March neatly coincided with Ezrin's 40th birthday, for which her father and stepmother treated her to a stay at the lodge where she and her husband had their wedding. Ezrin used her time to have a prenatal massage, order room service, take baths, write and, most importantly, soak up some rare moments of solitude.
"I really wanted it to feel luxurious and to have as minimal interaction as possible," the "huge introvert" says. "I hadn't had a 24-hour period — I hadn't had more than, like, let's say four hours — by myself in over two years." Ezrin was also in throes of hyperemesis gravidarum, a pregnancy complication that includes severe nausea. "It was brutal. I was just so run-down and so worn out and having to sleep a lot of the time. [The babymoon] was my treat to myself … [after] those two years, hitting 40 and then that really tough pregnancy."
In an Instagram post recapping her solo babymoon, Ezrin acknowledged that "burnout can’t be solved in 48 hours or by some spa day." What she'd like to see is moms normalizing the idea of rest and taking time for themselves on a more regular basis — not just for the once-in-a-blue-moon babymoon.
Now mom to a 1-year-old son, Yardley says looking back on photos from her European adventure "bring me so much joy."
"I am so proud of myself for not giving up and completing the goal I set for myself so many years ago," she says. "Thinking about that trip gives me strength deep down inside my being. It reminds me of who I am and who I will continue to be and the type of mother I want my son to see as he grows up."
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