Before my husband and I began trying to get pregnant, we vacationed in Mexico, one of our favorite places. We talked about what it would be like to have a baby and lamented the fact that we would not be taking a trip just the two of us for years, probably. We decided to make a decision then and there, while sitting on the beach: even if we had a baby, we would still travel just the two of us when we could. And because we knew as parents we would have more difficulty finding time, funds and childcare, we made a commitment then and there: for our five year wedding anniversary, we would go to Italy, the country that topped our international wish list.
Eventually we got pregnant, celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary and had a baby. Every few months we checked in with one another: yes, we are still doing our European vacation. My parents committed to watch Deacon for the eleven days we were gone (a monumental, hugely-generous commitment, and one we are so lucky they made without hesitation, rather, with excitement. And my husband’s parents pitched in to watch him a night, too, which was great). Dates were set and planning began.
Will He Forget Us?
As the trip got closer and planning progressed, I second-guessed our decision to go like a hundred times. Did it make sense to spend so much money on a trip right now? Should we really be leaving him this long when he’s so young? Will he forget us? Will he – or we – get hurt or worse? I’m a worrier, and the anticipation of this trip – and the time away from my son – felt so heavy.
The two weeks prior to the trip were the hardest because I was so busy soaking up every moment with him while planning last-minute things for our trip and working with my parents to ensure he had everything needed at their house. I felt nervous and honestly not very excited to go on the trip. Then that made me feel like a brat, because how the hell can you not be that excited for a once-in-a-lifetime trip?
Saying goodbye was not as bad as the build up to saying goodbye, but it was still pretty wicked. We left during his nap time, so I quietly – through tears – told him bye while rocking him before putting him in his crib. I left the room and sobbed in my husband’s arms.
Once at the airport, I felt better. My sweet husband reassured me for the hundredth time: “Deacon will remember us, and we will FaceTime. Your parents are thrilled to get this much time with him. He will be fine. He will be great. We deserve this. Relax.” My husband’s unrelenting support and reassurance was invaluable.
I have to say, every moment after saying goodbye was easier than the previous moment. I relaxed. I got excited. Really excited! And distracted. Very distracted! First we visited my sister who lives in The Netherlands. A day in Amsterdam, a day in her home of Eindhoven, a day in Cologne, Germany. I hadn’t seen my sister in months, and seeing where she lived for the first time and meeting her friends put my mind at ease about her being so far away. I had missed her.
Then, my husband and I said goodbye (guh, another goodbye) and headed to Italy. There we had gelato nearly every day (if we didn’t have gelato, we had tiramisu, naturally). We drank wine in the middle of the day and at night, every night. We took a cooking class, saw historic art, ate at a Michelin-starred restaurant, visited the countryside and sampled Chianti from local wineries. Most importantly we enjoyed one another and savored every moment of this longest-date-ever even more than we savored the food, drink and scenery.
I worried only a little when I was gone. FaceTime helped, because I was able to see my smiling, healthy, happy son, and the Tuscan sun certainty helped me relax. Coming home was bittersweet. I know we won’t be going back to some of the places we visited possibly ever, certainly not soon. But seeing Deacon again filled my heart with so much joy and relief. He didn’t forget us, and he hadn’t been injured or otherwise traumatized by our absence. He had grown closer to his grandparents – spoiled, I’m sure – and had been loved and protected. And he was happy to see us.
Now we are home, and the jet lag has mostly faded. I feel renewed and so thankful to have had the opportunity to go to Europe with my husband, just the two of us. I know it is not something everyone can or would do, but I feel confident it was right for us. And just like we did in Mexico years ago, we talked about what our next trip would be. Who knows when it will happen or where we will go. But that one we’ll do as a family of three.