Toward the end of my second trimester, I embarked on the ultimate girls trip to Sydney and Byron Bay, Australia, with my toddler daughter.
“Mommy, can you play with me?” On this particular Thursday morning, on idyllic Wategos Beach with friendly aquamarine waves rolling onto the smooth expanse of powdery sand, I didn’t hesitate: “Yes!” I practically shouted. “What should we play?” Typically on a weekday morning, I’d be on my laptop working toward a deadline and forced to answer my 2.5-year-old’s sweet query with, “I’m sorry, lovey, I can’t now,” or “I’d love to play later.” But here we were, together in paradise without an itinerary, with no one else to consider, no imminent reservations or obligations, and zero assignments or chores waiting. I was in heaven. And I think she was, too, because limitless time and presence are what she craves most.
When I, a travel journalist and mama of one, was approaching the second trimester of my second pregnancy, I began thinking about the concept of a babymoon. I’d taken our first with my husband, as one does. But this time around, it didn’t seem natural to me to leave our daughter, Indah, and run off pretending these were our last days without responsibility.
For this babymoon, it felt right that I instead spend quality one-on-one time with my first baby, before she undergoes the seismic life change of not being the sole little person commanding my attention. Since she was months old, we’ve been journeying around the world, and Indah has become my favorite travel companion (next to her dad). I most desired a special, dedicated adventure for only us — mama and daughter — even more for my own memories than for hers, as I know she won’t remember much when she’s older.
Since we live in Bali, I chose New South Wales, Australia, as our destination for a few reasons. One, because it required a single Qantas flight, and two, its accessibility to excellent medical care in case of an emergency. We began our getaway at a hotel that’s very tuned into not only luxury, but also treats children like the real VIPs. Fresh off a red eye, we arrived at Capella Sydney to a suite stocked with fresh fruit and shortbread cookies (thoughtfully heeding Indah’s chocolate allergy), a personalized bracelet with a miniature purse, an easily wipeable silicone Hey Doodle drawing mat with markers, a stuffed whale named Cappy, and the kicker: silky pajamas. You bet Indah had the time of her life bouncing around on the cloud-like bed in those PJs, between the gargantuan maternity pillows they’d so thoughtfully left for me. There was a teepee strung with star-shaped lights set up in the bedroom and, that evening, turndown involved a projector that shone the moon and northern lights across the ceiling. We snuggled while gazing up at the magic.
Over the course of a weeklong escapade split between Sydney and Byron Bay, we were blissfully without a schedule; two girls doing exactly as we pleased. Sure, there were a few little standoffs — we can both be a bit strong-willed — like when I was excited to watch for whales, but she only wanted to jump off the Cape Byron Lighthouse steps over and over… and over. Or, the time I felt like taking a walk on Broken Head Beach and Indah refused, insisting instead on swimming at our hotel pool (which she then found too cold to submerge). Overwhelmingly, though, our days were remarkably beautiful.
So often we broke into uncontrollable fits of laughter and tickles; her sparkly-eyed smile and contagious symphony of giggles caused me to fall even deeper in love with my firstborn. I marveled at Indah’s newfound skill of twirling buttery spaghetti in her fork at Hotel Marvell’s chic eatery, Bonito, and, over high tea one afternoon, cracked up as she eagerly licked crème fraîche by the spoonful. I also laughed out loud on the ferry when she renamed the iconic Sydney Opera House “robot dog.” She declared, “That’s what I call it.”
On windswept beaches, we let cool water kiss our toes, searched for seashells and odd-looking pine cones, and floated over waves. We made up silly songs to sing the bump, picked out armfuls of Aussie children’s titles at The Book Room Collective in Byron Bay, swung on playground swings, and shopped for her baby sister at the adorable Daisy.Kids+Life boutique. My toddler gave me hilariously honest fashion advice when I tried on sunglasses: “I don’t see you in those, Mommy.” There were quiet moments of coloring mermaids together, and others that induced squeals of delight, such as a massive cone of vanilla gelato sheathed in rainbow sprinkles at Anita Gelato in Manly.
As one should on a babymoon, we ate incredibly well: so much hummus and showstopping falafel at Middle Eastern restaurant The Smoking Camel; the most indulgent, dressed-up banana bread, plus my weakness, haloumi, at The Woods; gnocchi and grilled prawns from Capella’s in-room dining; and blueberries the size of our eyeballs from the Saturday Bangalow Farmers Market. When my decadent lobster lasagna arrived at Raes on Wategos’ beachy elegant Dining Room, Indah shocked me by asking politely if she could have the lobster’s eyes. I pulled them out and watched her fully absorbed in exploring the odd little eyestalks, even biting one between her teeth.
My crib devotee and I even had our first-ever intentional sleepover in the same bed, at normally adults-only Atlantic Byron Bay. I teared up when Indah’s arm reached out for me in the dark as she said, “I want to snuggle with you, Mommy, you’re too far away. Move closer! I want to hang onto you.” (The next night, however, she was stoked to have her own pack and play again.) On the final evening, I decided it wouldn’t be fair to make Indah sit through another dinner out, so I ordered what turned out to be epic Neapolitan-style pies from Lucio Pizzeria via Uber Eats. We ate our favorite meal sitting on the end of our bed at Hotel Morris, watching Bluey on the TV — perhaps the biggest luxury of all to a toddler.
Mama treated herself, too. One afternoon, I hired a babysitter through Capella so I could have a sublime all-natural Synthesis Organics facial at Auriga Spa. I emerged an all-new mommy. Another evening, with Indah sound asleep, I devoured the most absurdly perfect Nutella chocolate chip cookies topped with flakes of sea salt (via Fossix on Pitt Street) while binging Netflix on my AirPods.
Beyond memories to treasure, our trip gave me the space to fully appreciate this tiny but rapidly changing human I grew inside me. And being with Indah in this way made me even more excited to meet her little sister, to find out who she becomes and to witness their interactions. I won’t lie: a mama-daughter babymoon isn’t the most relaxing choice of all. But it was by far the most meaningful one for it allowed me to maximize every second with my first daughter while she’s still my only baby.
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