Unpacking “the last hurrah.”
When my friend Jaimie called to tell me she had news this summer, I could tell by her tone of voice that it was the good kind. My mind immediately jumped to what might lay ahead: was she engaged, or pregnant? Or was it something else entirely? It was a 10-second pause and yet somehow it lasted long enough for me to deliberate. And then it was over, and she was saying the word “baby”, and the thrill of it all nearly broke me in two.
Jaimie is my first pregnant friend, and so she is now the subject of my ongoing curiosity, poured out over text and phone call: what does it feel like? It is heavy? Are you scared? Are you going on a babymoon?
Admittedly, this last question was kind of a silly one. But then again it wasn’t, because a month later she and her partner were in our apartment in Brooklyn, having traveled all the way from an island off the coast of Washington State. She had the requisite glow that I always thought was just a cheesy turn-of-phrase (in her case, at least, it wasn’t) and the two of them were in this kind of limbo, straddling two worlds: one pre-baby, one post. Later, she described the babymoon to me as a friends-and-family tour, one big “last hurrah” before the kid arrived. I was bearing witness to some of the last days of their life as a family of two.
“It’s kind of crazy,” she told me. “It’s the end of your time alone together, and that's kind of a shock, and you’re kind of already pre-mourning that loss, that nostalgia for your relationship as it was. The excitement and feeling really sure about it feels so good, but it can still freak you out! You can’t really imagine what it will be like.”
In certain corners of the internet, it kind of feels like everyone is going on a babymoon these days (if, that is, they have the finances and time to do so). But according to Merriam-Webster, our contemporary definition – of a pre-baby vacation, kind of like a honeymoon do-over – is fairly new. The babymoon used to signify the precious time right after your baby was born, not right before. Likewise, the honeymoon wasn’t a vacation either, but the period right after the wedding (recall the “honeymoon phase” of a new relationship or job, for example).
The modern definition of the word “honeymoon” came into fashion a long time ago, in the late 1700s. As for the babymoon, its evolution happened a lot more recently, in the 1990s. And while the cynic in me is tempted to see this definitional turnaround as yet another capitalist intrusion into family life – a way to slice up and commodify a new chapter that comes with the introduction of Baby, stage left – I know, deep down, that life is more complicated than that. For Jaimie, the trip was a celebration of their relationship in lieu of something more traditional, like a big wedding; it marked the end of one era and ushered in the beginning of another. From my (as of now, childless) point-of-view, witnessing that didn’t feel capitalistic at all. It just felt like joy.