Webster’s dictionary defines it as “a respite.” And that’s what I’ve always experienced in my annual beach vacations since I was a child. Should I have known that it’d be different now that I am a mom? Well…not exactly. I mean, I tallied the family and friends that would be there with us-no doubt excited to hold and play with a baby, especially my baby. I’d get the ample relaxation I’ve worked hard for over the past 10 months. I imagined sitting on the beach, gazing at the ocean (or a magazine) while my little babe slept in that nifty beach tent I bought last week. Visions of those wonderful guiltless vacation dinners swirled in my mind with images of grandma or grandpa entertaining our son as my husband and I sat back with a couple of glasses of wine. I also pictured my baby so exhausted from the day’s events that he’d fall asleep at bedtime and sleep sound through the night.
The following is what vacation actually felt like this year.
We arrived at the hotel just in time to unwind and catch up with family for a bit before going out for a casual dinner. Prepared with milk and a variety of Gerber jars, we enjoyed cheeseburgers and fries at one of our favorite oceanfront joints. Near the end, just when he started to get fussy, Grandma took him outside to get some fresh air and to look at the lit palm trees. So far…so good.
Back at the resort, I lay with our son as he guzzled a bottle of milk and drifted off to slumber. We had a Pack ‘n Play just the right size for him and I’d made sure to pad it with plenty of fluff, including his favorite blanket and his stuffed doggie. Other familiarities of home included his turtle nightlight and a fan for noise. I was so prepared!!! I joined my parents, their best friends (might as well be my aunt and uncle) and my husband for a board game and some cervezas. But I was shocked to find that with every excited shout, or high-five or tipsy burst of laughter, I tensed up.
Don’t wake up my baby, I thought. Don’t they realize how loud they’re being? Don’t they know who has to spend an hour getting him back to sleep if they wake him? If I did join in on the fun, it’d be with a hushed giggle or just a nervous smile. I wanted to cry. Maybe if I showed them I was being quiet, they’d follow suit. No deal! Nobody cared. Not even my husband seemed concerned. (Or everyone realized that the baby probably will sleep through anything or would possibly wake up even if there was total silence. So they were going to enjoy their vacation anyway.)
Finally, it was time to go to bed. I kissed my husband good-night. I rested my head on my pillow, my shoulders settled into the bed; my back followed suit. I breathed a sigh. My eyes rolled back in my head as my body lay stiff as a board—not a single movement to wake my baby. Then he starts. Not my son…my husband. He’s snoring! I always wear earplugs at home and can somehow manage. But the baby! Sure enough, our son wakes up to the noise. It’s close to 1:00 a.m.; he’s crying and I’m very aware that everyone in the house is trying to sleep and we’re in such close quarters. I cry silently as I change his diaper, grab another bottle and curl up on the couch. It’s freezing. The men in this place have cranked up the air. So I shiver, figuring all the blankets were in the various bedrooms. At least I’d grabbed Luke’s blankie to keep him warm. Together, we eventually fell asleep.
Like clockwork, he is up and ready to go at 6:00 a.m. If every night is going to be like this, it’s going to be a long week and coffee will inevitably be my best friend! Now it’s time to enjoy our first official day on holiday. My mom wants to go to shopping this morning. I feel a twinge of guilt asking my husband to spend our first morning of vacation alone with our baby. I know I shouldn’t, but I do. And then I question my thoughts for doubting that I should. Though I’m happy to be spending one-on-one time with my mom, I can’t get my mind off my baby boy. We rush back, sooner than we would’ve in the past, just in time to give him his bottle for his morning nap. Everyone is heading to the beach now; I assure them I’m happy to stay in the room while he sleeps. Maybe I’ll nap a little, too. And I do.
Before I know it, it’s lunch time. We all eat together and it’s time to pack our beach bag, making sure I have plenty of milk and snacks, and the tent and towels and the float. I slather my son in SPF 50 and top him off with a pretty stylin’ hat. I grab my magazine. On the way to the beach, we pass the hotel tiki bar. Zac and I should definitely grab a cocktail before dinner one evening. What fun! I don’t know it yet, but we actually won’t fit this in this year…or next.
Finally set up at the beach, my dad is upstairs napping and their friends have chosen the pool. Seems as though spending ample amounts of time with my cute little baby isn’t first on their vacation checklist. Hmmm! But my mom is with us and she enjoys every second of hugging and playing with our little beachgoer! He crawls in and out of the tide pools, splashing away. His daddy finds a little crab and our boy watches in amazement as it tickles his arm.
We decide it’s time to try out the pool. We bought this awesome little raft with a sunshade and our angel enjoys the pool just as much as the ocean…he is our water baby and that pleases us immensely. I’m happy to be in the pool because I think this hides those last few pounds of baby weight and I have fun swimming around his float and playing little games. We return to the beach and to my mom and my dad; my husband takes Luke out into the late afternoon sea. He goes out far, but safe in his daddy’s arms. They jump the waves and my little boy doesn’t flinch when he gets splashed in the face. With a huge grin on his face, hair slicked back with the salty water, my little fish looks like a natural.
Finally, I am sitting in a chair, semi-relaxing and I find myself overwhelmed with happiness. I may not be sipping a cocktail while reading up on Jennifer Aniston’s latest beau or sunbathing while lost in a lazy daydream…but this is my new family vacation, and I’ve waited for it my whole life. There will be sleep and magazines again in my future, but at least I get to soak in these blissful moments…and the sunshine…today!