An odd reaction, I know. But the three of us had been contemplating a summer vacation for months; Marina and Julia had spent weeks attempting to convince me I could find the time and cash. But in that moment over brunch, the trip took on new significance. It wasn’t just a frivolous jaunt. It would be the last trip the three of us could take, at least for now and as unencumbered adults. It became more than an optional expense. It became a verifiable babymoon, and I had no choice but to attend.
You’ve probably heard (or seen evidence on Instagram) of a #babymoon. It’s a trip that couples sometimes take shortly before the birth of a child, and it’s been billed as a kind of last romantic excursion.
But Julia wasn’t going on a babymoon with her husband, who in fact took his own solo trip this summer. And that made perfect sense to us. I’ve known Julia since we wee, well, babies. While pregnant with us, our moms took aerobics classes together and we were born within hours of each other. Later, we went to the same pre-K and elementary school. We’ve been friends through it all. And now that she’s pregnant, it feels we’ve come full-circle. Of course we would explore this next stage together, even if only one of us is pregnant.
The purpose of our trip and of babymoons in general is to celebrate, but it’s also to state the obvious: things are going to change. Even for us, there was a twinge of sadness to it. What was going to happen to our friendship once she gave birth? Would she have time to travel without her spouse and child? Would she have time for us, at all?
“Without a doubt one of the biggest, and frequently most complicated, changes to a friendship is the addition of a baby,” speaker and author of Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness Shasta Nelson confirms. “The birth of a child changes the woman in life-altering ways and since she’s half the friendship, it’s impossible for the friendship to not have to change as well. Many friendships don’t make it past this stage.”
I wasn’t quite panicked, but I was aware of the impending doom. To quote the speech I gave at her wedding, can you blame me for being afraid to lose someone I’ve been connected to like a twin since birth?
We booked my flights to Portugal that afternoon.
We’d planned plenty of trips before, but this one was different—more emotional, with higher stakes. Also, more rules.
I should admit that when Julia told us she was pregnant and wanted to go to Portugal regardless, the first thought I had was, “You’re getting on a plane with that thing?” And by “that thing,” I meant, “that child.” Julia confirmed it would be fine because the trip was during her second trimester—generally considered the safest and most comfortable time to travel during a pregnancy. We decided to give the babymoon four days. It seemed like the perfect amount of time to relax and explore without exhausting anyone, especially Julia. But then we had to settle on activities, and with activities came considerations.
Wine country was out of the question. Spas are less enjoyable for pregnant women than the movies make them out to be; too hot. So we settled on Portugal’s Algarve region because of the range of relaxed activities and the reasonable flight time.
While Julia likes to save and Marina likes to socialize, this was not a time to skimp on a hostel and relive our glory days of backpacking around Europe. I knew that traveling with a pregnant person meant we might spend more time in the hotel. We wanted to make sure if Julia got tired or sick, we were in a comfortable and pleasant environment. (FYI: We found just that at Tivoli Lagos, steps from old town.)
Our first night, I cuddled up next to Julia in her bed—food baby to actual baby. This was my best friend of forever, and there was life growing inside the same stomach we’d spent countless childhood nights stuffing with Dominos. I was flooded with memories, and, of course, emotions. When we were kids, this was the best part of the night. Both of us squished into her childhood twin bed, recapping the highlights from the parties we’d just gotten home from or the “all-nighter” we’d attempted to pull. We’ve swapped out the parties for dinners and the all-nighters for train rides home from Marina’s place, but other than that, not much has changed.
Curled up in Portugal, I felt a sudden calmness. We’re closer than ever. Change is coming, sure as a new school year at the end of the summer. But we’re ready for it.
The next morning, we migrated to the hotel’s private beach. We spent the next several hours under an umbrella. The sand between our toes, we vowed not to fall into the common beach-trap of complaining about our bikini bodies or lack thereof. Julia wanted to practice self-love so that her child would know nothing else. We didn’t have her excuse, but decided then and there to be kind to ourselves on the trip, too.
At times throughout the vacation, it didn’t feel like Julia was in a different state than we were. At one point she wanted to hike. Marina and I whined for 30 minutes on a moderate trail before convincing Julia to turn back, insisting it wasn’t safe for her.
But there were moments that demanded greater adjustment. One morning, Julia was so exhausted she couldn’t get out of bed. I’m type-A when it comes to travel, as Julia learned on previous trips. In fact our biggest fight ever occurred during a college trip to Spain—I had gotten sick of constantly begging her to get out of bed and snapped. This time I let her sleep. I had accepted that we might not hit every single sight on the map. What I hadn’t anticipated was what an asset that perspective would be. Instead of rushing through a greatest-hits list, we slowed down. And the unexpected moments of stillness—staying on the beach or lingering at a restaurant just a bit longer—gave us unexpected and welcome opportunities to reflect and connect.
On our last night, the topic of change hung in the vines over our heads. Under lanterns and over a bottle of wine and a mocktail, we talked about how children could affect our friendship, with Julia pointing out that it was just like all the milestones that had come before—going away to college, moving out of a shared apartment and in with boyfriends, and marriage, all of which we’d been through together. “Things are going to be different and it’s OK because we’ve gotten through big changes before,” Marina assured us. “We are growing together, we just need to make sure we make space for each other.”
I had gotten so lost in the fears I had about losing her, I forgot that her fears were worse, and having the chance to talk them out with us was more valuable to her than I could have imagined. So close to the water, surrounded by beautiful cliff views and that feeling of limitlessness that travel can create, we found the time and courage to have a conversation we might not have ever had at home.
I’m so grateful for the four straight days I spent with my best friends. Not only did this trip give us new memories and remind us of how much we complete each other, it strengthened the circle of women that will surround this little girl when she enters the world. I can’t wait to tell Julia’s daughter about the time we took her to Portugal.
Maggie Parker is a journalist in New York City covering wellness, entertainment, and travel. Follow her on Twitter at @Maggie_WP.
Originally Appeared on Glamour