Usually, it takes about two years from the acquisition of a manuscript for a picture book to be born, fully developed with squeal-worthy artwork and huggable hardback covers. Sometimes, the gestational period can be much longer. Such was the case with BABYMOON by Hayley Barrett, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal. And, like so many things made with love and nurtured with patience and tenderness, this book was worth the wait.
The deal for BABYMOON was announced on April 2, 2015, exactly four years ago. In that time, 26 emus could have hatched, one right after the other. (It takes an emu 56 days on average to go from egg to chick.) So please join me, all the EMUs here in our digital nest, and an imaginary mob of 26 emus, in wishing a very happy book birthday to Hayley and BABYMOON!!
If you think a babymoon is like a honeymoon, you would not be far off. The original term, coined by midwives and birth professionals, describes the period right after the birth of a baby. It is, according to Hayley, “a time for holding the world at bay, a time for a new family constellation to rest, bond, and celebrate.” Recently, the tourism industry has adopted the term to market one last getaway trip for expectant parents. While it’s a wonderful idea to relax and reconnect with a partner before a baby arrives, I’d argue that slowing down and taking the time to connect with a brand-new family member is even more important.
Throughout history and across the globe, postpartum traditions have existed. There are a number of names for what is essentially a babymoon, ranging from a “lying-in period,” “confinement,” “zuo yuezi (sitting the month),” or “la cuarentena (quarantine).” But they all involve the seclusion of the mother and baby in order to help them recover and bond. A babymoon could last anywhere from 8 days to 8 weeks or more, depending on the country. Moms are fed nourishing foods to help them regain strength, visitors (and their germs) are limited to protect weakened immune systems, and family members take care of the cooking and cleaning. I love how babymoons not only bonds parents with their new child, but also brings a community together. Hayley says, “It should not be a luxury. Everyone should do it.”
In the U.S., though, new moms are often rushed back to work, pressured to regain their pre-baby figures, and encouraged to “bounce back” as quickly as possible. They experience little rest or relaxation. Traditional postpartum practices are forgotten or lost as people immigrate to the U.S. and get caught up in the quick pace of life and lack of maternity/paternity leave. Many people don’t have relatives/friends who can pitch in. Hopefully, though, that is all changing. People can hire postpartum doulas to visit new parents and check on babies; they can even bring food and give massages. In some communities with large Chinese populations, there are guesthouses where moms and babies can spend their babymoons being pampered alongside other new moms. (Wouldn’t it be nice if babymoon guesthouses existed for everyone?)
Whether a babymoon lasts for a day, a week, or even (blessedly) a whole month, take the time. Enjoy “a sweet, secluded afternoon – this restful time, our babymoon.” And whether your baby is a day, a year, or even 18 years old (as my firstborn turns today!), gather them close, curl up with a copy of BABYMOON, and celebrate the person that made you a family.
Resources for expectant and new parents:
Baby Café USA: http://www.babycafeusa.org
Ou, Heng, et al. “The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother.” Abrams, 2016.
Search online for a Mothering Circle or Postpartum Support Group near you. Some Mothering Circles even provide lactation consultants as well as classes on infant care or yoga.
Andrea Wang is an EMUs Debuts alumna and the award-winning author of The Nian Monster. She loves to travel and sample new and unusual foods. Unsurprisingly, most of her writing is about food. Andrea writes picture books and middle grade novels. Her second picture book, Magic Ramen, was published in March 2019. Andrea holds an M.S. in Environmental Science and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing for Young People. She lives in Colorado with her family and their dog, Mochi, named for the sticky rice dessert.