The ultimate pregnant pause
Sleep in. Go to the movies. Have a romantic meal at a fabulous restaurant, just the two of you. As a mum-to-be, I've been told to do countless things before the baby arrives, but there was one must-do at the top of my list: go on a babymoon.
These days, a pre-baby escape is a rite of passage for pregnant couples, as de rigueur as doulas, sleep whisperers and moustached dummies. After all, the babymoon is the final fling, the last hurrah before life, as so many of my well-meaning friends are quick to point out, "changes forever".
Even the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge went on a babymoon, no doubt desperate to banish all thoughts of Baby Bjorns, breast pumps and bum rash. But while Kate Middleton flaunted her royal bump on the Caribbean island of Mustique, jetting off to frolic on a faraway island was out of the question for me.
Already well into my third trimester, life with a nearly baked bun in the oven was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. Wedging my body into an economy-class international flight would create a world of pain - not to mention cankles. A short-haul trip from Sydney to Byron Bay seemed much more doable and equally appealing. Far enough away from obstetrician appointments and ultrasounds, no hideous pressure stockings required.
Surrounded by 18 hectares of tranquil rainforest near Tallow Beach, The Byron at Byron Resort and Spa already ticks all the weekend getaway boxes, but the deal is sweetened for expectant couples with the Babymoon package, tailored to include such things as a babymoon hamper and preg-friendly spa therapies for both mum and dad-to-be (because sympathy pregnancy aches do exist, according to my husband).
After a swift check-in (peppered with plenty of "Congratulations" and "When is it due?" from smiling staffers), we are shown to our room, one of 92 treetop suites connected to the main hotel by a series of winding timber boardwalks.
Crucial to pregnant bodies, these spacious suites are much more comfortable than your average hotel room. Both the bed and lounge are generously proportioned, with plenty of cushions to prop up a growing belly. The kitchenettes feature kettles, dishwashers and even a fridge, should your pickles need chilling. To my ballooning body, however, the piece de resistance is the gloriously oversize, stand-alone bath tub.
It's only mid-afternoon, yet I can't resist turning on the taps for a lengthy soak, ferreting through the babymoon hamper as the tub fills. It's packed with local cookies and macadamia nuts (a godsend for those inevitable midnight pregnancy munchies) and full-size Sanctum spa products, which include bath salts and body scrubs for me, and an organic range for the bub. While I coo over lavender-scented bottom balm, my husband takes a meditative moment on the balcony overlooking the rainforest.
He's still there when I emerge from my bath and for a few peaceful minutes we sit together in silence, listening to the wind in the trees and the distant roar of the ocean. Then suddenly, it dawns on us. Save for our spa appointments, we have absolutely nothing planned for the next three days.
An empty schedule is new holiday territory for my partner and I, who are otherwise adventurous, pack-in-the-activity types. Not so on a babymoon, where things such as scuba-diving, a hike to Byron Bay's lighthouse, even knocking back a few cocktails ("All the fun stuff," I wail) are out.
Yet somehow, we manage to fill our days. We read newspapers over leisurely breakfasts and bake in the sunshine by the resort's 25-metre pool, in which I spend countless hours floating, my heavily pregnant body revelling in the blissful sensation of being weightless. One afternoon, we amble along the rainforest boardwalks to Tallow Beach. Ordinarily it would be a mere 10-minute stroll from our room, but it ends up a much longer waddle. At night, as bats soar in the skies above, we enjoy quiet dinners overlooking the rainforest at The Restaurant, feasting on Byron Bay pork, Northern Rivers beef, Yamba prawns and fresh heirloom vegetables cooked up by Scottish-born chef Gavin Hughes.
We toy briefly with the idea of joining Hughes on his guided Thursday morning farmers' market tour, but we are babymooners. It is our mission to relax. After all, we tell ourselves, we are facing years of sleepless nights and poo-splattered nappies.
Before long, we have morphed into those resort holidaymakers I've always despised - the ones who achieve little except for hoovering their bodyweight in bacon and eggs at the breakfast buffet and nabbing the best sun lounges by the pool. This is us - and it is fantastic. We are unashamedly slothful poolside fixtures, absorbed in our books and iPods, only pausing to thumb through the lunch menu. At 11am. All without a twinge of regret.
On day three, I rise early to join the resort's complimentary outdoor yoga class, where a limber female teacher guides me, along with a handful of novices and regular yogis, in a soothing one-hour session. The gentle stretches are a tonic for my aching back, but the muscular pinch clincher is my Mother Idyll massage.
Pregnant women are often spooked away from being massaged, but my therapist, Tara, is experienced in the art of gestational body prodding. A mother of one, she clearly remembers her own pregnancy aches, and after expertly propping me on my side with an array of soft cushions, proceeds to knead away knots. I warn Tara that I may moan rather loudly. In another room, I'm sure my husband is making similar noises as he's pummelled with a Rivergum Reverie massage.
Afterwards, we sip a cleansing tea in the spa's serene resting area, acutely aware that in a few weeks' time, words such as "idyll" and "reverie" will be banished forevermore from our vernacular.
Sleepless nights and poo-splattered nappies may await, but at least now we are well rested, rejuvenated and a little more mentally prepared.
Michelle Wranik was a guest of the Byron at Byron Resort.
1 QT Sydney
One for the design-conscious couple, the BabyQ package suits both expectant parents and those with a baby in tow, with breakfast daily (including freshly made baby food), SpaQ treatments for both and a bottle of French bubbles and a complimentary iiamo Go baby bottle. Checking in with a baby? Rooms are equipped with change mats and a chic Scandinavian beech Leander cot fitted with designer linen. A$450 (NZ$500)a night (minimum two-night stay). QT Sydney, (02) 8262 0000; qthotels.com.au.
2 Lyall Hotel & Spa, Melbourne
Aimed at the urban couple seeking a weekend shopping and spa break, this city babymoon package includes two nights' accommodation in a super deluxe or spa deluxe suite with daily breakfast, two Village cinema passes (to be used at the Jam Factory Village Cinema in South Yarra), a 4pm checkout and a full-size Sodashi Vitamin Rich body oil for mum-to-be. $790 for a two-night stay. Lyall Hotel and Spa, (03) 9868 8222; thelyall.com.
3 Hamilton Island Beach Club
Stroll barefoot and pregnant on the sands of Hamilton Island's palm-fringed Catseye beach, overlooking the Coral Sea. The babymoon package is a four-night stay with a la carte breakfast daily, free use of water-sports equipment, massages for both at Spa Wumurdaylin (with a take-home pregnancy body oil gift for mum-to-be) and VIP return transfers to the airport/marina. From $2486 for four nights. Hamilton Island Beach Club, 13 73 33; hamiltonisland.com.au.
The Byron at Byron, 77-97 Broken Head Road. 1300 554 362.
The Babymoon package, priced from $1395, includes three nights' accommodation with breakfast in a Superior Suite, a welcome-gift hamper of spa products for baby and mum, a one-hour Mother Idyll pregnancy massage or one-hour deluxe foot therapy for mum, one-hour Rivergum Reverie remedial massage for dad, complimentary yoga class daily and a complimentary in-house movie. 1300 554 362; thebyronatbyron.com.au.
Virgin Australia and Jetstar fly directly to Ballina Byron Gateway Airport from Sydney (1hr 15min). Flights from Melbourne stop over in Sydney. The resort is a 25-minute drive from the airport.
More information visitnsw.com.
Sydney Morning Herald