Last month, I had what many would call the opportunity of a lifetime: a chance to stay at the world class Miraval Life in Balance Spa and Resort in Tucson, Arizona. You may have seen it featured on Oprah (it’s reportedly her favorite destination spa in America), with brave women tackling the inventive challenge courses—including climbing a telephone pole in harnesses and taking bold leaps of faith from the top, learning to eat (gourmet cuisine) mindfully, and learning a lot about themselves through a unique program working with horses.
At seven months pregnant, I knew I would miss my chance to leap off the telephone pole (a great disappointment to my inner-thrill-seeker), but I figured that between the spa treatments, gourmet inclusive dining, and workshops, I would find plenty of other ways to amuse and improve myself at Miraval. What might come as the biggest surprise to some of my readers is that my “leap off the telephone pole” was actually spending the night without either of my children for the first time.
I actually had this opportunity one year ago, and had to turn it down because I just wasn’t emotionally ready to leave my girls, and the thought of boarding an airplane without my family simply broke my heart. I had a serious guilt complex about the hours I’d already spent away from them finishing the book Travels with Baby, and I felt like any amount of time or money I spent having fun should certainly be with them.
This time, however, I was ready for it. All of it. Best of all, I was able to work my “Mommymoon at Miraval” into part of a family vacation to visit nearby relatives, and we all traveled together in true Rivoli style. Knowing that my daughters were having the time of their lives with cousins, Daddy, aunts and uncles, chocolate lab and Chinese water dragon gave me no guilt as I gratefully received my “desert rain pre-natal salt scrub” on arrival (highly recommended!), followed by a steak dinner and four desserts in the dining room, all on my first evening at Miraval (life’s full of tough decisions, dessert shouldn’t be one of them).
As I lay luxuriating in the glorious feather-stuffed bed later that night, enjoying the novelty of complete quiet and the company of a great novel, my book suddenly bobbed on its perch reminding me that one of my children was in fact there with me after all. He sent occasional kicks and jabs to remind me of this throughout my mealtimes and meditations, even to the abhyanga massage therapist who had gently slathered relieving sesame oil to my stretched abdomen (it’s the best stretch mark relief I’ve found yet). I didn’t mind my baby’s reminders at all. I giggled out loud in the middle of my mindful stress management seminar as my shirt leapt in response to a question. It was fun to be on an adventure with my unborn, yet unknown child, and incredible to so freely focus on the wonder of being pregnant again.
Keeping up with my two young children at home has rarely given me a moment to contemplate who this other little person will be, let alone how far along in the pregnancy I am (one blink and I suddenly jumped from 20 weeks to 30). Of course, it was also nice to have the quiet, the space to step back and breathe and see my life from outside the whirlwind of motherhood that’s engulfed me these past 5 years. I’d always figured that if I did eventually get away by myself overnight, alone, I would spend the time locked in a motel room or cabin working on my next novel. I wouldn’t waste a moment sleeping, and would instead stay up all night, a joyous Penelope just weaving fiction as I haven’t been able to do uninterrupted in quite some time.
Instead, I dreamt. I slept and dreamt as I also haven’t done in quite some time. I would wake up from one dream, smile at the realization that I’d had a dream, roll over and dream some more. Unlike at home, where one ear is always perked for the call of a child, I never had trouble going right back to sleep again. I’m not sure if it’s something they put in the pillows at Miraval, but what they’d put on my pillow that first evening has become a treasured bookmark in the novel I’m reading at the end of each day: an inspiration card that reads “Sleep to dream.” Did I ever.
I was hoping, like most people who get the extraordinary chance to visit Miraval, to reconnect with my spirit in ways I haven’t been able to in recent years. Dreaming, something that once was an integral part of my being, my creativity, and even my decision-making process, was an added bonus I hadn’t expected.
For expectant mothers, especially those with one or more children already to care for, I think it’s extremely valuable to have some time away from the hubbub of everyday life and home and reflect on the journey thus far, before the new baby arrives. For tips on creating your own meaningful mommymoon, be it for a weekend or an afternoon, see my latest article at Examiner.com.