Motherly Collective

I was in a toilet cubicle in JFK, en route to Amman when the reality of my decision to travel on a week-long adventure to the Middle East—alone and 16 weeks pregnant—hit home. I had a full meltdown moment, with all those mom guilt thoughts of, “I’m a bad mom for doing what I want to do.” I called my own mom in tears and said, “I’ve changed my mind, I’m not going.” Her expected response from a family that was born to explore: “Suck it up and get on the plane.”

It was March, and I’d passed the first trimester of pregnancy, with all the delights of feet swelling and fatigue still to come. In many ways, it was the perfect window in which to enjoy my bucket-list solo holiday—all before the bigger adventure of momhood began. Yet still, I found myself bubbling over with nerves. 

I live in Iowa, where attitudes to family life are quite conservative. Folks there travel but not to areas as far-flung as Jordan, and certainly not alone. When news of my solo trip spread, people were shocked that I would leave my husband back home. A lot of them told me, “Make him go!” But the fact is, while I live for adventure, my husband is more of a homebody. I’m used to traveling without him. I don’t feel bad about it, and neither does he, because we’re both doing what we want to do.

Related: The 7 best babymoons, according to travel experts

Making that decision while pregnant, however, provoked a new level of judgment. The irony was, my husband was fine with it. I booked the trip—an eight-day escape to Jordan with adventure travel company Flash Pack—before we got pregnant. I’ve always been drawn to the ancient history and culture of the Middle East region: It’s the gateway to a lifestyle that is so far outside my own experience, and the region has been on my bucket list for a long time. So when my husband and I found out we were expecting, we had the conversation about whether I should go ahead with the holiday. His attitude was, “As long as you feel OK and safe with the idea, go for it. It’s what you want to do.” 

Likewise, my mom, aunt and sister all encouraged me; like me, they’re avid travelers. They knew that if I didn’t seize the moment at that point, I never would. My doctor was also on-board: she advised drinking lots of water and wearing compression socks for the 12-hour flight.

It helped that Flash Pack was flexible, too. A group travel company for people in their 30s and 40s that I found online, it seemed a great fit for the kind of boutique, backpacking experience that I love. When I told them I was pregnant they said, “Don’t worry. We’ll make it work.” And they did. 

Kelli in Jordan

From the moment I joined my fellow group of travelers for a welcome meal on our first night in Amman, I relaxed. I realized that everyone was super-friendly and easygoing, with none of the kind of cliques you might sometimes grapple with in a group dynamic. On the first night, we played the game of telling two truths and a lie to one another; and I slipped in the fact that I was pregnant. Of course, the group didn’t believe it at first; but then they were delighted for me.

Related: It’s Science: ‘Girls Weekends’ boost mental health

The adventure I’d chosen was quite physical in parts, with experiences like desert glamping, and a 12-mile hike to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Petra. I was worried I’d hold everyone back. When you’re pregnant, you don’t know how you’re going to feel day to day and sometimes, you just don’t want to tough it out. But my fears were unfounded: we all did things at our own pace, with zero pressure. Most of the time, I was neither the fastest or the slowest of the group. We also had a good flow going, so people could join in with group activities however they chose to. I started to get quite tired toward the end of the trip, but it didn’t matter if I went to bed early. I didn’t feel like I was being antisocial or left out. 

My fellow travelers were really lovely—one woman joked she would be a mom figure to me, and offered to carry my suitcase for me throughout. As the trip went on, more people said to me, “I can’t believe you’re doing this!” I was proud of myself, too. My non-mom self would never have guessed I would one day be capable of all these amazing activities, from floating in the Dead Sea to jeeping across sand dunes, while in the second trimester of my first pregnancy. 

Related: It’s the second trimester! Here’s what to do & learn

The whole trip was awesome, and gave me an inside look at Jordanian culture with activities and experiences I’d never be able to plan on my own. A standout memory is the night we had dinner with a local Bedouin family in their tent in the desert. This is exactly the kind of travel I live for, and it was amazing to share in their hospitality and nomadic lifestyle.

My solo babymoon happened by accident, in that I booked the trip before I knew I was pregnant. I didn’t plan it as a babymoon per se. Before events played out as they did, I imagined I would head somewhere within the States for my babymoon. And, in fact, that’s exactly what I’m doing soon with my husband: we’re heading for Lake Tahoe, for a leisurely week of boating, relaxing and some short hikes here and there. 

Related: Going on a kid-free vacation is fantastic, but coming home is even better

The adventure in Jordan was a bonus for me. But that said, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. That moment of fear in the toilet was a clincher that I think many people face in life. I felt so much worry and uncertainty. I’m prone to overthinking anyway, and other people’s reactions to my decision to travel solo while pregnant dialed up that nagging voice of, “What happens if something goes wrong?” By moving through the discomfort, I chose the bigger road. I tapped into the appetite for adventure that I grew up on, and that I want my daughter to share. 

Taking a babymoon alone—and in a format that was so dramatically different from your average spa weekend—cemented my worldview that living beyond the everyday with different cultures and perspectives is a life source. My own life will soon change forever, and looking back, I don’t want to have any regrets. The next time I travel, I hope to take my daughter, too: we’ll explore, and grow, together.

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother's journey is unique. By amplifying each mother's experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you're interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.