When January 1, 2017 rolled around, I said to hell with New Year’s resolutions. I had my 40th birthday trip to plan! How did I want to celebrate? Since my birthday is mid-March, I pondered the idea of a private Caribbean sailing trip around the British Virgin Islands. But as jazzed as I was about planning a trip, I held off booking for multiple reasons.
We had just gotten back from our epic three-week Patagonia trip at the tail end of 2016, which meant Daniel had depleted his vacation time and our travel funds were running low. But the main reason I had a hard time making a decision on booking a booze cruise was because we were trying to get pregnant.
A lot of what ifs darted around in my mind and I began to suffer from analysis paralysis. What if I got pregnant before our trip? What if I had complications from the get-go? What if I had morning sickness on the boat? How fun would a tropical trip be if I couldn’t sip cocktails all day?
After a month of hemming and hawing, I finally said enough. I pushed the what ifs aside, switched gears and declared to Daniel we would use our travel points to jet up to Napa Valley wine country for a glutinous foodie-inspired trip. I joked it would be my last big boozy hoorah before getting pregnant.
JOKE’S ON US
On February 14 – yep, Valentine’s Day –I received a call in the early evening from The French Laundry. YES! THE French Laundry in Yountville, California where celebrated chef Thomas Keller and his team make delicious and masterful dishes that make your eyes swoon and your taste buds dance the jitterbug. The three star Michelin restaurant, that is damn near impossible to get a reservation, called me to ask when would I like to dine with them.
Now, you might be wondering why did they call me? That’s simple – magic. (My cousin Chris, who works in the restaurant business, phoned in a favor to his circle of foodie wizards and voilà!)
After the reservation was set and I hung up the phone, I did a little victory dance. My frugal husband, however, was stunned. I don’t think he ever thought we’d actually get a reservation at such a coveted (not to mention uber expensive) place. Poor guy…He only had a few weeks to mentally prepare himself for how much dough we would drop on one dinner. I, on the other hand, dreamt about this for 10 years and had already rationalized the cost as a once-in-a-life-time experience.
Later that night, after Daniel fell asleep, I crept downstairs to watch TV. It was hard to sleep or concentrate on anything for that matter. I was going to The French Laundry! But as the night wore on, I started feeling overly emotional. A bit off, really. And I realized I was four days late. Hmm…I crept back upstairs to our bathroom and took a pregnancy test.
Positive! Let the dancing continue! I didn’t think the night could get any better after my French Laundry excitement but boy was I wrong. I was finally pregnant!
NAVIGATING PLANS AROUND PREGNANCY
Truth be told, the only reason I did not cancel my wine country birthday trip was because of our coveted reservations at The French Laundry. Let that go? I was pregnant, not mad. Besides, we would be there during the week the baby was developing its taste buds so I got a kick out of the idea that our kid would grow up intuitively knowing chicken nuggets and ketchup are beneath them.
Once we arrived in Napa, I quickly learned how tricky it would be navigating our plans around my pregnancy. No wine, no unpasteurized cheeses, deli meat, etc. So, essentially no charcuterie. Not a problem. I focused on all things dessert.
We spent our first day at The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa. It was a gift Daniel got me before we knew I was pregnant. Upon arrival, we had to argue our way into our scheduled couples massage. The front desk said it was against their policy to give massages to women in their first trimester even though my doctor said it was okay. I also couldn’t soak in any of the naturally fed hot spring pools throughout the property because of the pregnancy. No worries. I lounged by the pool and soaked up the sun instead.
We skipped the wine tastings I had reserved because well, I was pregnant. Daniel (at this point) was not into wine so it seemed pointless to go. (And no, I do not spit when tasting wine. That’s blasphemy!) So, mocktails it was everywhere we went. For dinner that first night, we went to Michael Chiarello’s Bottega Napa Valley restaurant and had a delicious time. It was there that Daniel was talked into a beautiful $40 glass of Pinot Noir. He was a big fan and I saw a light go off in his head. Maybe he did like wine after all…
RING THAT DINNER BELL
The following day we tootled around Napa and checked out the Oxbow Public Market. It was the ideal place to dodge the spring rain and nibble on tasty items from local vendors. Nibble was really all we could do since we were starving ourselves for the feast that awaited us at our early dinner.
I felt like a kid again and it was Christmas Eve. Instead of letting the suspense kill me, we killed some time and walked The French Laundry culinary garden across the street from the restaurant.
Finally, FINALLY 5:00 p.m. came. I had never been so happy to be eating during the early bird hour. Once I convinced Daniel it was mandatory he wear a jacket (tie not required), we finished dressing up and headed to dinner. Giddy up! I was on pins and needles.
Where do I begin? In a nutshell, dinner at The French Laundry made my 40th birthday truly memorable. The whole experience was surreal.
We were seated in a corner in an alcove room off to the side for more privacy (Hooray! I could snap photos and not feel like an idiot.) Plus, the sommelier was so wonderful and provided non-alcoholic pairings throughout the night. That was VERY much appreciated! The service team (minimum 10 people for every table) were genuinely personable and friendly. I was a wee bit concerned they would be snobby. Not at all! Those service ninjas were what made the evening so magical. I say ninjas because out of nowhere food would appear on our table at once from all angles.
Multiple times during dinner Daniel and I would take a bite and look up at each other and simultaneously say, “Wow. Holy cow, wow. That’s amazing.”
Then the dessert courses came out. Yes, courses! I felt like I was a kid again with so many wonderful things placed in front of me all at once!
We also saw Chef Thomas Keller. I first saw him when he came out to speak with some guests, then again when we went back to the kitchen….speaking of….
We were given a tour of the new $12 million kitchen. They started the renovations in 2015 and had been cooking in many variations of make-shift kitchens for the past two years. It was incredible to see it in action AND to see Chef Keller in his office overlooking everything. (FYI – it’s the size of a toll booth!)
I got a bag of goodies afterward for my birthday complete with personalized menus (signed by the head chef), shortbread cookies, chocolates and truffles!
I was floating on cloud nine after that experience. Floating because I didn’t feel weighted down after all the courses we had, but also because I had just checked off something from my bucket list. I felt like I had been sprinkled with magic dust that night. Knowing I was pregnant was the icing on the cake.
WHEN LIFE TAKES A SHARP TURN
Two weeks after our Napa trip, we had our 10-week check-up and sonogram. That’s when our doctor discovered our baby no longer had a heartbeat. Tears started to flow, questions followed. A D&C was scheduled.
All I wanted was for Daniel, the love of my life, to hold me tight. After many nights sobbing on his chest, I tried to figure out what was next. I had been so excited that we were going to be parents. Now what? I felt directionless. I was in a holding pattern waiting to get pregnant again. I needed a distraction and something to look forward to. I leaned on the second love of my life – travel.
Within days I had us booked for Memorial Day weekend in Austin, Texas. Not long after that trip was planned, I bought my ticket to Outside Lands Music Festival in San Francisco. Then Daniel and I whipped up a 10-day camping trip to Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks since I was no longer battling exhaustion and constant trips to the bathroom. In my post-pregnancy trip-planning flurry, I began to wonder if I should rebook my recently cancelled flight to Puerto Rico so that I could still attend a clients conference. I had cancelled the flight when I was pregnant because Puerto Rico was a hotbed for Zika.
Decisions, decisions. But the distractions were working. I had trips to look forward to and things to plan.
WHY I’M SHARING NOW
My pregnancy will forever be tied to my 40th birthday Napa experience and my miscarriage initiated other travel plans as a coping mechanism. I shared all those trips on social media but said nothing about the joy or sorrow inextricably tied to all of those events. It just didn’t seem right to share that kind of news that way. But if travel has taught me anything, it’s that the more we learn from one another’s experiences, the more we see each other as fellow humans who we want to help. Travel helps make our hearts and minds grow bigger. So does sharing our life stories.
I was recently reminded of this when I read an article from Ellen Gustafson. She shared her journey of miscarriage and becoming a mom by pointing out we’re denying support and knowledge by not disclosing those experiences.
I whole-heartedly agree with her summary: “In a more honest and caring social media universe, people might post about pregnancy loss and get support and sympathy. With a more open dialogue about unexplained miscarriage and infertility, women (and men) might demand more answers for why things don’t always go according to our hopes and plans.”
Daniel and I are trying to get pregnant again. As much as we love to travel, we see this as our ultimate journey – becoming parents. We have no idea how long it will take or how we’ll get there, but I do know along the way I want to create an open dialogue by sharing and asking questions.
Looks like I’m creating a New Year’s resolution after all. Better late than never!
Infertility and miscarriage is unfairly a taboo subject, even though infertility is recognized as a disease and 10 to 20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage.