Pregnant while boating . . .with toddlers
May 21st, 2017

So many people have asked me what it’s like to be pregnant, with two toddlers, and living on a boat. I’ve been asked numerous times when I would write a post on the subject. But the answer always stumped me. Being pregnant with toddlers on a boat was, to me, just like being pregnant with toddlers in a Boston condo. Except better, obviously, because I was on a boat. 

My personal road to motherhood has often been more of a bumpy trail or waterway. With my first baby, I spent the bulk of my pregnancy camping on our newly-purchased land in Vermont. Forty gorgeous acres on the side of a mountain, with nary a road to reach it. We set up a semi-permanent campsite and would hike in and out for several months until the road was done enough for a four-wheeler ATV to traverse it. The highlight came at 5 months pregnant when we had an outhouse put in. Then the low point came at 3 AM one night, when I went to pee for the 16th time and sat in my 6-year-old step-son’s diarrhea that had not made it all the way past the seat.

living on a boat with kids

Beach couches! Better than my boston living room by far.

With my second baby, we were living on our boat in New England for most of my pregnancy. He was due in late September so we made the most of the summer, sailing around Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. This was as awesome as it sounds–boat life, with all of New England’s modern amenities at arm’s reach.

This third time around was, as it often is, a different story entirely. We left Vinalhaven, Maine, in early October of last year, with our two youngest kids in tow. We sailed first to Nantucket (about 28 hours door to door), where we spent several weeks before moving on to Martha’s Vineyard. From Martha’s Vineyard we took off on our first multi-day stretch offshore, sailing roughly 4 days to Morehead City, North Carolina. From Morehead City, we sailed another 3.5 days to St. Augustine, FL. After two weeks there, getting some final boat repairs done, we made the final leg of our journey, across the Gulf Stream to the Abaco Islands of the Bahamas. A total of 1400 nautical miles, with a 2- and almost-4-year-old aboard. We arrived exhausted, salty, and PROUD. We were also excited that our kids had finally reached an age where we could take them on an extended offshore adventure like this, instead of hiring crew to do it for us. A huge parenting milestone for sailors.

We relaxed in the Bahamas for a couple of weeks before heading home to New England for the Christmas holidays with family. While we were offshore, I had taken my birth-control pill “straight through”, not bothering with the placebos so that I wouldn’t have to worry about my period while in rough seas. (I am pretty good seasickness-wise but not if I have to go below a lot.) So, it wasn’t until about 10 days before Christmas that I noticed something was missing. To keep a long story short–My husband and I had a collective meltdown, I ran to my doctor, and an ultrasound confirmed that I was already 10 weeks along.

Looking back on this past winter, pregnant and living aboard our sailboat with our two toddlers, I am both grateful for being able to spend my pregnancy in such a beautiful place, but also very aware of the little things that made it possible. Below are the six things that kept me smiling while traveling through the pregnancy with two littles in tow:

1. Thermacell:

living on a boat with kids

My thermacell was always by my side! (Shown on right of pic)

I’ll cut to the chase here and talk about ZIKA. When I first found out that I was pregnant, I freaked out, thinking I would not be able to return to our boat in the Bahamas.  Luckily, my doctor was very reasonable about it. She is an OB at what is consistently ranked tops in the US for maternity hospitals, with about 25 years experience under her belt (under lots of belts!!), so I trusted her when she assured me that the area of the Bahamas we were traveling to was not yet known to be dangerous–and at any rate, the bugs that were there were the same bugs that were in North Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. The Abacos are outlying islands on the North East corner of the Bahamas, and I barely saw any mosquitoes the entire time. So I wouldn’t say that I was nervous, but I was definitely cautious. Friends on another boat–who had found themselves in exactly the same surprise situation the year before–recommended the Thermacell, and I carried it everywhere. I’m not sure if it worked or not, but I am officially CDC-tested and Zika-free.



2. Exercise:

living on a boat with kids

Morning run views 💯

With my first two pregnancies, I worked out. I went to barre classes, yoga, and did cardio machines at the gym. None of this was an option in the Bahamas, so I simply ran. Running is just another level of exercise, and I noticed a big difference in how I felt. Beyond the physical benefit (and let me assure you, I was winning no races!), there is a meditative aspect to being in nature, solo, for a nice chunk of time every morning. I felt energized for the rest of the day, and noticed a big dip in my energy level when I didn’t get my morning run in.


3. Bikinis and Sarongs Every Day:

living on a boat with kidsI know, not everyone wants to be in a bikini when your body is going haywire, you’re gaining weight in strange new places (ok, everywhere), and just generally feeling like a whale. But if you can embrace the beach wear, then suddenly the worries over maternity clothes and what still fits and what doesn’t goes away. Not to mention a tan does wonders for any appearance complaint! Sarongs and kimono cover-ups were my daily clothes. They’re so comfortable, never stop fitting, and let me wear a bikini without feeling too much on display.


4. Simplicity with Toddlers:

living on a boat with kids

Soccer and baseball
practice is replaced by fishing and skim boarding

There is a lot to be said for waking up and climbing right out the hatch into the beautiful outdoor morning. If you need to go somewhere, there is even more to be said for getting them into life jackets and the dinghy instead of coaxing (carrying) them down 3 flights of stairs, through ice and snow to our garage, and wrestling them in coats and boots into their car seats. We woke up, and got right outside. They never wore shoes. It was simple, easy entertainment. I would trade a lot of perceived creature comforts for that simple routine.



5. Healthier Eating:

I have been vegan for close to a year, Whole Foods Market is basically my mother ship, and I like to fancy myself a very healthy eater when pregnant, packing in tons of fresh fruits and vegetables. I was living on a boat with kidsso worried at first that I wouldn’t be giving this baby the proper nutrition since we were nowhere near
a healthy food store, and our local market was not much better-stocked than your average US convenience store. What food was there was shipped over from a Costco or Winn Dixie in Florida. There was nothing organic. What happened, however, was that I focused so much on getting what nutrition I could, I ended up eating way healthier than I would have at home, because it required a conscious effort. Instead of buying and eating an entire “organic” baguette from Whole Foods, I was forced to actually make salads.  


6. No News is Good News:

With limited internet and no TV, I missed an entire season of rather depressing news. While my friends were fighting the good fight on Facebook and getting fired up over pretty much every news story out of Washington, I was blissfully ignorant at the beach.

For more information and safety tips for boating check out the article: Boating While Pregnant.


Guest post by: Lily Bingham

living on a boat with kidsSailor, surfer, and all around outdoor adventure enthusiast, Lily lives to get outside with her husband and their 4 kids.  Whether sailing the Caribbean on their sailboat “Robin Hood” or living off the grid in a tiny cabin on an island in Maine, Lily is always learning and adapting the best ways to travel sanely with kids. Follow her adventures on Instagram at @boatsboardsandbabies



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