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Sailing the World (Pregnant)

Part 2: A fearless San Diego couple, mid-journey around the world, docks in Puerto Vallarta for a natural birth.


(page 1 of 2)

Photo of a sailboat

Read Part 1 and stand watch for Parts 3 of this series in the coming months. Follow the Kaufmans’ journey on their blog at therebelheart.com and  see a video clip of the family and map of their route around the world.

I was 25 weeks pregnant when we pulled away from San Diego’s America’s Cup Harbor and turned our sailboat, Rebel Heart, southward. I envisioned dolphins leaping in our bow wake, and my two-year-old daughter sitting next to me in the cockpit pointing out turtles, gray whales, and rays.

We were setting out on our around-the-world tour, with a planned stop in Puerto Vallarta to have a child. We would sail south, dock, find a hospital, have a baby, recover, and set sail for the South Pacific. But you know what they say about the best-laid plans.

By this point in my pregnancy we had figured out the type of medicine I needed to keep seasickness at bay, but it also made me terribly drowsy. So after waving goodbye to friends in the early morning light, Cora and I ambled down to her berth and collapsed in an exhausted heap. We slept as my husband, Eric, crossed the maritime boundary of the United States and Mexico and only came to several hours later as we approached the welcoming coastline of Ensenada and Mexico’s official port of entry for all international vessels.

Entering Mexico was a breeze, but as we prepared to leave Ensenada I was experiencing sciatic pain so severe I could barely walk or sit. I was anxious about taking seasickness medication for weeks at a time, and I had no idea how I’d care for my two-year-old in those conditions, in a sailboat, underway, bumping down the coastline of Baja.

A few hours later, our autopilot broke and that settled that. Eric turned our boat around and we hand-steered several hours back to Ensenada so he could fix it. While he steered, I talked. I told him that it was not a good idea for me to continue on our family sail around the world, at least for the next few months. It wasn’t an easy decision. This was a joint dream. Something to say we had done together, from start to finish. But babies have ways of changing dreams.

Photo of the Kaufman family
Charlotte and Danny Kaufman with Cora and baby sister Lyra, born on Valentine’s Day in Puerto Vallarta. “Our newest sailor and intrepid adventurer.”

Cora and I drove back across the border into San Diego and flew to my sister Sariah’s house in Albuquerque, while Eric began a single-handed adventure that would take him three weeks to complete. My intuition had been right. While I waited for Eric I was rushed to the hospital three times for pre-term contractions and a horrible case of pregnancy-induced kidney stones. Had I gone with Eric, I would have needed to be flown out of a remote fishing village in Baja because of those complications.

We were finally reunited in the small village of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. (Eric had sailed Rebel Heart there on his own.) Only 45 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta, “La Cruz,” as the locals call it, is close enough to Puerto Vallarta to enjoy all its amenities and far enough away to lull you into the tranquility of its slow, sleepy fishing-village way of life. We all gave a collective exhale and relaxed.

As my due date approached, we rented an apartment for the month. We found an ob/gyn through another boat family that had had two babies in Puerto Vallarta. The ob/gyn recommended San Javier Marina Hospital for the most up-to-date neonatal care. Both my sister and my doula, Amanda, flew down for the birth.

On the night I went into labor, I had been surrounded by family and friends all day and felt incredibly at peace. Around 9:30 p.m., Eric came home from spending an evening gorging himself on tacos and Mexico’s finest beer. We were both rolly with happiness. I thought I was again experiencing false contractions when I had a slightly more uncomfortable contraction and thought, Hmmmm. I silently cheered, thinking this could be the true beginning of a few days of “real contractions” before things finally got moving.

Toward midnight I had a contraction so strong it made me moan. I knew it was the real thing. I waited and about three minutes later, another hit. I moaned aloud again and Eric’s voice called from the other side of the bed.


Flinging back the covers, I stood up and announced, “I’m waking up Sariah. This is it.”

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