• Katy Rigg

Theresa and Matteo - 7th April

Updated: Aug 23, 2020

In Theresa’s story, she talks about how after a complicated birth, she actually grew to enjoy the time alone to bond with her baby without any other distractions. She feels that the time together had many benefits, such as allowing her and Matteo to get breastfeeding established in a way that might not have otherwise happened. Those early newborn days are so precious, and time spent cuddling up in pyjamas without any external demands sounds quite blissful to me.

Matteo Christopher Principato was born on Tuesday 7th April 2020 at 1:21am, 15 days after his due date and 15 days after the start of lockdown.

To say it was upsetting and a shock for the country to go into lockdown on my due date is an understatement. My Mother-in-law is from Sicily and was planning to stay with us for a week a little while after he was born, my Sister in law in London, would also be coming. My Sister and her Wife were making arrangements to visit during May, but now it was all cancelled.

Matteo is our first baby and the first grandchild in both my fiancé’s and my family. So we had four Grandparents, six Aunties and three Uncles all unable to meet the first in the next generation of our families.

I was induced on Saturday the 4th of April at Dorchester County Hospital. My fiancé, Emanuele, had to leave me at the door and I wouldn’t be seeing him again until I was in established labour. On the first day, I had three pessaries and I suddenly started getting a lot of tightenings. I thought to myself, “Great! Nice and quick, off to labour we go, baby born, let’s go home!” Unfortunately not. I had not dilated at all and was unable to have any more pessaries as too many tightenings can cause severe distress to the baby. Because you can’t have more than 3 pessaries in a 24 hour period and thereafter, you need a 24 hour rest period before you start the process again. I was left to my own devices on the Sunday, hoping that the pessaries would get something happening soon!

I spent all of Saturday, Sunday and Monday bouncing on a yoga ball, doing squats, walking the corridors - anything to get the baby out! On Monday, they started the process again and another 2 pessaries later, I FINALLY went into labour! At 5:30pm, I started having irregular contractions and was moved to a delivery room. The midwife offered to run me a bath, which I accepted, though looking back, I wish I hadn’t as the lights were on timers and I spent the majority of the time breathing through contractions in the dark!

By 8:50pm, my fiancé was called. They informed him over the phone of all the restrictions in place, which included; not being allowed back on the ward if he left, only one family or person in the dayroom or kitchen at a time, hand-washing on entry and having to go home 24 hours after the birth. The staff were wearing masks, aprons and gloves, but patients and visitors were thankfully not.

At 9:22pm, my waters were broken and I was given gas and air as pain relief. I remember messaging members of my family just after 11pm before I had the oxytocin drip put in, but the time after that is mostly a blur until it was time to push. Everything progressed very quickly – the first and second stages of labour were only 52 minutes combined. It was very very intense and there’s no possible way I could have done it without my fiancé by my side. Once I had started dilating, I went from 3cm to 10cm in less than 10 minutes!

When Matteo was born, I only held him for about three seconds before he was taken away from me. He had swallowed a lot of meconium and had to be taken to SCBU to have his ears, eyes, nose and throat suctioned. I didn’t meet my first born child properly until two and a half hours after he was born.

He was put in an incubator on oxygen and fed via a tube. Luckily he improved very quickly and was moved to maternity, but then we were given the bad news that we would have to stay for five days while he had a course of antibiotics, because of his meconium inhalation.

The week felt incredibly slow for me. My fiancé was at home worrying about the two of us and I found myself - a first time mum - on my own, with this tiny baby, who needed me just to survive and I hadn’t a clue what I was doing. I spent 8 days in hospital in total and by the time I left, I actually shed a few tears because of how wonderful all the staff at DCH Maternity and SCBU were and how they cared for me at every obstacle.

Coming home felt amazing. I’d spent five days with my newborn and I felt like a complete professional. Instructing my partner how to hold him, when he needed changing, how he liked to be soothed, when he was feeling tired and should sleep. The bond we’d created together in those five days was immeasurable.

We definitely had some problems breastfeeding. I was constantly told his latch was good and he was feeding well, but the pain I had was so so bad. I was reduced to tears nearly every feed. It was so hard not having breastfeeding support readily available, but I was really pleased that we did manage to get a support worker out to our home to have another look at his latch. I think in the end, it was just a case of us needing to work together in finding the right position as we’re still fully breastfeeding at four months old!

I was so sad at the beginning of Lockdown thinking about all our family members and friends who wouldn’t be able to meet Matteo, but actually I think it wildly benefitted us. I haven’t had to play hostess with the mostest. I’ve sat in my pyjamas feeding him all day. I’ve slept when I wanted and gone out when I wanted. I did what needed to be done with the housework but haven’t had to stress about how my house looks to others. Matteo never lost any weight from birth; he gained from the start, and I firmly believe that was because I could just sit and focus on feeding him and try and try and try until we got it right, without having to worry about if I was showing skin to anyone, or having to listen to unsolicited advice!

I might be called “selfish” for thinking this way and for continuing to limit contact with other people now that lockdown is gradually easing, but I don’t care. What’s important to me is that my son and my family are safe and healthy and I think lockdown has greatly contributed to this.

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