May 20th, 2024
4 min read

Baby Matteo’s Neonatal ICU Story

May 15 is Kangaroo Care Awareness Day, a global observance celebrating the profound impact of Kangaroo Care (also known as skin-to-skin) on newborns. For one family, this day holds an extraordinary meaning.

Baby Matteo was due on May 15, Kangaroo Care Awareness Day. However, pregnancy complications led his mother, Mary, to undergo an emergency C-section months earlier than expected. “I was under the care of a midwife until my 20-week anatomy scan revealed I had an incompetent cervix. I was put on bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy. A few weeks later, I started feeling what I thought were Braxton Hicks contractions, but they became more frequent. That evening, we went to the Halifax Health Emergency Department, where I was told I was in labor and needed a C-section,” Mary explained. Baby Matteo was born on February 1, at just 25 weeks, weighing 1lb 13oz.

Fortunately, Matteo and his family were in capable hands at the area's only Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Halifax Health, where he spent the next few months. “There have been many emotional highs and lows. The feelings of guilt and missing Matteo every second we’re not with him are tough. But there’s also so much amazement watching him defy the odds and grow stronger every day,” said Mary, Matteo's mother.

During this journey, Kangaroo Care has been a tremendous comfort for Matteo and his family. “Kangaroo care, or skin-to-skin contact, is an evidence-based intervention that enhances neonatal outcomes by stabilizing vital signs, promoting breastfeeding, supporting neurodevelopment, and so much more. By embracing a family-centered care approach, we ensure every infant receives the vital physical and emotional benefits of close parental presence from the start,” explained Susie Johnsen, a neonatal ICU nurse at Halifax Health.

For Baby Matteo, Kangaroo Care became a lifeline amid the uncertainty and challenges of his early arrival. His parents, guided by the dedicated healthcare team at Halifax Health, embraced Kangaroo Care wholeheartedly. Matteo's parents, Mary and Miles, spent countless hours holding Matteo close, feeling his heartbeat against their own. “Matteo was eight days old when I held him for the first time,” Mary said. “I was scared of how small he was, but feeling him relax on me with Kangaroo Care and seeing how well he did when we held him gave me so much peace, especially knowing it was the best way for us to bond during the first few months of his life.”

Today, Matteo is thriving and celebrating his due date, May 15, at home with his family. They couldn’t be more grateful. “What stood out to me the most was how every nurse genuinely cared for Matteo and the many laughs we shared as he developed his personality and quirks. They treated him as if he were their own. The transparency was also remarkable; we were always fully informed of the plan of action during Matteo’s time in the NICU. The nurses celebrated all of his milestones with us. Their actions assured me I could trust them completely with Matteo. I am forever grateful to every single one of them. Recently, I’ve been reflecting on the first few days of his life, wondering how long it would take to get here, and now feeling relieved that those days are finally here.”

Mary’s advice to other preemie moms? “Ask every question on your mind, write it down if you need to – no question is a dumb question. Advocate for your baby; you are their voice for now. The NICU can feel scary when you don’t know what to expect. Don’t feel bad if you can’t stay long or visit physically; the nurses will always be ready and happy to update you in person or over the phone. Mostly, take care of yourself. It can be a very challenging time, and your cup deserves to be full, too.”

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