THE PARENTS: Lauren Matteo, 34, and Richard Matteo, 37, of Exton
THE CHILD: Luciana Rose, born November 4, 2018
A LAST PRE-BABY FLING: A trip to Italy in summer 2018, which Lauren named “the tour of desserts” because she indulged in gelato instead of wine.
His father had sold a kitchen table to her father.
What’s more, her father, who worked at a tour company with Rich’s aunt, had already attended a boisterous Matteo family gathering.
But Lauren and Rich didn’t know any of that when they met through mutual friends at a 2009 end-of-summer music festival, Moe.Down, showcasing the band both had loved for years.
On the second day of the festival, Rich spontaneously took Lauren’s hand while the two were walking. On the third morning, the two used Rich’s two-burner camp stove to make a feast of eggs and bacon for their friends.
“I left the festival still thinking about him,” Lauren says. “But I was also thinking: I don’t want a boyfriend. I don’t want to date anyone.”
When she rebuffed Rich’s invitation to dinner, saying, “You can come over and hang out instead,” he showed up with dessert and a wildflower bouquet. And when she finally said yes to an actual date, he brought an armload of ingredients and stirred up shrimp risotto at her house.
They discovered shared passions: not only music, but horticulture and travel and baseball. Rich played guitar and sang in a band called Hamburger Hunt; Lauren became one of their groupies. And then there were those uncanny family coincidences. The first time Lauren brought Rich home, her father said, “Matteo … does your dad sell furniture?”
But it was sorrow that truly fused their relationship: Lauren’s father had a massive stroke, spent time in hospice, and died in July 2012. “Rich didn’t miss a beat,” she recalls. “He was at the hospital every day; he made sure all of us were fed; he was just always there. I thought: I could definitely see us taking care of each other as we got old.”
Lauren grew up in Chadds Ford and spent childhood weekends at Longwood Gardens. Rich had heard the legendary family story many times: How Lauren, at age 3, believed she was Thumbelina and could walk on lily pads; when she tried, she tumbled into the lotus pond.
That’s why he searched online for a jeweler who could make an unconventional ring: a lotus flower in shades of gold with an aquamarine in the center. Rich had the ring shipped to a friend’s house, then suggested a Saturday excursion to Longwood Gardens; he’d already arranged for Lauren’s sisters, who live in California, to fly out and surprise her.
As the pair wandered toward the lotus pond, Rich recalls, “I felt like a sixth-grade boy asking a girl to dance … I got down on one knee, all these people were clapping, we were hugging, my sister was taking pictures, and then her sisters jump out of nowhere. It was a total surprise.”
They were married in August 2015 at the Phoenixville Foundry, with 250 friends and family surrounding them. They’d already had the kid-conversation — a definite yes, but not yet. First, they traveled: Greece, Peru, Spain. They acquired their “puppy-children” — Odin, a therapy dog who accompanies Lauren to work at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital and George, a bichon poodle mix they rescued.
After the Spain trip, they got serious about baby-making. And on a February day in 2018, they found themselves staring at a positive pregnancy stick. “We took the test and saw the line and looked at each other and hugged,” Lauren says. “I remember feeling really blessed and lucky and really nervous at the same time.”
It had been an exhilarating season for two avid Philly sports fans. And when they counted backward to the most likely conception date, it was no surprise: the day the Eagles won the Super Bowl. Luciana was born exactly nine months later.
But first, they told their families: Mother’s Day gifts of framed ultrasound photos and, for Rich’s mom, a copy of the children’s book Strega Nona, which he’d loved as a child. The pregnancy was relatively uncomplicated until the end, when doctors detected an irregular fetal heartbeat.
They’d opted not to know the baby’s sex — Rich had started referring to their offspring as “Baby Alshon” after the Eagles wide receiver — and wrestled with the gravity and permanence of naming a child. “That was one of my biggest fears: How do you decide on a name for someone?” Lauren says.
In November, they spent a long Saturday readying the house — finishing the basement, assembling a crib — then settled down to watch a comedy special on Netflix. They like to say they laughed Luciana into being born. One moment, Lauren was hooting on the couch; a little while later, she was making multiple trips to the bathroom and saying, “This hurts. This might be happening.”
It was — a midnight arrival at Bryn Mawr Hospital, and a baby who emerged at 9:30 a.m. A head of dark hair. Alert eyes. “She looked like a tadpole on our first ultrasound, and all of a sudden she’s looking right at us,” Rich recalls. “Here she is. This is it.”
“The first time Rich held her, I watched him look into her eyes, and I knew this little girl had melted him,” Lauren says. “We’d made the right decision. We were meant to start a family together.”
They named her Luciana, an Italian name meaning “light,” with a middle name of Rose for Rich’s grandmother and for the flowers they love. As parents, they hope to share their passions with Luciana: nature and animals, family and travel, music and imagination.
On the way home from the hospital Nov. 6, they had an important stop to make. They were still fumbling over car seat straps, but the itinerary was clear: a little church in Exton, where they took turns ducking into the ballot booth.