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"I remember thinking, ‘wow, next time I’m here, I’ll be a mum'"

Sun 20 June 2021, 12:00|Tottenham Hotspur

Jessica Stewardson was at the first Test event for Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in March 2019 and then watched us take on Newcastle in August later that year. It’s safe to say it’s unlikely she would have guessed the circumstances of her next visit...

That was April last year. Spurs fan Jess, from Leytonstone, was then pregnant with her first child, the country was in lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the stadium had a new purpose, to support the NHS and North Middlesex University Hospital during those testing times.

Between April and July last year, the stadium’s dressing rooms, medical and media facilities were transformed to host North Middlesex University Hospital’s Women’s Outpatient Services, supporting the redirection of pregnant women away from the hospital during the height of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Fifteen months on, Jess has recently celebrated daughter Francesca’s first birthday, born on 11 June, a day to celebrate and no doubt trigger memories of those appointments at her footballing home.

“It was very surreal!” recalled Jess, who, coincidentally, works in the communications department at North Mid. “We were in the early stages of the pandemic, so there was a lot of uncertainty and anxiety, you have that anyway when you’re pregnant, especially your first child, but it was also strangely exciting!

“I’d been to the stadium as a fan once or twice before, so I was familiar with where it was, how it looked and always raved about it to family, friends and colleagues, and spoke about how amazing it is. To then be asked to have my check-ups there, I was very grateful and very fortunate.

“The partnership and the way Spurs worked with North Mid I thought was brilliant. Obviously, it’s a fantastic venue, but the way the Trust was able to set up all the maternity facilities, blood pressure, taking bloods, even the ultra-sound room... it was amazing that I was there in one of the treatment rooms where the players might have been!

“I felt at ease. It took a little of the anxiety out of it. The Club always does things well, and the stadium is an example of that, but the facilities were great, and I knew I was in good hands. I felt relaxed, and it was nice being in that environment. Friends and family were amazed I was going there. They would say, ‘that’s amazing’, and I would reply, ‘yes, it is’.

“I must have gone half-a-dozen times to Spurs and by the end of it, I remember thinking ‘wow, next time I’m here I’ll be a mum’. But yes, the word is surreal, and it was extra special at the new stadium.”

Jess puts her love of Spurs down to her father’s side of the family. “They grew up in Seven Sisters, so that’s where it comes from,” she said. “In my family, you’re either Arsenal or Spurs. Me and my younger brother Callum are Spurs fans, and we’ll go to games together when we get the chance. Having said that, I’ve had other things to think about!”

Mother and daughter will always have that bond with the Club and the stadium - and it’s fair to say Francesca will find herself back in N17 sooner rather than later! “Once she’s old enough, I can’t wait to bring her to the stadium,” added Jess. “Yes, once we’re back to the ‘new normal’, definitely. She’s a true lockdown baby. I’m never going to forget the pandemic. It will always remind me what we went through.”