Virtual fatherhood
Technology lets deployed dads be there for baby’s birth

Spc. Todd Goodman
LRMC Public Affairs

Sabine Elisabeth Anderson was born at 8:41 a.m. Sept. 21 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and both adoring parents doted on her, though one was thousands of miles away serving in Kuwait.

Dubbed “Baby Cam,” this piece of technology solves the problem of one parent not being able to be present for the birth of his child. And Anderson’s birth was the first time the system has been used at LRMC.

“It’s great,” said Spc. Kevin Anderson, 39th Transportation Battalion out of Kleber Kaserne. “It’s certainly better than not seeing them at all.”
“When you first have a baby, you want to be able to see it, feel it, touch it,” said Kirsten Smith, the baby’s mother and a force protection officer at Rhine Ordnance Barracks. “This is as close as you can get, so it’s really good.”
For various reasons, more and more servicemembers are unable to return to see the birth, said Tess Stewart, perinatal research nurse at LRMC. This system will go a long way toward easing the minds of those deployed dads who can’t make it back.

“For the father to be able to see his loved ones, to make sure she made it through the delivery and see that the baby is OK, well, it just gives me chills,” said Mrs. Stewart.

Work on this project began in March, about a year after Mrs. Stewart had seen an article in the States about this very thing.
“It just made sense that LRMC, the beacon of health care, also should have it,” she said. “So I took on this little project.”

The project got started with two donated laptops and a wireless connection from LRMC’s Information Division Branch. Seven more laptops recently were purchased from the OB Initiative Funds and the plan is to have one in each labor and delivery room. More laptop donations are needed for rooms in the hospital’s postpartum wing. Morale, Welfare and Recreation provides equipment to handle the downrange portion.

Thus far, the program has been a hit, aside from a few technical glitches incurred while trying to establish connection. Patience and flexibility are key, said Mrs. Stewart. Especially on the father’s part, as labor can last longer than anticipated or not begin when anticipated. The Anderson birth, which initially had been scheduled for Sept. 18, had to be pushed back three days. But in the end, it was a moving scene − mom, new baby girl in her arms and dad looking proudly at them through the computer monitor, Mrs. Stewart said. All the while, mom gave a running commentary about everything from the baby’s feet to “nice, round head.”

“I wish you could see how cute she is,”  Ms. Smith said to daddy. “She has a lot of hair. She has really long, thin fingers. And she has a round head − that’s important. I know you wish you could hold her, too. She’s so beautiful, baby.”
“He said, ‘Of course she’s beautiful, she is my baby.’ ”