Independence Day took on new meaning for a soldier stationed overseas Wednesday. Ted Freese got the chance to witness the birth of his son in a Minnesota hospital, despite being thousands of miles away.
The naval officer, currently based in the Middle East, coached wife Lizzy through labor with the help of a hospital Internet connection, a laptop, and a Skype account.
"From the time we found out, we were hoping it would be on the Fourth of July," the beaming dad told Minnesota's KARE11 News. Despite his 15-hour shifts halfway around the globe, his commanding officer insisted he be by his wife's side, if only through the Internet.
"[He] made a phone call and said I wasn't allowed to come back into work until I had a little baby boy," says Ted, who won't be able to hold his son until he returns to the states in December.
Life in a military family: 5 things you might not know
For now, the couple's just grateful their son Carson is healthy. It's an added bonus that he shares a birthday with the country, as well as a connection with a growing number of "Skype babies." This latest is capturing hearts and clicks around the Web this weekend.
Watch KARE11's report here.
For at least two years, Skype, the Internet video phone service, has opened the door to the delivery room for servicemen stationed overseas. Usually, the laptop is positioned near the mother's bedside so dad can lend support during labor and then held in front of the newborn by a family member or hospital assistant for a virtual look at the child's first moments after delivery.
For Mary Howland, having her husband present during her labor in April, despite being stationed in Afghanistan, "was the world."
"It felt like the other part of my heart was here," she told local news affiliate KVUE.
Kim Tennant, who gave birth last year while her husband was stationed in Korea, claimed the futuristic process took some getting used to.
"It was a little awkward having a laptop right next to you," Tennant told Hudson Valley's Your News Network, "but...the fact that he was able to see his son being born it was really wonderful."
In recent years, Skype has joined forces with the military to connect family members during the holidays. But the platform's presence in delivery rooms has been slightly more of a challenge, depending on hospital policy, Internet access and particularly labor issues.
Pennsylvania mom Whitney Reichard specifically sought out a hospital in her area that would allow her Marine husband to be present through Skype. "Without being able to do this, he wouldn't have been able to see a picture of her," Reichard told WFMZ in Bucks County. "It takes about two weeks for packages to get there. Without technology, it wouldn't have happened and we are just so thankful to Grand View [Hospital] for setting us up on Skype because it was the next best thing to him being there."
Despite the distance, dads still have the tendency to let their nerves get the best of them, and their physically exhausted partners. Just ask Kelsey Foster, whose husband James patched in from Afghanistan for the birth of their daughter.
"He just has really smart remarks sometimes, but when you're having a baby it is the last thing you want to hear," Foster told the Milford Daily News. In the end, however, she wouldn't change a thing.
"I just felt very calm knowing that he could see everything," she said.
Of course, relying on a strong Wi-Fi connection at the most important moment of your life doesn't help nerves, either.
"He started to cry when he saw Olivia," recalled Foster's mom, Donna. "He told Kelsey that she did a good job, and said 'I love you,' then we lost the connection."
As for new mom Lizzy Freese, still recovering from her very special July Fourth celebration, the Internet held up its end of the bargain.
"I couldn't ask for a better day," she told reporters. "It was perfect."
New policies to help military spouses
Michelle Obama on military families
Military families reunite for holidays