Skype to the rescue: Soldier father in Kuwait witnesses son's birth in Twin Cities
Once a week Melissa and James Robbins use Skype to ease up time away from each other while James works in Kuwait.
But the call on Friday, Nov. 2, was a little different.
James, a 2003 Woodbury High School graduate, watched his son's birth online as Melissa delivered Mason almost two weeks early at Woodwinds hospital in Woodbury.
Couldn't sink in
James has been in the U.S. Marine Corps for nine years. He was in Iraq before he pursued a career in Kuwait just last summer, so the family was used to connecting virtually.
But connections overseas haven't always been seamless, Melissa said, so there was always a possibility that James would've missed his son's birth even on the anticipated due date.
The day Mason was born was supposed to be an ordinary checkup for mom. She went in to see if everything was OK with the baby.
"We had planned for Nov. 13 so my husband took the day off and was going to be able to Skype the whole day," she said of the online service that allows for video chatting. "But when I went in for an ultrasound ... they noticed that the fluid was too low, a lot lower than what they want to see."
So the doctor said: "You're having the baby today," Melissa said.
She knew James was scheduled to go to a Marine Corps ball that day and with a nine-hour time difference, it was going to be even harder to get a hold of him.
So she tried calling his cell, work, home - every number she could think of. She posted a note on Facebook, she tried him on Skype and she sent him an email.
James couldn't use his phone at the ball, but as soon as he left, it was one of those messages that caught his eye.
"Call your wife, please. Thank you," Melissa wrote on Facebook.
She didn't want to alert everyone in her social network and knew that was enough for her husband to call her right away.
"He probably thought that that was pretty funny," she said with a smile.
As James and friends drove home from the ball, he called Melissa and asked what's going on.
"I said, 'well we're going to have the baby,'" she replied.
James couldn't catch on right away. His friends, on the other hand, did.
"They got it even before he did. 'Oh we've got to get you back, we've got to hurry up,'" Melissa recalled them saying. "I don't know if he thought I was joking, and so I had to tell him a couple more times before I think it sunk in."
She said it again.
"The fluid was low, so they want the baby to come tonight. He's coming tonight."
"Well OK, I'll get back to the apartment and I'll get on the computer," James responded.
And he was on Skype well before Melissa went into surgery for her C-section.
The couple had 20 minutes to spare and James was able to watch the whole thing.
"The doctor brought the baby over and he got to see him as they cleaned him up and everything before I could," Melissa said.
A story to tell
Although phone connections aren't so strong in Kuwait, Melissa said the best way to reach James has been through email and Skype.
The fact that they were able to connect during their son's birth, which is something they wouldn't have been able to do in Iraq, leaves them with great appreciation.
"It's awesome to have that ability now," she said.
All she used was her Samsung phone, which was held up by a nurse in the operating room as they got ready for the birth.
"It was kind of a team effort," she said.
About 45 minutes later, Mason met his dad. He was 6 pounds, 10 ounces and measured 20.5 inches.
"There was always the chance of it not working," Melissa said of the technology. "It all worked out as best as it could."