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Soldier in Iraq witnesses birth of son live via web cam

Emily Ross gave birth to her son Isaac last week at Woodwinds Hospital. Her husband Kevin, watched the birth live via web cam from his Army base in Iraq. Staff photo by Hank Long.1 / 2
Kevin Ross and his youngest daughter Lucy, 3, pose for a photo after a ceremony last year in Minneapolis. Ross plans to take a two-week leave to visit his family and their latest addition, Isaac, this week before returning for the last few months of his deployment in Iraq.2 / 2

Kevin Ross wanted to be there for the birth of his first son. But the little one decided to come earlier than his parents anticipated.

So Ross did the next best thing - he watched his wife Emily give birth, live via web cam, from his barracks at a U.S. Army base in Iraq.

"We weren't 100-percent sure, given the timing, that it was going to work," said Ross, during a phone interview Sunday as he was packing to get ready for two weeks of leave to visit his family and their new addition.

Isaac Alexander was born Thursday, Oct. 1 at Woodwinds Hospital around 3 a.m. (11 a.m. Iraq time). "But I'm really glad I could be there to support her, even if it wasn't in person."

Isaac's due date was Oct. 3. But Emily Ross said her two daughters were born late, so Kevin was hedging his bets that if he took his leave a few days after the due date, he would be there to drive her to the hospital from their home in nearby Prescott, Wis.

Not quite, but close enough, Emily joked.

"It might actually work better this way," she said the day after Isaac was born. "I'll be rested and have my energy back when he arrives instead of us having to wait around the house for me to go into labor."

Making a connection

Emily Ross arrived at Woodwinds Health Campus a little after midnight on Thursday, Oct. 1. On the way to the hospital she called a friend and requested she meet her in the delivery room with the her lap top computer. While in the delivery room the pair downloaded Skype, an audio and video communication application that Kevin said has become a popular tool of communication among soldiers during their deployments.

Half way around the world, one of Kevin Ross's fellow soldiers received an email from Emily Ross's brother that Emily was about to go into labor.

Kevin, who is a second lieutenant in the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division of the National Guard, was sleeping after working an overnight shift at the communications center. His co-worker, who also happens to have been the best man in his wedding, woke him up about to tell him the good news.

At 3 a.m. Minnesota time (11 a.m. Iraq time), Emily's friend dialed up the connection on the Skype video application, and instantly, Emily heard her husband's voice and saw his face.

"He was cheering me on from the bedside," Emily said. "And I needed it because this time around I didn't have any pain medication."

Kevin said he was almost speechless when he saw his son after the delivery.

"I think all I could say is 'thank you so much for birthing our children,'" he recalled. "It's just one of those moments where you are in awe."

And thankful.

"I definitely think we're lucky serving during this time with the communications technology we have today," said Ross, during an interview with the Bulletin via his Skype connection. "It just would be tough for soldiers and their families to have to rely only on letters and pictures."

Technology has its limits

Thanks to the internet and communications tools like Skype, Emily Ross said she and her husband get to speak about five times a week, although it's usually late or very early hours when their other children, Elena 7, and Lucy, 3 are fast asleep.

"The girls do get to talk to their dad a few times a week," Emily Ross said. "When they can hear him and see his face on the computer screen, they get pretty excited."

But technology can only do so much, Emily said.

"My three-year old made a comment the other day," she said. "I was taking our oldest to school and the younger one said 'But Mom, are the kids at school going to think Elena has a mom but not a dad?'"

"I said 'It's okay Lucy. Dad will be home in a couple weeks and we'll make sure he goes with her to school and make sure everyone knows she has a dad."

After Kevin Ross's scheduled two-week leave, he will return to Iraq for five more months before he finishes his deployment early next year.

Although this is her husband's first official deployment to Iraq, Emily Ross said often people don't realize that many soldiers in the Red Bulls unit have voluntarily deployed to Iraq multiple times.

"I think with the military now a days, it affects such a small core group of people," she said. "To know someone or to be that close to someone who is actually over's not easy; but I'm really proud of him."