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ONE B-I-I-I-G HAPPY FAMILY

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19th Engineer Battalion moms get Skype help

By MAUREEN ROSE
Gold Standard Acting Editor
maureen.a.rose2.civ@mail.mil
When a family is expecting a much-wanted baby, there is an understandable current of emotions and excitement for father and mother alike. The parents-to-be may be anxious about child care, increased financial burdens and future college education. Physically, the mother is—well-pregnant—with all changes in her body, emotions and frame of mind.
Added to all those surging hormones, moms experience the anticipation and perhaps some fear about childbirth. Those issues are multiplied exponentially by the knowledge that she will have to face the experience alone because her husband is deployed.
This scenario has already played out several times since Fort Knox’s 19th Engineer Battalion deployed Dec. 19. But, with some help from technology, none of those moms had to go it totally alone. In the last eight weeks, five babies have been born to spouses of the 19th Engineer Battalion but all five fathers were able to be present in the delivery room via a Wi-Fi connection and Skype.
Even when the Internet connection was lost at Ireland Army Community Hospital, the battalion came to the rescue by delivery its own portable hot spot equipment and set it up in the delivery room, just moments before the big event.
Anesha Hines, wife of Sgt. Cody Hines, said she kept repeating “I wish you were here” during her labor, but tried to restrain herself because she realized it was making the situation harder for her husband, who also wanted to be with her. But she was grateful for the Skype connection.
“Having Skype made a huge difference for me. Just hearing his voice was a comfort,” she said.
Because the Labor and Delivery area at IRACH only has one Skype room, laboring moms normally have to take turns with the connections so they all have a moment to share with their husbands. Vontrice Walker, however, was lucky enough to have the Skype room all to herself for her hospitalization; Baby Quincy was born Dec. 27.
Although Vontrice has an older daughter, this baby was the first for her husband, Spc. Quintavis Walker. Vontrice said she wasn’t sure if he would have been able to handle the whole childbirth process in person; even from his removed location, Quintavis was gritting his teeth and grimacing whenever Vontrice seemed in pain and he was visibly disturbed by the frequent use of needles. Vontrice’s labor had to be induced.
“It was amazing, although it’s probably a good thing he wasn’t there,” she said. “I would probably have been cussing him out the whole time if he was here.”
Kimberly Buchannon, wife of Sgt. Matthew Buchannon, said she’s not sure her husband will be able to witness their baby’s birth. She is considered a high risk pregnancy and will be delivering at Norton Hospital in Louisville where there’s doubt about a Skype connection. Already the mother of five children, Kimberly said this baby—due March 15—will absolutely be their last and she wants Matthew to be with her, even if it is via satellite. Her doctor lets her record the baby’s heartbeat whenever she’s at an appointment and Kimber-ly is able to upload it to her phone and send it to Matthew.
Sever-al of the new moms along with mothers-to-be met at the home of the Battalion Commander Lt. Col. John and Stacy Lloyd for the interview. Stacy told Kimberly that the unit has hot spot equipment so even if mom has to deliver at a Louisville facility—like Kimberly and at least one other mom is scheduled to do—they might be able to make some arrangements to allow a short-term loan. She added that these moms are fortunate to have such regular communication with their husbands, who are deployed to Kuwait for nine months.
“Even within the last two years since our last deployment, the technology is so much more advanced,” she said. “With texts, cell phones and Skype, the Soldiers can usually communicate on a fairly regular basis. And with John’s first deployment, all we had were letters, which weren’t delivered with any regularity. You might go for several weeks without hearing a thing, then receive five letters all at once.”
In California now with her parents to help with the newborn, Jessica Husa related her experience at IRACH in a telephone interview with “The Gold Standard.”
She said her husband, Spc. Deny Husa, almost missed the birth when he went to catch a nap. Jessica had been in labor for 19 hours, but different people—to include Deny’s company commander—kept checking in whenever Deny couldn’t. But dad returned to the Skype connection just in the St. Nick of time—little Mackenzie arrived  Christmas Day.
While she would have preferred her husband’s presence for real, Jessica said the Skype connection was better than nothing. Now she has face time with him nearly every day and Mackenzie stares intently at the screen.
“My husband is a big guy and the other Soldiers make fun of him because he makes faces and baby sounds at Mackenzie,” Jessica said. “I send a stack of baby pictures with every care package I send him, so together with Skype, he gets to see her quite a bit.”
Anesha added she is able to have regular Skypes, too. It’s apparent that her baby—James Hines, born Feb. 3—is already recognizing dad’s voice and that usually calms the baby if he’s fussy.
Ludimilla DaSilva, wife of Spc. Aziim Leach, said her baby girl, Yasmin Sophia, was born Dec. 12,
but her daddy had already deployed with the advance party. Speaking in a telephone interview from Philadelphia, Lulu (Ludimilla’s nickname) said Yasmin recognizes her daddy’s voice as well. He sang to her often before she was born and now she reacts when Aziim sings to her over their daily Internet connection on Google’s Hangout.
Lulu said Aziim had gone through the childbirth classes with her and was able to coach her through the labor and breathing exercises even if it was through the Skype connection.
She credits him for helping her stay more relaxed and “less stressed;” she was anxious about the delivery as her first baby was born via C-section, but this labor didn’t require surgery.
“He was my motivation,” Lulu said.
The unit plans to do all it can to help with the Skype connections, Stacy added; at the moment, she knows of 23 more ladies within the battalion who are due to deliver their
babies before the dads return from Kuwait. The battalion family continues to grow!

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