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Skype helps soldier stay involved during wife's pregnancy

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Kathleen Foody
July 8, 2009
— The last time Army CW3 John Bourdeaux served overseas, he went months without seeing his wife, Erika. When John left for Iraq again in May, the couple had a plan to make sure he didn't miss a thing—including their second child's ultrasound.

Erika arrived at Mercy Hospital in Janesville Tuesday morning, black and silver laptop in tow, ready to get a look at their baby.


Erika logged in to Skype, a software program for video phone calls, to find John waiting for her.


"Do you see Daddy?" she asked their 3-year-old son, Elijah, who had craned his neck into his mom's lap already. "There he is, say hi."


Erika and Elijah both wore reminders of John: Erika, a laminated photo of her husband in fatigues pinned to her sundress, Elijah, a set of dog tags around his neck.


When her name was called, Erika and her family walked down the hall, the open laptop held in her left arm.


After Erika settled herself on a hospital bed and the laptop on a nearby table pointed at the ultrasound monitor, technician Suzie Budensiek began the ultrasound.


Erika's eyes stayed on the ultrasound monitor attached to the wall opposite her bed, looking down at John with a small smile and asking if he could see every few minutes.


Budensiek pointed out individual organs and limbs as dark spots in the white shadows to both parents and Elijah, who stuck close by his mom and repeated how cute "his baby" was.


The parents both smiled at each scan: stomach, brain, two kidneys, two legs, two arms, a beating heart and a face—clearer than either expected.


"Yeah, I can see it," John said. "Wow."


And finally, the due date, the most important detail of all for him.


"Right on track for Nov. 17," Budensiek said loudly.


"Awesome," John said, voice full of relief that he likely would be on leave for the birth. Erika smiled at the screen.


"So that's when you have to come home," she said.


"Or put up with a few hours of this," said her mother, Ruth Kipp.


Kipp and John's mother, Sharis Bourdeaux-Bailey, stood nearby during the ultrasound, along with family friend Dana Newmann. Her husband, Cory, shares a room with John at the camp in southern Iraq. The women met through their husbands and have supported each other during the deployment, Newmann said.


The images were slightly blurry, but just being there for the experience was the main factor, John said after the ultrasound.


"We're trying to take every opportunity to make many events like normal life, as abnormal as this is," he said. "We're trying not to miss out on anything we don't have to."


As far as anyone at Mercy knows, Erika is the first expectant mother to use video calls during an ultrasound. If it's the best way to make sure a father can be in the room, Budensiek said she would fully support moms in Erika's situation using programs similar to Skype.


"Anything we can do to help a father deployed see his baby," she said.



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