Chris Rebollar comforted and encouraged his wife, Esperanza, for five hours the other day as he witnessed her give birth to their son at Petaluma Valley Hospital. Sounds like a fairly common scene.
But Chris wasn't there in the delivery room. The 26-year-old St. Vincent's High alum, now a Marine sergeant, was in Afghanistan.
Never before at the Petaluma hospital had a father participated in a delivery through Skype.
"It was much better than not having him there at all," Esperanza said.
She knows it wasn't a simple task to make all the procedural and logistical arrangements to connect her husband to the hospital room via computers with cameras. The hospital, the Red Cross, the USO and the Marines all played parts.
"I was very thankful they made it happen," said Esperanza, who was in the Navy when she met her future husband.
She said the Marine she married four years was just now needing something wonderful to happen in his life. A flight equipment technician, Chris is stationed at Camp Bastian, which lost two Marines to an attack by Taliban fighters who stole onto the base on Sept. 14.
"To have something positive going on right now was good for him," his wife said.
Chris was last with Esperanza and his older child, 2-year-old Kendra, right before he left for Afghanistan in July. To get to where he needed to be to Skype, he had to drive about an hour out of Camp Bastian.
His wife wasn't the only person at Petaluma Valley Hospital thrilled that he was able to have a virtual presence at the birth of his son.
"It was awesome, such a cool experience," said Kara Reposa, manager of the hospital's Family Birthing Center. She said Chris was able also to see and speak with little Kendra and with his mother, Roberta McLean of Petaluma.
Reposa said it was the middle of the afternoon Thursday in Petaluma, and the middle of the night in Afghanistan. Through parts of the long Skype session, before the baby arrived, Esperanza was able to watch her husband sleep.
"I think it gave her a lot of comfort, to see him there next to her," Reposa said.
Chris was wide awake when his son Anthony Christopher Rebollar came into the world at 4:20 p.m. Petaluma time.
"It was a great experience," Esperanza said. "I probably would have been depressed if he wasn't there at all."
She hopes and expects that Chris will be home to hold his children within about six months. The Marine didn't want to hang up Thursday afternoon, but Esperanza told him she and his children love him, and ordered him to go catch some sleep.