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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Twitter turning birth into live event

By Joe Burris
Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service

Twitter has given an increasing number of expectant dads something to do while their wives are giving birth: Provide the world a real-time account of what may be the most intimate experience of their lives.

Tally Wilgis couldn't wait to tell family and friends details about the birth of his second child, Ainsley, in January at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Md. As his wife, Kristy, endured her contractions, the pastor from Timonium, Md., kept his 800 Twitter followers up to date.

"Doc came back from the emergency across the hall. He seems eager to get to work," Wilgis tweeted a few moments before Ainsley was born. "He's going to get the team. We'll see."

"Contractions over 135 ... Kristy is ready to fight somebody. Poor nurse says, 'Hopefully you'll have amnesia when you get through this.' "

"Baby Ainsley is here!!!!! 5:17 p.m. 7.8 lbs. She's beautiful! Kristy did an amazing job. I am so in love with that woman. (Three) pushes and she was out! I'm going to hold my daughter now!"

The free San Francisco-based site allows users to post entries (or tweet) what they're doing in 140 characters or less. Expectant parents are using its versatility to keep loved ones informed.

Some expectant parents like Wilgis bring laptop computers into the delivery room and post updates for those who follow their entries. As his daughter was being born, he captured emotions including his own that might have gone unrecorded had he waited to talk about them over the phone.

Matt Tatham, media relations director for online measurement company Hitwise, said it's not surprising that sites such as Twitter have become popular in delivery rooms. He said such sites are compatible with devices like BlackBerrys and iPhones.

"It happens because it's there and it's possible," Tatham said. "The biggest hurdle is always ease of use. People can do it from their cell phone. It's a way for their family and friends to be there with them whether they want to be or not."

Wilgis said tweeting during the delivery beats blogging, which he did with his first child, Caleb, four years ago.

Lauraville, Md., resident Matt McDermott who tweeted in September when his wife, Wendy, gave birth to their son Ferris said he had a couple of reasons for doing so.

"It was to keep friends updated, yes, but also it was an experiment for me. I'm in advertising, and I was interested to see how followers responded and which tweets were most popular."


For some fathers, tweeting during the delivery is a way to keep busy. It also gives them someone to talk to while the physicians tend to mother and child.

"As a new father, you feel lonely in the delivery room because all of the attention is on your wife and the child," Wilgis said. "It gave me something to do while I was sitting there, and a lot of the tweets express the boredom and frustration of just sitting there waiting. To an extent, it's like talking out loud and wondering if anybody hears you."

Michael Schwartzberg, media relations manager for Greater Baltimore Medical Center, said he's heard of about a half-dozen expectant parents tweeting during deliveries at the hospital.

"It started perhaps when Lance Armstrong did it in June; that made it popular, I guess," Schwartzberg said. (The cycling star announced the birth of his fourth child, Max, on Twitter.)

Schwartzberg said that when another couple mentioned they would tweet during their delivery in August, he cleared it with doctors.

"They said, 'As long as Dad is in a corner out of the way,' " Schwartzberg added. "Most times, the birthing companion is in the room anyway, and it's not as if they're wheeling in heavy equipment. Most people use BlackBerrys or PDAs, and it's commonplace to take pictures after the baby's born with either a cell phone camera or a regular camera. It's not as if they're causing problems for anyone."

But not everyone is sold on the idea of fathers tweeting during a most delicate period in a couple's life.

"I think it's terrible," said Renana Brooks, a Washington-based psychologist. "The world is divided, and one of the few rituals we have in terms of giving each other undivided attention is that time in a delivery room. To be spending time writing to someone else destroys the whole ritual. That's like Twittering on your wedding night. You can blog about it afterward."

Kristy Wilgis disagrees. She said that she welcomed her husband tweeting during the delivery in part because the family had just moved from Virginia Beach, Va., and it was one of the best ways to keep everyone informed.

"Frankly, there was nothing he could do for me then," she added. "I didn't want to be touched or massaged; I know some expectant mothers like that, but I was just the opposite. It was the best outlet for him, to talk about it via computer. It was really cool, and I got a chance to see it from his perspective. Things were really fuzzy the whole day, and it refreshed my memory of things I had forgotten about."


Sometimes expectant fathers discover that continuous tweeting is impossible.

McDermott began tweeting early in a delivery process that began at 8:30 a.m. and ended when Ferris was born at 6 p.m., but he had to stop when he was called upon to assist his wife's pushing.

He did manage to tweet when the doctor gave the couple a half-hour break between pushes. After the birth, he returned to Twitter; his final tweet was accompanied by a photo of his wife holding the baby. He says he looks back on those photos at least once a week.

Wilgis has copied his tweets and will save them with the hopes of one day passing them to his daughter.

"I think it's amazing to be able to look back on that moment in life," Wilgis said, "and my daughter is going to be able to know exactly what her dad was thinking every few minutes, over the course of two days, when she was being born."