Dad's A-twitter In Delivery Room

Laboring Wife Not In A Mood For Talking, Pastor Uses Lulls To Tweet Play-by-play

July 22, 2009|By Joe Burris | Joe Burris,joseph.burris@baltsun.com

The micro-blogging site 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. As his wife, Kristy, endured her contractions, the pastor from Timonium kept his 800 Twitter followers up to date with a continuous, online play-by-play.

Or is that tweet-by-tweet?

"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 in an instant.

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 that such sites are compatible with new electronic devices such as the BlackBerry and iPhone, and deliver posts that their receivers need not log on and search for.

"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."

As the company's name has become all but synonymous with cyber dialogue, Twitter users keep coming up with venues for tweeting. Tatham said he posed the idea of tweeting during the delivery process 15 months ago with his then-pregnant wife.

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

Matt McDermott of Lauraville, 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 chance 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 she's recently 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," said Schwartzberg. (The cycling star announced the birth of his fourth child, Max, on Twitter.) "But social media is emerging as a communications tool."

Schwartzberg said that when another couple mentioned they would tweet during their delivery in August, he cleared the move with doctors, who said they had no problem with it.

"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 BlackBerries 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 constantly communicating with others during a most delicate period in a couple's life.

"I think it's terrible," said Dr. 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."

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