I can only imagine (holding him for the first time) will be like the day I got to call Aiden my own son. —Spc. Paul Gibbs
OREM — Everett Joseph Gibbs perked up the first time he heard his dad's voice.
He didn't scream like most babies do when they're first born but gazed calmly at the computer screen where his father's image was projected.
"Hey, buddy," Spc. Paul Gibbs said via video conferencing on the Internet. "I'm your daddy."
The Utah National Guard active duty engineer attended the emotional birth of his first child Tuesday via Skype, which turns out to be the same way he found out his wife of just one month was pregnant last June.
The couple married in May and was surprised to find out they were expecting just a week into his deployment to Sharana, Afghanistan, where he is helping to tear down old buildings and rebuild new ones for future troops near the border of Pakistan.
"It was a good surprise and very wonderful, but we also knew that he wouldn't be able to come home so it was kind of a sad, bittersweet moment," recalled Katy Gibbs, mother of newborn Everett. "It was definitely not planned with him being gone."
The unexpected pregnancy was rough on her, beginning with early hemorrhaging and orders of bed rest through much of the remaining nine months. A preeclampsia scare moved the baby's due date up a week, and the couple's anxiety of welcoming a newborn came to a head Tuesday morning when she checked in without her husband in tow, at Timpanogos Regional Hospital.
Before even changing into a hospital gown, typical garb for delivery, the 27-year-old immediately signed into her Skype account and connected with her husband. He sat vigilantly in his darkened room, trying not to wake the troops sleeping in the next room and waited to become a father.
"I really wish he could be here," Katy Gibbs said, holding her husband's replica dog tags that hang around her neck. "It's his first baby, and I want him to experience that special bond that you feel with that."
The two had agreed beforehand on naming their son Everett, which she said conveys "strength."
"We knew he was a strong baby from the beginning," she said. The Spanish Fork couple has another son, Aiden, from her previous marriage, and Paul Gibbs, 25, said he's "looking forward to having another little boy running around."
"I'm just hoping the Internet doesn't cut out," he said. Internet service, for which the Gibbses pay $100 a month to get a good enough signal for a video feed, is not dependable on the other side of the world. Unexpected blackouts and occasional bomb scares, he said, can cancel the signal, making it unavailable for long periods of time.
"I've tried to be there for her the best I could," the soldier said. "I don't know what I did, if anything at all, but I tried to communicate. The time difference makes it hard. I never know when I'll be able to talk to her next, or whether I'll be out on a mission or if something happens where the Internet gets cut off for the day."
Because of the time difference, Paul Gibbs, originally from California, stayed up through the night to witness his son's birth, which happened about seven hours after check-in.
Everett made quite an entrance into the world, arriving quickly after his mother's contractions nearly stopped his heart. Nurses hurriedly cleaned off the 6-pound, 10-ounce baby, and then he sat, under the warming light, taking a good look at his dad, who was staring back at him.
It was like he could sense their forging relationship.
"My cheeks hurt, honey," the new dad said when he couldn't stop smiling.
The couple, who met in 2011 while attending classes at Utah Valley University, quickly discovered that Everett has his mother's nose and his dad's long, "freak monkey toes," she said.
Both new parents were wiping tears from their eyes, enjoying the moment, as hospital staff moved back and forth, performing various tests, placing identification wristbands, and making sure mother and baby were comfortable.
"Because of the short notice, he couldn't come home," Katy Gibbs said of her husband, adding that they also need the money earned from his military service. When he comes home in April, he'll work on finishing his schoolwork but "needs to find a job," she said. "He wants to be a firefighter."
Neighbors, family and friends have been helping where they can, bringing gifts and providing support.
Carol Hutchinson, Katy Gibbs' mother, said her daughter put on a brave face Tuesday and throughout the seemingly long deployment.
"When Dad's not here, you can try to help, but you can't possibly do everything he can do," Hutchinson, of Salem, said. "I couldn't help but think how much he wanted to reach out and touch (his son) and her."
The new father has nearly completed three years of his enlisted six in active duty. While the future is uncertain, the Gibbses are excited to be back together again.
"I can only imagine (holding him for the first time) will be like the day I got to call Aiden my own son," he said. He's keeping his fingers crossed that his current station will end as scheduled, if not earlier.