Lieutenant gets 'Facetime' with newborn son

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau
  • 321st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
First Lt. Arthur Litchfield just stared at the screen as glowing pixels formed the shape of his wife in a hospital bed. Her shouts of pain and effort reverberated through his laptop's tiny speakers. Through the feed he could see the hospital team helping his wife. He checked outside his room when he heard raindrops. "The internet usually goes out with rain," he thought to himself. "I really want to see my baby born."

But Arthur Litchfield wasn't always a first lieutenant sitting in the middle of Baghdad hoping it wouldn't rain.

Lieutenant Litchfield enlisted in the Air Force when he was 18. Getting a job as a young Airman working in the command post wasn't really his ideal job; he had greater aspirations. He learned to work hard from working in a grocery store in his hometown of Mountain Home, Idaho.

During his time at the grocery store, he also learned it was the perfect place to "pick up chicks." Not surprisingly, that's where he met his wife of 12 years.

"I was driving and this bodaciously hot babe drove by me. I was just gawking at her, and she looked at me like, 'what are you looking at?'" he laughed, thinking about the first time he saw her.

When he pulled into a grocery store shortly after the encounter, he realized the vehicle the girl drove was parked in employee parking.

He described the encounter with extreme detail, remembering exactly how much the items cost that his future wife, Desiree, rang up for him.

"I walked up to the register with a gallon of milk, a bottle of Tree Top apple juice and a copy of Super Chevy magazine. It came out to $9.63," recounted the lieutenant, who lived in the dorms across the street from the commissary, but instead drove seven miles to the grocery store she worked to do his shopping.

Of course, like any love-struck human being, he would rather shop at the grocery store seven miles away just to see her.

"By definition, it was stalking," jokes Lieutenant Litchfield.

Like all good fairy tales, they got married and had three children over the next few years.

During that time, he spent almost 10 years in the enlisted corps, then separated to go to college to get his bachelor's degree in statistics. During his time in college, he joined the ROTC and subsequently earned his commission.

In 2009, Lieutenant Litchfield and his family moved to Hill Air Force Base, Utah, where he became a logistics readiness squadron flight commander.

Early last year, they discovered his wife was pregnant with their fourth child.

"We had always wanted four kids," he said.

But then disaster stuck. In July they discovered that Desiree had miscarried.

"We were pretty dejected about that," he said.  "We had never experienced anything like it."

Then, merely days afterward, he found out he had been tagged for a 365-day deployment to Iraq.

The Litchfields decided if she wasn't pregnant again before he left for his deployment, they were going to stick with three kids.

That September, Desiree found out she was pregnant again.

"We felt joy," he said.  "We were still worried because of the previous miscarriage, but we still wanted to have four children."

After completing pre-deployment training, the lieutenant spent a short time with his family before finally leaving for Baghdad in early April, where he became the Iraq Training and Advisory Mission-Air officer in charge of the foreign excess personal property program.

Five days after he left, Desiree packed up the kids and the dog to go stay with her family in her hometown of Enid, Okla.

Once in Baghdad, Lieutenant Litchfield settled in and kept in touch with his family every chance he could using the Internet in his room. He followed the remainder of his wife's pregnancy with bated breath.

As the due date drew near, Lieutenant Litchfield knew he had an opportunity to see the birth, even though he wasn't going to be there.

He bought an iPad for his wife so the two could still talk in the hospital using Facetime, a video messaging program.

On May 16, the big day, the lieutenant holed up in his room and watched the entire thing online, from the epidural until after the birth of his child.

"I was really worried that the Internet was gonna go," Lieutenant Litchfield said about his expeditionary Internet connection.

But apart from a little rain, there were no interruptions to his Internet stream.

"It was fabulous," he said.  "There was no delay."

Word spread quickly through the hospital about the unique situation in Desiree's room, and a steady stream of nurses came through to see what was going on.

"Every nurse that came in asked 'Are you Desiree? Are you the girl whose husband is deployed?'," Lieutenant Litchfield said.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, the former enlisted command post controller was relaying information back and forth between his friends and family back home on Facebook.

"I was the 7,000-mile-away guy keeping everyone in the neighborhood informed," he said.

In the end, Desiree gave birth to Cohen James Litchfield. He weighed 8 pounds, 10 ounces.

"This one was a complete surprise," he said.

Up until that point, the couple had no idea what gender their baby was going to be.

Once Cohen was born, Lieutenant Litchfield lost the limelight to the new baby.

"When I called before, I was the 'first show' in town," he said. "Movies stopped and everyone came to talk to me. At the hospital, I was the 'second show' in town because everyone wanted to see the baby."

And see the baby they did. But no one saw him with the same perspective as his father.

"You never forget the birth of a kid... I'll never forget this," he said.