BANGOR, Maine — Sgt. Emmett Mailman of the Maine Army National Guard’s 1136th Transportation Company was 6,364 miles from home — in Kabul, Afghanistan — when his son, Owen, decided to come into the world seven weeks early.
That didn’t stop him from being there to witness his wife, Holly, deliver their son.
“She took her laptop to the hospital and I got to watch the birth, all six hours,” using Skype, he said on Tuesday. “I wasn’t there, but I kind of was. It was pretty neat.”
The Howland soldier flew into Bangor five days later, arriving home on a 10-day emergency leave, which he combined with his two weeks of R&R.
Owen Daig Mailman was born Aug. 23 at Penobscot Valley Hospital in Lincoln and weighed a mere 5 pounds, 9 ounces.
“They took him from me after he was born,” Holly Mailman said. The baby was immediately transported to the neonatal intensive care unit at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. “I didn’t see him for eight hours,” Owen’s mother added.
“The biggest thing was not being here,” Emmett Mailman said. “It was tough.”
Owen spent two weeks in the NICU, and has spent the past two weeks in the hospital’s Continuing Care Unit.
At first “we couldn’t touch him without getting permission from the nurse,” Holly Mailman said. “He was a week and a half old before I changed his diaper.”
“He’s a lot bigger than he was,” she added later. “You could hold him in your hand.”
Owen, who is one of 400 or so infants annually who receive special care in Bangor’s NICU, now weighs 7 pounds.
“They’ve been really good to us here,” his mother said.
Owen’s father said he is relieved that his son is growing stronger and is happy that he got to spend time with his 21-month-old daughter, Emma-Leigh.
“I hadn’t seen her since March, except on the computer, and it’s just not the same,” Mailman said.
Mailman is on his second overseas tour of duty. His first tour was a year and a half in Iraq with Brewer’s Bravo Company of the Third 172nd Infantry Mountain Company during 2006-07.
“That one was tough, but it wasn’t as tough because we didn’t have kids,” the soldier said. “It was just me and her.”
In his current tour of duty, Mailman and the 1136th are providing force protection to fellow troops in Afghanistan. The Bangor-based unit is scheduled to return home in March 2011.
On Tuesday, the couple and their daughter passed the time by watching a children’s movie on a portable DVD player in their son’s small hospital room. Owen slept in his mother’s arms, but made the occasional baby peep whenever she changed his position.
“As long as he doesn’t do anything unusual, we’ll be taking him home [today],” Holly Mailman said.
Sgt. Mailman is scheduled to return to duty on Friday.