Army Spec. Brooks Lindsey sat in camo against the wall at an airport in Texas, his eyes locked on his cellphone screen as his wife began to give birth.
The 25-year-old soldier, who said he had been in training at Fort Bliss, Tex., was trying to make it home to Brandon, Miss., to welcome their first child into the world. But his flight got delayed last week at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, so he hunkered down and watched every moment on FaceTime, from more than 400 miles away.
Fellow passengers captured Lindsey’s reaction on video, showing his eyes growing wide as his wife started to push. He broke focus and blew out a breath, reached for a water bottle and then looked back at the screen.
“It was a pretty exciting — and scary — moment,” he said Wednesday in a phone interview from Fort Bliss.
Moments later, his daughter was born — 7 pounds, 6 ounces and 21 inches long with blue eyes and a “head full of hair,” the new father said. A crowd of passengers who were gathered around him clapped and cheered. An airline employee made an announcement at the gate, congratulating him on the addition to his family, a passenger said.
Then he hopped on the plane, rushing home to hold his daughter, Millie FritzAnne Lindsey, for the first time.
“It’s exciting to be a dad now; it was exciting to see it on FaceTime,” he said, explaining that although he wishes he could have been there for the birth, “we have a really awesome story to tell our daughter about her birth.”
Lindsey has been in training at Fort Bliss with the Mississippi National Guard, preparing for deployment overseas.
Lindsey said his wife, Haley, 22, was told by her doctors May 3 that she needed an emergency induction because she was at risk of high blood pressure and preeclampsia. So Lindsey was granted emergency leave and, the next day, was on a plane bound for Mississippi.
During a connection in Dallas on Friday afternoon, Lindsey’s flight home was delayed due to maintenance issues.
Fellow passenger Jane Carpenter, from Flora, Miss., said she could tell the soldier was distressed, so she approached him and asked what was wrong.
“It was obvious that something was bothering him, and I will talk to anybody,” she told The Post on Thursday. “That’s when he told me about the baby. When we got delayed, he got a little more frantic.”
It was about 5 p.m., and Lindsey said he wanted to be at his wife’s side.
“I asked him, ‘How close is she?’” Carpenter said.
She said he responded: “I think she’s real close.”
Carpenter, who is a nurse, said she told Lindsey to call his mother, who was in the delivery room, and ask her to FaceTime the birth so he wouldn’t miss it.
In a post on lovewhatmatters.com, Lindsey’s wife, Haley, recounted the next moments in the room, writing that her mother-in-law “secretly FaceTimed Brooks and shoved the phone in the front of her shirt.”
“When I began to push, the Doctor asked what she was doing, and she showed my Doctor Brooks’ face on the screen and she realized what was going on.”
“My Doctor told her to pull the phone out and show him what was going on,” she added. “Brooks was telling me it was okay, and I was doing so good and I heard him wincing and saying ‘wow!’ through my pushes. I could hear people in the airport talking and cheering! Brooks then went on to say that they were making him board and needed to get off as soon as she finally started to crown and all I remember was my Doctor screaming ‘Don’t let him board the flight! She’s here! She’s here!’ So, the airport personnel let him sit there and watch till it was over!”
Carpenter said that when the airline called them to board, someone ran up to the flight crew and asked them to slow it down. But, she said, the child was born before the father was even called to the gate.
Indeed, Millie was born at precisely 5:23 p.m.
“He went from tears to the biggest smile you ever saw,” Carpenter said about the soldier’s reaction to the birth.
“There was a whole crowd of us around him. We all felt like we were part of the family. And when that baby was born, and we could hear it crying, it was just amazing,” she said, adding that the soldier’s fellow passengers were clapping and cheering. “Everybody was just beside themselves with excitement.”
Lindsey said his delayed flight was a blessing in disguise, explaining that if he had been in the air, he would have never been able to see his daughter enter the world.
Two hours later, Lindsey walked into the hospital.
“I held my daughter for the first time, and I hugged and kissed my wife,” he said. “It was emotional, especially not being there for the actual birth, to get to see her and hold her first the first time.”
Over the past several days, while Lindsey was at home with his wife and newborn daughter — learning to change dirty diapers, snapping photos and waking up to help as Haley breast-fed at night — the emotional video of the soldier watching the moment it all started was sweeping across social media.
Lindsey said that, at the time, he had no idea he was being filmed and photographed in the airport. “I was just in my own little zone,” he explained. But he said he is surprised by the overwhelming response from strangers wishing him all the best.
“My only intentions were get home to see my daughter being born,” he told The Washington Post, “but it turned into something much more than we anticipated.”
Lindsey has returned to Fort Bliss — but with a story to tell.