June 27, 2012 - When expectant mom Jenny Rascher went into labor with her son, her husband was at work.
Landen Rascher sleeps on his Dadís uniform. Photo provided. (click for larger version)
But unlike most fathers, Logan Rascher wasn't in the neighborhood, the same town or city, the same county, the same state, the same time zone, or even the same country as his wife.
Jenny was in Michigan, while Logan was thousands of miles away in Afghanistan, serving as a specialist in the Army National Guard. He couldn't fly home. Still, they found a way for Logan to be at Jenny's side.
"We always knew he would be deployed, but we never knew when," said Jenny. "The thing you learn being a military family is hurry up and wait and nothing is ever certain."
Logan and Jenny were high school sweethearts and graduated from Brandon High School in 2008. Shortly after graduation, Logan joined the Army National Guard.
The couple married in July 2010, bought a house in Waterford, and last August, a month after they learned Jenny was pregnant, Logan got deployment orders. Logan was given just a few days leave in December. During that time, he was able to see his unborn baby during an ultrasound appointment, but he would not be home for the birth of their child.
So, they made a plan for him to see the birth of their son via Skype, an online service that allows video phone calls, winning the cooperation of Logan's superior officers and Crittenton Hospital administrators.
When Jenny arrived at Crittenton in Rochester at 11 a.m. April 18, a week after their son was due, the decision was made to induce labor. She sent a text message, 'It's baby time,' that was never received by Logan. She had some panicky moments as she called a friend, the wife of one of the men serving in Logan's platoon, and texted another of Logan's best friends that was also serving with him in Afghanistan. Soon, Logan was on the phone. It was 8 p.m. in Afghanistan and the laptop Logan had wouldn't connect to the internet, but he borrowed a computer with Skype capabilities from one of the guys in his platoon. Jenny, who had her laptop computer ready, told her nurses that her husband was going to be in the room on Skype.
First family photo: Logan Rascher via Skype from Afghanistan, and Jenny Rascher holding their newborn son, Landen in Rochester. Photo provided. (click for larger version)
"The nurses were taken aback, they didn't realize what was going on," she recalled. "After awhile, they got used to it and he would talk to them and Linda (a nurse) talked back."
While Jenny was admitted to the hospital on the 18th, the drugs that were initially administered did not immediately induce labor. She told Logan she would disconnect from Skype and call him when labor got underway.
"I had to keep telling him, 'Go to bed, nothing is happening,'" said Jenny.
At 11 a.m. April 19, she was finally in full-fledged labor. Logan talked with her and the nurses and told Jenny jokes he looked up on the internet to distract her. Jenny asked visitors, including her mother and mother-in-law to leave the room so she and Logan could be alone. As soon as they left, at around 1:45 p.m., her water broke.
"I couldn't reach the call button, so I started crying and Logan called his mom to get the nurse," she remembers. "So funny—he's in Afghanistan and calling his Mom to help me."
Jenny told Logan she would call him back after she got an epidural.
"I didn't want him to see me in that much pain, you can't put that much stress on someone," she says now. "What could he do? If he was here physically, he could hold my hand, calm me, but if you're on a computer, you can't do anything. I didn't want him to feel obligated to help when we both knew he couldn't."
Lynnette Lavoie, a Crittenton Hospital obstetrician tech holds the laptop so Logan Rascher can see his newborn son Landen via Skype. Logan is serving in the Army National Guard and is deployed to Afghanistan. Photo provided. (click for larger version)
It took two hours for her to finally get the epidural and it didn't work right away. Through the contractions she could hear the phone "going crazy." By the time the drugs took effect and she reconnected with Logan on Skype, she was ready to push.
"I focused on Logan a lot, because I felt the situation was really weird at first," she recalled. "He was there, but he wasn't. I had three people in the room that I didn't even know. It was a very surreal situation, but it went really fast and he was positive and consoling."
Within 7 minutes of getting reconnected on Skype, at 4:17 p.m., April 19, Logan watched and cried as his son, Landen Paul Rascher, was born half a world away. Jenny told her husband the baby looked exactly like him as she leaned over and held Landen up in front of the computer.
"We looked at each other and said, 'I love you' and 'Wow, this is amazing,' but we didn't really talk," Jenny said. "It was one of those moments where silence says everything."
The nurses took Landen to give him a bath and weigh and measure the baby, who was 7 pounds, 6 ounces and 20 inches long. One of the nurses also took the computer to where the baby was being bathed so Logan could continue watching.
While Jenny was pregnant, Logan would often ask to be put on speaker phone and have Jenny place the phone on her belly so he could speak to his unborn son. The young father would tell the baby to stop kicking Jenny in the ribs, and talk about the future and how he couldn't wait to take Landen hunting and do father and son things. In the delivery room, he had another message for his newborn child.
"When Landen was born, he just said to him, 'Take care of Mom and be good, don't be too crazy,'" she said. "Landen didn't listen to his Dad and gives me a hard time, but he is a good baby and he sleeps well, he only gets up once in the night. He is a handful, a sass, and won't let me put him down, but he makes me out to be a liar when he is around anyone, because he's a big ham, cooing and laughing. I wouldn't change it, because he's adorable and I love him and I can't wait for Logan to meet him, he's just like him."
Logan's deployment is ending soon and he is expected to be home this fall. Logan has planned a cruise in December for him and Jenny and they are most excited to do things everyday that many people take for granted, like a walk around their neighborhood or through a park, pushing a stroller with Landen inside, and their 4-year-old rescued terrier mix dog Jazz joining them.
As a member of the Army National Guard, Logan can work a civilian job when he returns home, but while enlisted, must be available for Army training when required, making finding employment "very hard," Jenny said. Before being deployed he worked as a lifeguard at Independence Oaks as well as for Barnstormers Fuel at the Waterford Airport, where he fueled aircraft and prepared them for flights.
Now they are trying to figure out what will be best for their family when Logan comes home and Jenny believes it will be a pivotal moment when he arrives.
"He's stepping into a completely different life," she said. "He left a married man, but he's coming back a husband and a father. I think he will handle it very gracefully. I'm not under any fantasy that it will be hunky dory all the time, new parents go through trials, but he has a different outlook. He's missed a lot, so he's excited to get back."
Jenny notes that time can be your best friend, or your worst enemy—every day that goes by is a day longer since she has seen her husband, but a day closer to seeing him again.
Throughout his deployment, Logan has marked the passage of time by finding the same star in the sky every night and making the same wish—that his wife would be safe and his son would be healthy.
"He could tell time was passing because he had to search for the star as the constellations moved," she says now, crying. "He told me his wishes came true."
Now the only wish to be made is to come home to hold his wife and child in his arms. That star moves closer every night.
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville