Man Who Streamed Son's Birth on Facebook Live Didn't Know He Was Sharing It with the World: 'I Thought It Was Just Going to My Family'
When Kali Kanongata’a recorded a video of his partner giving birth Monday, he had no idea he was sharing it with the world until his cousin chimed in with some helpful advice: “keep pushing.”
“That’s when I saw the viewer count,” Kanongata’a, 36, tells PEOPLE. “I thought it was just going to my family and friends!”
The Carmichael, California, dad says he intended to share the video on Facebook so that his family on the Polynesian island of Tonga could share in his joy.
His family did get to tune in – but they were joined by thousands of others. The 45-minute video in which Kanongata’a narrates his partner Sarah Dome’s every move, right up to the birth of the couple’s son, has been viewed more than 120,000 times.
Kanongata’a says that when he noticed the number of viewers was in the thousands he considered stopping the recording “for a second” and then decided he would be happy to share his family’s joy with the world.
“There’s a lot of negative stuff on Facebook and so I thought this would be positive,” he explains.” I figured as long as I kept it PG – this is a birth – it’s something to be happy about.”
His gesture has drawn its share of criticism from people who question Dome’s complicity in the video or view a birth streamed live on Facebook as, to put it lightly, an overshare. Kanongata’a says that he and Dome are “laughing at the criticism.”
“We just see it as a positive,” he explains. “I know some people are mad that it’s not private, but I’m from the island [of Tonga], and years ago, we would have water births in public. I wasn’t too worried about hiding anything because our culture has done this for thousands of years.”
This wasn t the father of three’s first foray into livestreaming. He’s been sharing videos of his day-to-day on Facebook Live for months. He says he started creating the videos as a way of connecting with his son and daughter, ages 10 and 7, who currently live with his ex-wife.
“I’ve been missing my kids so I use Facebook Live as a journal so that when I get to see them again, they’ll know I’ve been thinking about them,” he explains.
He hopes that one day his youngest son, who he and Dome named Ngangatulelei HeKelesi, will see the video of his birth and “appreciate the story behind his life.”
“That’s what us islanders do – we carry stories from elder to elder – so my story will be passed on to him,” he says. “My pain will become a blessing to him.”