Man Battling Coronavirus Watches Wife Give Birth Via Zoom Call in Another Part of the Hospital

"I never thought with our first child that this is the story that we'd be telling her about how she was born," Roxanne McCabe says

Milo McCabe never expected Zoom to play a role in the birth of his first child, but that's what happened for the Southern California man after he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Thanks to the video conferencing platform, Milo was able to watch his wife Roxanne welcome their daughter, Emberly Anne, into the world on April 20 — despite the fact he was battling a "critical case" of the virus just a floor below them at Kaiser Permanente Baldwin Park Medical Center.

"It was emotional," Milo, 29, tells PEOPLE. "I cried for the first time in a very long time. I was scared and happy, and sad, and frustrated with myself. But it was definitely something that I had to look forward to on the other side of everything."

Just about a week before Roxanne, 24, went into labor, Milo tested positive for the virus and was admitted to the hospital with breathing difficulties.

"I felt like I was drowning," Milo recalls, noting that he eventually developed severe bilateral pneumonia. More than half of both of his lungs were filled with fluid and he required oxygen around the clock.

roxanne and milo mccabe
Milo and Roxanne McCabe on Zoom during the birth. Roxanne and Milo McCabe

As Milo remained hospitalized and isolated from loved ones, the Covina couple came to the realization that it would be at least two weeks before he could return home or be around others — which meant he also would not be present for his daughter's birth.

"It's hard to express in words what that sinking feeling feels like. It's just terrible," Roxanne explains. "I was so scared of doing this all by myself. It was an emotional rollercoaster for sure."

Not wanting her husband to miss out on the moment, Roxanne started brainstorming how he could witness the birth from afar. They ultimately decided to use Zoom.

At 3 a.m. on April 20, after suffering two days of contractions, Roxanne knew it was time.

"I called my parents early in the morning, and I was like, 'I can't take these contractions anymore. You need to take me in, they're getting too close together,'" she recalls.

roxanne and milo mccabe
Roxanne and Milo McCabe with their daughter Emberly. Roxanne and Milo McCabe

With her mom by her side in the delivery room and her husband watching on Zoom from the critical care unit downstairs, Roxanne eventually welcomed Emberly at 6:41 p.m.

"I am grateful that we have the technology that we do today. Milo was still able to see her in the moments that she was born and he was able to hear her cry for the first time," she says. "We'll be able to share [the recording] with our daughter when she gets older, so she can actually understand what her parents went through and what she was a part of when she was so young."

"I never thought with our first child that this is the story that we'd be telling her about how she was born," Roxanne adds. "You would think it's the typical, 'Oh, dad was there next to me, and he held my hand, he got to cut the cord.' Things like that. We didn't get really any of that. It was far from typical."

roxanne and milo mccabe
Emberly Anne. Roxanne and Milo McCabe

In the week following Emberly's birth, Milo was given antiviral drug remdesivir, which helped him improve and ultimately get discharged. Four days after her arrival, Milo was finally able to meet his daughter in person.

He wore a mask and was only able to hold her briefly due to safety precautions and because he was still feeling weak. Still, the new dad says the moment was everything he could've imagined.

"I didn't want to let go," he adds.

It has been close to three weeks since that day, and Milo continues to recover and get stronger, though he is being mindful about keeping a distance from his wife and daughter.

roxanne and milo mccabe
Milo McCabe and Emberly. Roxanne and Milo McCabe

Roxanne says she looks forward to the post-pandemic day she doesn't have to limit their daughter's exposure to their family, friends and the outdoors.

"I can't wait to be able to show Emberly the world," she says. "Obviously she's still really little right now, but we don't know how long this is going to last."

The couple hopes that sharing their story will emphasize the importance of taking the virus seriously — something they admit they initially failed to do.

"When this whole coronavirus thing came out, we were thinking, 'Yeah, we're young, we're healthy people. We don't think that this is going to affect us,'" she says. "When you experience it firsthand, it completely changes your mindset."

roxanne and milo mccabe
Roxanne and Milo McCabe. Roxanne and Milo McCabe

"No matter how young or healthy you are, don't think you're invincible," Milo adds. "You're going to get hit whether you think you are or not. It may not be you, but it could be one of your friends, it could be one of your loved ones."

As of Wednesday afternoon, there have been over 1.3 million cases and at least 83,282 deaths attributed to coronavirus in the United States, according to the New York Times. In California, at least 71,553 cases and 2,938 deaths have been reported, according to the Times.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

Related Articles