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Thousands See Child's Birth Via Internet

June 17, 1998| From Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. — A groaning 40-year-old woman gave birth to a boy Tuesday in front of thousands of people who saw it not by elbowing their way into the delivery room but by logging onto their computers.

It was billed as the first Internet birth, although in the fast-moving world of high-tech, that claim was disputed.

Viewers over the Internet didn't see anything more graphic than an episode of the network television show "ER." The cameras were discreetly held at the woman's side and in front of her hospital bed, but nurses' backs blocked any view of the actual delivery.

"After a certain point, you're not aware of all the commotion that is going on," said the mother, who wanted herself identified only by her first name, Elizabeth.

Although the birth of the black-haired boy went smoothly, the same couldn't be said for the Internet broadcast over the Web site of America's Health Network, a cable TV channel.

A computer traffic jam limited the number of viewers to about 5,000 at any one time, only half of what the cable network had expected. At least 50,000 people at one time logged on to the site in an attempt to download the video footage.

"I wouldn't say we underplanned," said J. Tod Fetherling, president of America's Health Network-Interactive. "We had scaled out for the biggest number we could imagine and we have reached beyond that."

Sean was born at 10:40 a.m., more than 4 1/2 hours after the broadcast began. Elizabeth groaned several times before the 7-pound, 8-ounce baby emerged in front of the two cameras.

"Here comes Sean's head. He has a lot of hair on his head," said Dr. Walter Larimore, who narrated for the Internet audience from the delivery room.

Larimore, host of "Ask the Family Doctor" on America's Health Network, gave a play-by-play description as Elizabeth, already a mother of three, was injected with a hormone to induce labor.

Elizabeth's husband, Gilbert, held her shoulders. Her 10-year-old daughter, Sara, held her hand to her mouth in awe as she stood around the hospital bed with her 11-year-old brother, Joey, and 14-year-old sister, Lindsay.

The Orlando-based cable network's claim that it had the world's first Internet delivery was disputed by Tammy Barnes, 26, of Golden, Colo.

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