PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Md. — Master Sgt. Matthew Alejandro saw his son for the first time through a FaceTime call, as a midwife live-streamed his birth from the delivery room.
The airman was allowed to see his son later in person, but only from behind the glass of his self-quarantine home office space.
The moment captures the new challenges of parenting in an age redefined and complicated by coronavirus: protecting loved ones from possible exposure, while potentially sacrificing memories meant to be cherished together – first bedtime stories, first baths, first meals at home.
"The moment I found out I was positive, it was hard to think, 'well how am I going to tell this to my wife?'" Alejandro said. "I needed to be quarantined when I wanted and needed to help with our growing family."
Alejandro serves as an airman with the 844th Communication Squadron at Joint Base Andrews. When the Pentagon issued a stop movement order and the Air Force flew him home from Colorado, Alejandro’s father was the first to greet him at the airport.
His father was also the first family member to test positive for the virus. Alejandro later took his own coronavirus test on base, and received a positive diagnosis two days afterward on March 24.
Self-quarantine with only a slight loss of taste and smell became the norm, three days before the birth of his son, Sean.
"The first time I saw him on camera was kind of surreal," Alejandro said. "Because you see this little person on camera and you can’t believe, 'oh my gosh, this is a part of me right there.'"
It was difficult not to hold Sean in that moment, Alejandro added, but equally agonizing to remain separated from his family when they returned home.
He would see Sean through the window panes of his office door, staying in his quarantine space for 10 days after Sean’s birth.
"Now I appreciate those small moments so much more," Alejandro said. "It is so incredibly rewarding to be with my family now. Sean loves being held, and I’m glad I can have that moment back, being there for him as his dad."