I love sports, but I rarely listen to sports talk radio, finding the ego-driven rants of so many hosts and callers alike insufferable. According to newspaper reports, however, some of these yakkers went way over the line this week, ripping New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy for taking paternity leave and missing the Mets first two games, so he could be with his wife during and after the birth of their first child.
Leading the pack, apparently, was Mike Francesa, as quoted in the N.Y. Post: “You’re a major league baseball player. You can hire a nurse. Whaddaya gonna do, sit there and look at your wife in the hospital bed for two days?”
Now I don’t know whether or not Francesa has any children, or if he does, how present he was to his wife when they were born. Maybe he’s just forgotten why a husband is there for the birth, and why he stays to be at his wife’s bedside afterward. It’s not – or shouldn’t be – about us, the fathers.
We are there for the birth of our children primarily to be a support to our wives, the mothers of our children, whose exhilarating anticipation of giving birth is certainly more than tempered by the pain and – especially in the birth of a first child, when they have not yet experienced childbirth – by what must be overwhelming anxiety. We are letting them know by our presence that they are not in this alone, that we are right there with them, doing whatever we can (no matter how inadequate that may seem at the moment) to help and support them.
Of course – as I suspect is the case with most new fathers — the anxiety and discomfort was probably worse for me than for my wife; not because I was going through anything like what she was, but because, quite frankly, she is stronger than I am. (When Sister Pat at Mercy Medical Center, in one of our birthing classes years ago, assured us that an anesthesiologist would be standing by should additional medication be needed during the delivery, I whispered to Eileen, “Good, because I’ll probably need a mild sedative.”) But I was there, and I know my presence, my support and my love helped give Eileen strength.
In the first days after the baby is born –– this seems to be what really bugged Francesa, that Murphy didn’t jump on a plane the day after the birth and be back here at least for Wednesday’s second game of the season — again, our presence is not primarily for ourselves, to “sit there and look at (our) wife in the hospital bed.” It is first and foremost an opportunity to bond with our new baby, and for the three of us to bond together as a family — particularly important, again, with a first child, when the family dynamic is most radically altered. And it is an opportunity for us to be there, lovingly, with our wives, to do whatever little things we might be able to do for them while they are bedridden. Most importantly, it is an opportunity for us to live out our commitment to our wife and children that, no matter what else is going on in our lives, they are, and always will be, most important.
Anybody who follows the Mets knows that there is no one who plays the game harder, who takes his responsibilities to the team and to fans more seriously, than Daniel Murphy. But Murphy is also a devout Christian, who through this loving sacrifice (and make no mistake, for him to miss Opening Day had to be a huge sacrifice) is doing what all fathers should do (and, as the prevalence of fatherless homes shows, all too few do): keeping as the very center of his life his wife and the child they have created together, with God.
May God bless Daniel Murphy, his wife Victoria, and their new son Noah. And may God grant some much needed humility and ego-deflation to Mike Francesa and other sports talk radio blowhards.