Paternity Leave: Play Ball

Photo by Rebecca Alison

Photo by Rebecca Alison

Dear Mike Francesca, Boomer Esiason, and Craig Carton,

I have no idea who you are.

Really, I don’t. Sorry. I had to look up how to spell your names for this article.

But I heard what you said about New York Mets player Daniel Murphy [missing two games for paternity leave], and my husband knows who you are, so I thought it might be important to share a few things with you. Since Daniel Murphy’s wife is still recovering from using all of her energy, courage, strength and sheer determination to deliver an actual human being onto this earth, I figured I’d help a sister out. In case you were wondering, here are 8 reasons why it’s actually helpful for women to have their partners present when they birth a baby, and in the days and weeks that follow.

1. The last time I checked, my husband was involved in getting me pregnant. Daniel Murphy might be a ball player, but I’m guessing he was responsible for getting his wife pregnant as well. In an era of irresponsible, self-absorbed athletes who routinely embarrass themselves in public, I think it’s pretty wonderful that an athlete would put his family first. As he should. He was 50% of the decision to have a baby. I mean, at least I think that’s how it works.

2. The woman carries the baby for 9 months. Now granted, I’m sure that’s not as hard as running drills, batting practice, pitching, catching, spitting, travelling to different cities and whatever else y’all do. But let’s say it’s a close second in difficulty level. I’m guessing that Mrs. Murphy goes to most of Daniel’s ball games. Perhaps she even travels to random cities so that she can be close to him when he plays. Support goes both ways. And when you’re in the hospital, sprawled out and in pain, terrified out of your mind, it’s always nice to have a friendly face around. I mean, it’s not as hard as being booed or being on the bench I guess, but let’s call it a close second.

3. When you said that Mrs. Murphy should have scheduled a c-section, for convenience sake, women everywhere felt their stitches pull just a little bit. You could clearly school me about how to hit a home-run and how to throw a no-hitter, but I have a curve-ball for you. A c-section involves cutting your stomach open and removing your guts so that the baby can come out. And then putting your guts back in. While you’re awake. I know, because I’ve had two. It involves stapling your stomach back together, having a catheter in your hoo-ha, and being in the hospital for close to a week so that you can learn to walk, poop and laugh again. It’s a little more difficult then being hit by an errant pitch. But just a little.

4. Numerous studies show that women who have supportive partners are more likely to have success with breastfeeding. When you said “There’s nothing you (Murphy) can do. You’re not breastfeeding the kid”, you told women everywhere that the way a family chooses to feed a child is a solo endeavor. I’m not sure if you know this, because you might have chosen to show up to work instead of showing up for your kid when they were first born, but the days and weeks after having a baby are absolutely critical for the long-term health and wellness of your family. This might not be a popular thing to say in the locker room, but boobs are for babies. Boobs provide nourishment, comfort, and important immunities to babies in their first few weeks (and far beyond!), and the best way to insure that your wife has success with breastfeeding (if that’s what she chooses) is to be there to help her figure it out. It truly takes more than two hands to nurse a baby in the beginning. And if your family chooses formula, your wife will need your two hands too. Do you know how often babies eat?  Whether you’re helping to wash bottles or grabbing your wife a snack so that she can in turn nourish your child, you’re the pinch hitter. She doesn’t want someone brought up from the minors, she wants you.

5. You know what will help Daniel Murphy to play better ball?  Knowing that his biggest fan is healthy, safe, and able to care for his child. You know how that happens?  Having a supportive, attentive, aware partner makes an enormous difference in identifying and treating postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. Daniel Murphy has a responsibility to his home team, his wife and child. When women are isolated from their partners in the postpartum period, they are stripped of their biggest support system. Would you expect baseball players to play well without a coach?  Without fans?  Then why would you ask Mrs. Murphy to play the biggest game of her career by herself?

6. Dads deserve to have healthy attachments with their children. This relationship doesn’t just begin when they can have a catch in the backyard. It begins the moment a daddy first rocks a tiny baby to sleep. It begins when a daddy holds his wife in his arms, and lets her cry tears of frustration. It begins at 3 am, when he changes a diaper so mom can have an extra 3 minutes of sleep before nursing. That is how babies learn to trust their fathers, and rely on them. A child that wants to have a catch after dinner is a child that grew up knowing that Daddy would be around for all of the little moments in between.

7. When my husband and I got married, our vows included “for better or for worse”. I consider looking into the eyes of a human being that we created “for better”, and having my insides stitched back together “for worse”. At no point in our vows did we tell our friends and family that work would come first. That love and marriage and creating little human beings was going to be awesome, but not as great as our careers would be. In the game of life, it’s the moments where we meet the people who speak to our souls that matter. And there’s no seventh inning stretch when you’re a parent.

8. Money talks, until it doesn’t. My husband might not play baseball (to his chagrin), but he works in a demanding field that requires him to show up every day and be in charge. I have the pleasure of being the stay-at-home parent, because my husband works long hours to make enough money for all of us. Truth?  We still need him to show up at home.  Cars, universities, family vacations, and a pretty new house mean nothing if we aren’t together. My kids don’t care about their new toys if Daddy isn’t home at night to play with them. When they get dropped off at preschool, it doesn’t matter that it’s the most expensive one in town. What matters is that they got to show Daddy their art project when he dropped them off. The only way to raise kids who will make it to the best university that money can buy, is to give them the gift of your time as they grow. Or not. And then they might grow into entitled, self-absorbed, politically incorrect [people] who think that baseball is the most important thing in life.

The first few weeks of parenting a newborn are like the World Series. Everyone is watching. The stakes are high. You realize that your biggest dreams are coming true. And you wonder if you’re good enough to make it. Just like the World Series, there are no second chances. Well, until next season, but you know what I mean. And for most folks, the opportunity to play in this game comes once in a lifetime. Parenting may not bring in the big bucks, but there are many of us who believe it to be the great American past-time. I might not know much about baseball, but I could teach you a thing or two about how life-changing it can be for a mother and child to have their Daddy around. As you well know, you only get three strikes before you’re out. And Daniel Murphy’s little boy is sure to be his biggest fan. So play ball!  And stick to what you know best. I think Daniel Murphy has this parenting thing down just fine.

Now could someone please pass the cracker jacks?

Sincerely,

A fan in the bleachers
Reprinted with permission from http://mamabythebay.com/

Kim Simon blogs at Mama by the Bay, which began as a love letter to her son Max. Watching him grow into a curious, active, resilient 4 year old has taught her the importance of slowing down, jumping in and trusting her instincts.

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