Editor’s Note: Kelly Wallace is CNN’s digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. She is a mom of two. Read her other columns and follow her reports at CNN Parents and on Twitter.
Boomer Esiason said athlete's wife should have scheduled C-section to avoid game
Daniel Murphy of the Mets missed two games this season to attend his son's birth
Major League Baseball allows players to miss three games during paternity leave
Esiason apologized on his radio show on Friday, calling his comments "insensitive"
I really am speechless, which makes it that much harder to write this column. After everything I’ve seen covering modern parenting over the past several years, I kind of feel like nothing can really surprise me anymore.
Oh how wrong I was, because when I heard about comments from Boomer Esiason, the former football star and now CBS NFL analyst and radio host, I thought he had to be joking.
Did he really suggest that New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy should have encouraged his wife to have a C-section, which is major surgery, so that he wouldn’t have to miss Opening Day?
Murphy’s wife went into labor, so he flew to be with her, missing the season’s first two games. Major League Baseball allows a player to miss up to three games for paternity leave.
During a conversation on his radio show with co-host Craig Carton, Esiason, a father of two, said he would never have done what Murphy did.
“Quite frankly, I would have said C-section before the season starts,” Esiason said. “I need to be at Opening Day. I’m sorry. This is what makes our money. This is how we’re going to live our life. This is going to give my child every opportunity to be a success in life. I’ll be able to afford any college I want to send my kid to because I’m a baseball player.”
What about family, Esiason? What about not scheduling a major surgery that takes up to four weeks or longer to recover from? (I should know. I had two unplanned C-sections!) All that, just to avoid missing the first two games of a 160-plus game season?
After being widely criticized for his remarks, Esiason offered a lengthy apology on his radio show on Friday.
“I want to say again on this radio show that in no way, shape or form was I advocating anything for anybody to do. I was not telling women what to do with their bodies … I would never do that. That’s their decision,” said Esiason.
“And the other thing, too, that I really felt bad about is that Daniel Murphy and Tori Murphy were dragged into a conversation, and their whole life was exposed. And it shouldn’t have been. And that is my fault.
“I apologize for putting him and his wife in the midst of a public discussion that I basically started by uttering insensitive comments that came off very insensitive. And for that I apologize.”
Esiason said he tried to reach out to Murphy to apologize personally, but it does not appear that they connected. He said he was in touch with the owner of the New York Mets and the team’s public relations chief.
‘The choice of parents’
For his part, Murphy, whose wife ended up having a C-section, is shrugging off any criticism of his decision.
“That’s the choice of parents that they get to make,” Murphy said on Thursday, before Esiason’s public apology. “That’s the greatness of it. You discuss it with your spouse, and you find out what you think works best for your family.”
Not surprisingly, outrage in social media over Esiason’s original remarks was pointed solidly in one direction.
“There are so many reasons this is so wrong,” a mother said on my Facebook page. She had three C-sections, none of them by choice.
“He has no idea what in the world he is talking about,” she added. “(A C-section) is no walk in the park for mom or dad, whether you are a baseball player or not, whether you are in the off season or not.”
Another woman, also on Facebook, cited what she called “the lack of sensitivity and sophistication” around these issues of gender and reproduction. “I also think (despite what he says), if it were (his) wife, he would not feel the same way.”
Don’t show me the money, parenting advocate and author Sue Scheff said on Facebook, criticizing Esiason for suggesting that money should be more important than family.
“Games happen a lot. How often is the birth of your child?” she asked.
“Easy for him to say, he’ll never have to have one,” said a man, who did not want to be identified, referring to a C-section.
Esiason made his comments during an exchange with his co-host, who thought Murphy should have gotten back to work once the baby was born instead of taking an additional day of paternity leave. (Another WFAN radio host, Mike Francesa, also took issue with Murphy being out for two games.)
In Esiason’s defense, his first comments when the subject came up were that Murphy had “legal rights to be there if he wants to be there.”
As a football player, he’s also coming from the mindset of his sport and how key players haven’t traditionally missed one of the season’s games for a birth, noted @heymatt on Twitter. In fact, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco’s wife gave birth one hour before game time in September, and Flacco played that game against the Cleveland Browns.
Elective C-sections: ‘That’s not that common’
But what got under people’s skin, more than anything, was the idea of suggesting that a wife have major surgery to accommodate her husband’s schedule.
“Major surgery should only be used when medically advised, not for convenience,” said @elia_eltringham, also on Twitter.
C-sections may be scheduled because of the estimated size of the child and the age of the mother, or if a mother had a prior C-section, doctors say. Some women have chosen to have them because of fears of incontinence after a vaginal birth.
Nearly one-third of births are currently done by C-section, which is a significant jump from the 20% of deliveries resulting in C-sections in 1996, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Lillian Schapiro of Atlanta said she has seen a movement away from scheduled C-sections in her practice.
“I would say a few years ago, there was more of a trend to have scheduled C-sections, and now there is much more a move back to allowing nature to run its course, and people wanting to have a more natural experience,” said Schapiro, an ob/gyn affiliated with Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta.
READ: Fewer moms having C-sections before 39 weeks
Dr. Lynn Friedman, an ob/gyn with Mount Sinai Hospital in New York – and one of my doctors during my pregnancies – said her practice also hasn’t seen a rise in elective C-sections.
“A purely elective (C-section) … someone who just says ‘I don’t want to labor,’ I mean, that’s not that common, and that’s really still very much discouraged,” Friedman said.
“For someone to say ‘My career is something that would make my wife schedule a section’ … I think in the 21st century … that’s really still a very sexist thing to say, and I think a ball team should understand that their player should be with his wife. I mean, I just think that’s grotesque.”
What do you think of what Boomer Esiason said about scheduling a C-section to suit a ballplayer’s schedule? Chime in in the comments or tell Kelly Wallace on Twitter or CNN Living on Facebook.