Men's job description is a bit nebulous when wife's in labor


Houston Oiler David Williams missed his team's game last Sunday in New England because he decided to stay with his wife for the birth of their first child -- and for a while afterward. And it cost him a game check worth $125,000.

The outrage of his boss, offensive line coach Bob Young, who compared the game with World War II and said Williams' absence for such a sentimental reason was as unacceptable as it would have been during the war, was met with equal outrage by Houston fans and talk-show callers, some of whom offered to contribute money to help Williams make up the lost paycheck.

The Oilers' management was quick to point out that the child, Scot Cooper Williams, arrived at 6:25 p.m. CDT Saturday and that Williams had 17 1/2 hours to make it to Foxboro Stadium for the game against the New England Patriots.

They also said emphatically that they never asked Williams to make a choice between witnessing the birth of his first child or playing in the football game. He simply should have hustled to make a late plane, the team said.

I don't know. If I'm Mrs. David Williams, I take the $125,000.

Ask around. Was the presence of the husband during the labor and delivery of the child worth a week's pay? Maybe. Maybe not.

Maybe you are married to a husband like mine. Great guy, great father. All that. But not exactly indispensable in the birthing suite.

I'm lying there like I'm in shock because I'm delivering a month early and the baby has not turned and it has to be an emergency Caesarean section and my husband, dressed now in hospital scrubs to accompany me, is looking at himself in the mirror and saying, regretfully, "A 'C' in organic chemistry and this could have been me. I could have been a doctor."

What a tower of strength.

Talk to any woman -- and then talk to her husband -- about the wonder of their partnership during the glorious birth of their children, and it sounds as if they weren't even in the same room.

"I was in the middle of a trial, and I called the court and told them I wouldn't be in," said a lawyer friend. "Being a father is more than conceiving the child. You have to be there for the start, and you have to follow it through."

Now listen to his wife. "I started labor at midnight and woke him up. He was hungry, so he asked if I could hold off until he got some Chinese food."

He says: "If I hadn't been there, we would have had a problem. Thanks to the Lamaze classes, I knew when she was ready to go. I had to practically fight with the hospital staff about it. Finally, they checked her, and I had been right."

She says: "He's down the hall eating pretzels with the nurses and my water breaks. I'm shrieking for him or for a nurse or for anybody. Finally, he comes in, breathing pretzel breath all over me, saying, 'Honey, what's the problem?' "

He says: "She had back labor. It was really painful for her, so I spend the whole time rubbing her back. She got pretty irritable. A husband might be the only person who would put up with that."

She says: "He wanted out. Four hours of labor was beyond his attention span. I just decided then and there that any more kids and it was going to be a real short labor."

He says: "Williams' coach is a Neanderthal. 'Let me know if it comes out all right' is an archaic view. There are certain things that only happen once. There may be other children, but this child will only be born once."

She says: "With my daughter, it looked like false labor, but they kept me all night to make sure. That meant my husband had to sleep in a chair if he was going to stay. Every 15 minutes, he says, "So, honey, do you want me to stay?"

To be serious, husbands must be there for the birth of their children for more than sentimental reasons. If there is something wrong with that child or if the child does not live, the tragedy is too much to be borne by the woman alone. It must be borne by both; that is part of the marriage contract. No job can supersede that.

And so I needed and wanted my husband, the Dr. Welby wanna-be. I couldn't have made it without him. He was there for me when the spinal block failed and the Caesarean birth produced tremendous pain.

He was there beside me when I reached for his hand, and then his throat and said, my voice a groan: "I want furniture and jewelry for this."

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