(CNN) — 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 what Boomer Esiason said, 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,” said Esiason. “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!) just to avoid missing the first two games of a 160-plus game season?
For his part, Murphy, who’s 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,” said Murphy. “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 to Esiason’s remarks was pointed solidly in one direction.
“There are so many reasons this is so wrong,” said a mother on my Facebook page, who 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, said Sue Scheff, a parenting advocate and author, on Facebook, who criticized 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.
But what got under people’s skin, more than anything, was the idea of suggesting a wife have major surgery to accommodate her husband’s sports 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 a third of births are currently done by C-section, which is a significant jump from the 20 percent of deliveries resulting in C-sections in 1996, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
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 doctor affiliated with Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta.
Dr. Lynn Friedman, on OB/GYN with Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, 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,” said Friedman.
“For someone to say my career is something that would make my wife schedule a section … I think in the 21st centruy … 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 before the start of the season? Chime in in the comments or tell Kelly Wallace on Twitter or CNN Living on Facebook.
By Kelly Wallace, CNN
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.
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