“She was begging me to stay and not go but I just wanted to come up and do a job for the boys.”
His partner Anna Jovanovic’s waters had broken, she was in the early stages of labour, and she had no idea what lay ahead. First babies are like that. All the books and all the classes in all the world can’t prepare you for that moment when your body starts to do things you don’t understand and all you know for sure is that there’s no turning back. And that, in all likelihood, things are going to get a whole lot worse before they get better.
These are moments of true fear and confusion. And that’s the time that James Roberts decided to bolt.
Ah, footballers. Bless them. No matter how hard their hapless bosses try to make them appear like reconstructed, sensitive men who understand that women are flesh and blood too, they just keep putting their giant size 12 boots in it. Sometimes with their bosses’ help.
You see, the reason we know Roberts made the decision to leave his partner at her most vulnerable is because the Broncos issued a press release to tell us about it.
“Roberts was going to miss the birth after a making a selfless decision to put the team first and play against the Rabbitohs last Friday, after partner Anna went into labour only hours before kick-off,” it read. That same press release is the source of Roberts’ “begged me not to go” quote, which obviously seemed like a good idea to include at the time.
That ‘selfless decision’ has inflamed Planet Media this morning. Morning shows and opinion pieces have been lining up to point out that it was hardly Roberts who took one for the team by leaving home to play the Rabbitohs on Friday night, but Anna, the woman who was left facing childbirth without him.
That was her loss, not his, and really, it's completely understandable. Because there are few things more terrifying that watching someone you love go through enormous pain and being unable to stop it. There are few things more confronting than trying to support a woman through a process entirely out of your control.
In short, the delivery suite is a far more terrifying place than a football field. The stakes are higher, the pain is greater, and the fear of the unknown is a constant, nagging companion. All of those things are much scarier than having 25 tattooed giants bearing down on you, chasing a ball.
James Roberts was simply doing what many, many fathers have done before him - crapping himself and getting the hell out of there. This footballing hero is just a flesh-and-blood coward at the end of the day.
There are women who don't want their men at the births of babies. There are women who would much rather do it with their mum, their girlfriends, or only trained professionals at hand. Sometimes a terrified man can be more of a distraction than a help.
But the "begged me not to go" comment suggests that Roberts' partner is not one of those women.
I am certainly not one of those women. The only person I wanted next to me when I gave birth was my partner. Anyone else - even the trained professionals, at times - felt like a gross invasion. He is the person I trust most in the world. He truly has my best interests at heart. He was literally in this with me, this was not MY baby, it was OURS, and he had the same level of investment as I did.
In the event, especially the second time around, the births were traumatic for him. I have a clear memory of surfacing after a particularly painful contraction and seeing his stricken face and asking through my daze, "Are YOU okay?". He wasn't, really. As I said, the stakes are high. Delivering a baby is difficult, raw, emotional, messy stuff.
Childbirth is not for the weak.
In the end, James Roberts didn't miss the birth. He left Anna. He played the game. He drove to the hospital. And Anna's labour went on and on and on for another 24 hours until their little son, Kirk, was finally born in the early hours of Sunday morning. Everyone is happy and healthy and well.
But let's not be in any doubt - the hero of this story is not the man who decided his team mates needed him more than his wife. The hero of this story is the woman he ran out on when she begged him not to.
The Broncos won that game against Souths. But it's Anna who deserves all the glory.
How would you feel if your partner left your side mid-labour to go to work?
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Watch Mamamia staff reveal the things you aren't told about labour.