Should NFL Players Be Present for the Birth of Their Children? Nicole Jennings Speaks
By: Melissa Jacobs and Kim O'Hara | Posted: November 08, 2012
Yesterday news spread that Bears cornerback Charles Tillman may miss Sunday's game against Houston in order to be present for the birth of his fourth child. We at TFG addressed the story and refrained from editorializing too heavily, but acknowledged that "there are some moments that are simply too important to miss, even in comparison to one of this week's most anticipated matchups". We later discovered that there has been a slight outcry in response to Tillman (and other NFL players) missing games to attend the birth of their children, with outlets such as ProFootballTalk.com suggesting that players should plan family expansion in accordance with the offseason. While this proposition sounds mildly outrageous (because every single life on this planet is the result of meticulous planning...), we decided to seek out the opinion of someone who has walked in Charles and Jackie Tillman's shoes.
Packers receiver Greg Jennings and his wife Nicole have welcomed four children, including son Aice on October 5th of this year. We reached out to Nicole and asked her what her experiences have been like. She is grateful that the Packers organization and her husband have been so supportive in all four of her pregnancies, but acknowledges that every NFL wife/partner may not be so fortunate, stating that "I think everyone's situations are different. I'm sure some clubs expect their players to choose them over ANY other obligation, but for my husband and I that's not the case. He lives by the mission God, Family, Packers and that means anything family related comes first and foremost."
Nicole shared that Greg has been present for the birth of all four of her children and that, despite taking every measure under their power to avoid game days, they weren't always successful. "I had 4 c-sections and could schedule them, but all my kids came early and not on their scheduled days... BUT Greg was there for all of them. He missed one game Dec 31st 2006 because of the birth of our first child. All the other kids were born during the week."
Nicole proceeded to share a little insight into the wife of a professional athlete, explaining "Greg being there during the birth of our children meant everything to me. We moved to Green Bay alone, and he and I rely on each other for everything. If he wouldn't have been there I would have had to manage alone which would have been very stressful. Having him there, and hands on, enhanced an already beautiful experience of giving birth to our children."
Nicole and Greg's story is moving, but likely not unique. The women in NFL players' lives love and support their husbands/partners, often must uproot their lives (sometimes in multiple instances), and may not benefit from an expansive support circle of their own. In an ideal world, all NFL babies would be born after the first Sunday in February and no later than early September (or would ProFootballTalk take umbrage with missing preseason games?), but it's preposterous to contemplate that as a possibility.
In a league with headlines dominated too often by negative stories such as injuries, run-ins with the law and otherwise selfish behavior from NFL players, why should an athlete's dedication to his wife and family be considered one of them? At the end of the day, a player's choice to put family ahead of football in this manner is between him, the mother of his child and his football organization. If all three parties are supportive, let that be the end of it.
Congratulations to both Nicole and Greg Jennings and once again, to Jackie and Charles Tillman on the birth of their children.