BEAVERTON, Ore. – “I’m a bit tired, but very, very happy.”
Portland Timbers defender Larrys Mabiala and his wife, Edwina, have been through this before. Twice, in fact. The couple already had two children. But when Edwina went into labor Monday, it still caught the family by surprise. She wasn’t due to deliver until March 2.
“I wasn’t expecting her to [go into labor] that early, but it’s better that I’m here, because she was alone,” Mabiala explained on Wednesday. Two days earlier, he’d just returned from preseason training in Arizona. If the baby had come on Sunday, Edwina would have been on her own.
“She doesn’t speak the language very well,” Mabiala said, “so it’s better if I’m here to help.”
On Monday, Larrys and Edwina welcomed their newest son, Jamal. Both son and mother are in perfect health.
“He was born on Monday, within 24 hours of us coming back from Tucson,” Mabiala marveled. “Now they are back home, and I’m very, very happy. A bit tired, but very happy.”
As any dad knows, sleep deprivation is a privilege of new fatherhood, and although that carries unique implications for a professional athlete, it’s an easy tradeoff.
“[The lack of sleep] is the most difficult part,” Mabiala conceded, “but the joy the babies give us always replaces the tiredness.”
Despite that fatigue, Mabiala has been in training with the Timbers this week ahead of Portland’s season-opening match against the LA Galaxy on Sunday night (7pm PT, FS1). Though the trip to Carson, California, will take him away from his family for the weekend, the practices in between have offered the veteran an escape.
“Soccer just frees my mind,” he explained, when asked if it was hard to shift his attention to work. “It’s something that I just love to do.
“When I am on the field, I just forget everything else. I can have all the problems in the world, but when I am on the field, I just forget them and enjoy playing football.”
Another twist to the Mabialas’ newest addition is a geographic one. Having moved to the United States from Turkey last year, this was the family’s first child born in the U.S.
That facet meant Larrys played a larger role than normal throughout Edwina’s pregnancy.
“It’s a bit more responsibility, because, as I said, my wife doesn’t speak English very well,” he noted, “so I have to do everything: the phone calls for the pediatrician; the hospital.
“Sometimes I’m in the dressing room and I receive a message like, ‘You have to get an appointment for us’ to go somewhere for the babies or for the family. That’s the biggest difference, because when I was even in France or in Turkey, she was doing everything.”
Jamal’s arrival doesn’t change that responsibility for Larrys, but just like his temporary sleep deprivation, it’s an easy tradeoff. And even though work will take him away from his family this weekend, when he returns, it will be the first time he does so to his new, expanded household.