I’m not big into basketball, from which the original fame of the Dream Team spawns. But I am a pretty serious football fan. And by pretty serious, I really mean that I’m counting the seconds until the first plays are made. In college football, that’s tonight. In professional football, that’s next Wednesday. I hold alliances to both college and professional teams, and am not shy about my favorite players. I tailgate, I play pick’em, I own jerseys (plural), and I covet friends who can trash-talk me to the ground, then pick me up and hand me a beer. My team shirts are in my closet, ready to sweat through and yell in pride about. I have a homemade recipe for barbecue sauce for my seitan wingz. I’m considering a pair of college-team-spirit Toms shoes. And I love every moment of it.
All of this is to say, I don’t think that midwifery should be exempt from the same sort of sports obsessionism, the fame, the fortune, and the aspiration. I obsess over midwifery in similar ways I obsess over football. It’s a huge part of my life, my passion, my drive. Football is only one season, so true football fans should multiply their pigskin passion for my year-round feeling about midwifery. Perhaps this disturbs non-football fans, but to me, it makes perfect sense. Last night my partner and I were sitting on the patio, drinking some wine after a long day, talking about the upcoming football season as well as fantasy football teams. We rounded out by pondering the question: who would I pick for a midwifery fantasy team? For a midwifery dream team? Just mull those words for a second: The midwifery dream team. The thought alone makes me feel amazing.
So, let’s think about this. The original dream team featured the household names of Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Patrick Ewing, and Larry Bird, among others. Aptly named, the team on which these basketball giants played was the first American Olympic team featuring basketball players. They were broadcasted and memorialized as the most incredible sports team ever assembled, scoring over and above necessary to win each successive game, ultimately bringing home the gold.
The original midwifery dream team likely existed on the international sphere, their names known only to the women and children and grandchildren whose lives they touched and will forever touch. But in recent seasons/years, who would one count among the most famous of the midwives? If they were all in the same room, would we pitch tents outside waiting for the doors to open, bring books for autographs, take pictures when they’re not looking, and go into celebrity shock? Mary Frances Hill Coley, Helen Varney Burst, Ina May Gaskin, Robin Lim, Ruth Lubic, Geraldine Simkins, Saraswathi Vedam, Holly Powell-Kennedy, Frances Day-Stirk? If a woman went into labor anywhere near that room, would she have any idea of the minds and hands that would care for her? My heart skips a beat at the thought of witnessing such an event. Truly fantastical.
Except isn’t it also amazing to think about how many of these women are or were practicing at the same time, that we have a midwifery dream team spread out all over the globe, seeing the panel of patients that is the women of the world? We are all practicing on the same team, on the same field, with the same name. I can call myself among the players on that team. I am a midwife, like they are. I’m likely the thousandth string, but I am following in the footsteps of midwifery giants. Makes me ponder a midwifery hall of fame. Life-size photos of incredible births, trophies for our MacArthur genius grant and Fulbright scholarship recipients, inductions (into the hall of fame) for each research published that changes the field. Perhaps I digress.
Really, though, we could never pick or hire those midwives on our personal dream team, to all work together in one practice, to take care of one panel of patients. It’s a true fantasy at this moment. But we all could name midwives whom we would want to bring into our own group, our huddle, our scrum. And who would make the cut? I have friends, graduated and still in school, recent and long-ago professors, and current midwifery colleagues for whom I pine professionally. Whose character traits and skill-set and belief system would put them on my starting line-up. But to think about the dream team – it’s an interesting concept.
A dream team is well-rounded, multi-skilled, compatible, and awesome. They are a group to which others raise their glass, talk of in whispers and out loud, and to which others in the same field aspire in their long-term goals. The. Dream. Team. March Madness, a month when basketball fans huddle around brackets and try to determine the team that will beat out all others, seeks to encourage fan participation in the ultimate winner assumptions, or the dream team for that year. Fantasy Football gives fans a chance to select their perfect team from all current players across all teams: those who will run the most yards, throw the most touchdowns, keep the opponent at bay, and hit number one in their own rights: ultimately creating that year’s amalgamated dream team. The midwifery dream team, created through an idea similar to (midwifery) fantasy football. Except a midwifery fantasy team, our own personal dream team, doesn’t have to be out of any of our reaches. Any of us have the opportunity to create that group if we so choose. When, in midwifery school, professors mentioned that each of us could, if we so chose, start our own practice, whose names scrolled through your head as those you’d want with you? Who would be on your midwifery dream team?
What would I look for? Traits include: calm in stressful situations, an optimist, a realist, a hippie, a champion of the evidence, a patient teacher, and full of surprises. Someone would need to be the face of the organization, thus the traits collected and diplomatic come to mind. Each of these could be separate people, or a few. It could be a full team, or myself and a partner. It could not include me at all, and I could ogle the successes of my midwifery dream team from afar: bragging to others about how well I’m doing in having selected them: aren’t they amazing, they bring home the bacon/babies every time!? Look at my playbook/birth log, look at our fans/clients, look at our stats/outcomes, interview our coaches/Director, look how she got on the ground right where the player/woman chose to put the ball/baby – you’ll see what makes us so dreamy, so skilled, such a fantasy that one couldn’t even think us up. But here we are, practicing midwifery every day, loving our sport/profession every minute. We get on the ground, we prove ourselves, we love our patients, and we push through.
In football terms, for those of you who are fans of the sport, the following five would be my football dream team: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Linebacker LaMarr Woodley, Tight End Heath Miller, Offensive Tackle Jake Long, and Wide Receiver Larry Fitzgerald. This does not a complete football team make, but I’m giving an example of their dreaminess. For those of you who know football, this needs no further explanation. Done and done. (Unless you don’t root for the Steelers, University of Michigan, or top players. Then my dream team would take your dream team on the field, any day.) Especially if I add Halfback Jerome Bettis, who could get it done at the goal line, under any circumstances. I really wish there were popular women’s football teams, because I would watch that ‘ish ALL DAY LONG. So without that, I’m left to ponder midwifery dream teams based on my favorite football men, and I’m okay with that.
If we’re thinking of a dream team for midwifery, are we thinking about what any one midwife hopes to achieve for the women with whom she works? Who we would want to be our own midwife, if and when we are in need of one? What does the individual midwife dream team look like? The ultimate approach, skill-set, lingual ability, wisdom, experience, and knowledge-base? Are we thinking of what we strive for within ourselves, as players/practitioners? Or do we recognize that it is only in partnership with clients and fellow midwives, or with a group of practitioners that we create the actual team, the collaboration, the squadron of support for the goal/patient care?
Is it wrong that I’m thinking of midwives as linebackers? I think not. For those of you who have met famous midwives, who have written self-titled textbooks and are draped in a reputation that makes midwife students sweat and swoon, even their body-type doesn’t dismiss the linebacker title. What about the Halfback? Who doesn’t know a midwife-Jerome Bettis, who can make it happen at the last second every time, when others aren’t sure it’s going the right way? And who doesn’t want a good Offensive Tackle on their side when you’re debating a management plan with a wary collaborative physician, someone who can roll their chair over from charting and back you up just with their presence? And what about a great Wide Receiver, when your shift is over or your energy is waning, to turn over your work and know that the play/birth is in good hands?
Perhaps this is a stretch, but you know, at game time, the stretches you did during pre-game are important. The clock is counting down, you need to review your playbook, and look up from the huddle and be surrounded by people you trust, to whom you would always throw the ball. People who would talk about how the sport/profession has always had heart, and it’s the coaches/professors and other players/sister midwives who really made you who you are along the way. You want to look down and see your jersey/scrubs reflective of the tackles/catches, sweaty with pride, your cleats/clogs in need of a good cleaning. That’s a day’s work. Let’s get fired up about football/midwifery, get our fight song/positive mantras going, and start our season/shift. Put on your jerseys/shirts naming midwifery as your team/profession, and push out your chest and walk with purpose when others recognize your logo. Walk tall, walk proud. As was chanted at the American College of Nurse-Midwives this year: “Walk Midwife, Talk Midwife.” It could be a midwife mantra in times of need, to build up your energy and your confidence, to remind us that we’ve got what it takes. What if we started off every midwife shift with a pump-up song like this?
Imagine that’s you in that uniform, hearing the clapping, knowing you have your team out there. I’m there with you, cheering you on. Whether you’re college/smiddie or pro/midwife, whether your Under Armour/scrubs are streaked with sweat/amniotic fluid or grass stains/massage oil, whether your muscles are tired from squats/squats at the line/over the birthing tub, just remember: don’t drop the ball/baby. Happy catching, y’all.