Having worked with children for over twenty years and needing to extend my career path away from teaching, transitioning into a role as a Maternity Nurse was simple choice given the availability of weekend training courses and the childcare experience I had. I gained my OCN Level 3 during the Easter holidays and worked hard to complete course work before I returned to school, smug in the knowledge that this was my last term of teaching and I was returning to a career that really made me happy.
I didn't go straight into maternity nursing, in fact I got completely distracted by the fun of being one of the more ‘mature’ seasonaire nannies in resorts; skiing on the Austrian slopes in the winter and sunning myself on beautiful Mallorcan beaches in the summer...for three years to be exact! It was just by chance whilst caring for two little children in Mallorca, that the mum who was newly pregnant (which I had guessed due to her consuming non-alcoholic beer ON HOLIDAY) was seeking some help for when the new baby was born. Having had many families say they would get in touch in the future I wrote it off as another lovely family I wouldn't see again and then skipped off to another ski season.
Low and behold as I started to question how long I could continue passing for under thirty and dancing at aprés bars after work, I got a message asking if I would still be interested in helping out and how it would work hiring me as a Maternity Nurse. Revisiting my coursework notes and checking out the latest prices with some agencies, I sent a message suggesting some options. Cutting a long story short, with a contract written up, I flew out to Hamburg five days after returning from Austria to begin my career as a Maternity Nurse.
My situation was a little different to the norm. Firstly, I agreed to a five day a week position, which incorporated nanny care and maternity care. This meant some long days and nights and varied pay rates. As well as this, the baby was born five weeks prematurely and unfortunately for us all I could not get there until after two weeks of the baby being safely home. The family were ok with this as we had clearly communicated throughout the pregnancy about my availability and after a very traumatic period they were super keen for the extra help to arrive.
A usual day for me consisted of getting up with the three year old and getting her ready for her day at Kita. After dropping her off in the family mini, I would return to assist the mother with the care of the baby. I would accompany them on outings in the car or on the U-Bahn during midwife visits, where I would have as many questions as the mum, hospital appointments and even visits to the osteopath who we both fell in love with as she was the calmest and most empathetic person we had ever met. I also had lots of sole charge care where I would assist with sleep settling and continuing to establish a routine that wasn't too ridged for the family dynamic.
Although I was available to do nights from the start, it was not until and the baby had moved on to a few formula feeds that I also took on some night duties with the baby. This was when mum felt comfortable enough to leave the baby all night after the very rocky start to his little life and finally gave her the rest she had so desperately needed.
Exploring Hamburg was top of my agenda on my time off and being outgoing and a bit of a loud-mouth helped me to meet people and socialise quickly. There were free daily tours of the city where I learnt all about the history of Hamburg and chatted to anyone who wanted to talk. Coincidentally I met another nanny on one of these tours who I immediately befriended over the local beer (well wine as I do not like beer, much to the Germans’ dismay). She introduced me to the people she already knew through the Couchsurfing community and invited me to social events that took place in the city.
I was lucky to meet some wonderful people who were from all over the world. They welcomed me as though we had known each other for years and invited me to join whenever they met. They all of course put me to shame speaking better English than me and at least three other languages fluently whilst I sat there muddling my dankes and bitters.
The city itself was beautiful, exploring on the ever so efficient and affordable U-bahn made maximising my limited time off easy. I would mark the places I wanted to see and go. I even managed to squeeze in a visit to The Chocolate Museum which was a personal highlight being a chocoholic my entire life.
Hamburg is also an industrial city based on The Elbe River and all of its water ways. This made walking and cycling much more enjoyable on my time off too. As I explored the surrounding areas, I watched numerous elegant white swans glide gracefully past me, mirroring the fit, healthy and seriously good-looking Germans who appeared in their droves when the sun came out.
After two very short months my time was up, it was time to return to the UK happy in the knowledge that I had helped the tiny dot of a baby grow into a chunky bubba who slept well, a three year old that loved her reward chart and a mum and dad who are going to be my lifelong friends. My experience was wholly positive and I hope that other Maternity Nurses and Night Nannies will take the plunge and get to experience a similar positive career path in a city as great as Hamburg.
By Jo Kirby
Director and Nanny/Maternity Nurse for Evelyn & Bloom Ltd.