“There is this one Nigerian saying: it takes a whole village to raise a child. After the birth of my second child, I really asked myself where it was, this village.” Vivien Hein is a mother of two children. Both her three-year-old son and her almost one-year-old daughter were born by caesarean section.
Today only a slight scar on her abdomen bears witness to the operation. The memory of the time after the birth, on the other hand, is still very clear, as Vivien explains: "I think our society unfortunately no longer has such a 'village' today. Later I asked myself what I can do as a woman and mother, what we can change to build this village and that's how I came across the profession of maternity nurse."
The profession of maternity nurse is still relatively new. The first training to become a midwife-trained maternity nurse was offered in 1996, and the training has also been available in Hamburg since 2019. Referred to as "infant care," "maternity care," or "postpartum care," the nurses are designed to help young mothers recover from the rigors of childbirth by taking on physical chores such as tidying up, making the bed, and shopping, as well as providing psychological support stand by in word and deed.
Under certain circumstances, the women are even paid for it by the health insurance company. That's the idea - in reality, however, hardly anyone knows about the helpful nurses. "If I had only known that there was such a thing as a 'maternal nurse'," says Isabel Weimer from Hamburg, "then I could have saved the money for my household help."
The young mother and founder of the online magazine Beauty-Report.de became pregnant in 2020 and suffered a serious hip injury towards the end of the pregnancy. "I was in very bad pain and couldn't get up without help."
Because it was already foreseeable that Isabel would not be able to manage the time after the pregnancy without help, the young woman took care of a household help while she was still pregnant. "It was important to me that the household help was trained directly, so that I didn't have to brief her after I gave birth." This plan didn't work out: when Isabel was released from the hospital after just one day due to the pandemic, hers got in touch Domestic help immediately sick.
"Of course, when I found out later that I was entitled to a maternity nurse because of my hip injury, I was very upset and I just couldn't understand why nobody had told me about it," says Isabel.
"Someone could have said something to me in so many places: in the doctor's office, in the gynecologist's office, my family doctor, from whom I got the referral for physiotherapy, could have told me that, as could the physio or my midwife - me was with so many people who are knowledgeable and who should have known, and yet nobody said anything to me.”
Even at the Hamburg Health Department, nothing can be said about maternity nurses: "Maternity nurse? What is that supposed to be?” an employee asks on the phone when asked about the possibility of being taken on and the number of graduates. "I have no hit at all in the system among the health professions."
After all, the situation is different for the large health insurance companies. Here, women who have injuries due to their pregnancy and need help are regularly referred to certified maternity nurses, such as Saskia Schade. The 34-year-old is one of almost 30 maternity nurses in and around Hamburg. “Most health insurance companies now know us. Among other things, I have only had good experiences with the Techniker Krankenkasse.”
Many health insurance companies cover the costs of maternity nurses under certain conditions. The legal basis is Section 24, according to which women are entitled to domestic help during pregnancy and childbirth without additional payment if no other person could help in the household, and Section 38, according to which there is a right to domestic help in the event of illness.
"If you know that and take care of it in good time, it actually goes very quickly," says Saskia Schade. “If you take care of yourself during pregnancy, the chances are actually quite good. The only problem is that many doctors don't know anything about it." Mothers' nurses like her are therefore well connected with midwives, who recommend expectant mothers to the nurses.
Saskia decided to work as a maternity nurse in 2015. "After the birth of my third child, it was clear to my mother's heart that I wanted to do more for young mothers," says Saskia with a laugh. In 2019, the Bargteheiderin, who previously worked in a crèche, was accepted for training and was thus part of the second year of training in Hamburg. "In the meantime we are becoming more and more," says Saskia about herself and other maternity nurses. The job is ideal for mothers like her, as it makes it easy to balance work and family.
In the maternity nurse training, women learn the basics of breastfeeding, baby care, stress management strategies, social support options and receive information on women's health and family dynamics. Unlike midwives, however, maternity nurses are not allowed to provide any medical care to the mother and are primarily intended to provide psychological relief. The prerequisite for becoming a maternity nurse is a minimum age of 30 years and the experience of at least one childbirth.
"It's a great job for mothers," says Saskia Schade, "and as a mother you know how exhausting childbirth is." Vivien Hein also confirms this: "In my second childbed I had almost no support at all, because my husband had to go back to work immediately. At the time, I really needed mothers' help because I was in poor physical and mental health. I had a caesarean section and because I had a catheter during the operation, I had severe ureteral inflammation. I was really at the end of my rope and not only had to take care of myself and my baby, but also my two-year-old son.”
The 34-year-old is therefore currently being trained as a pre- and postnatal coach. "As a coach, I can take away the fear of birth from expectant mothers and help them to work on their resilience in the stressful time after the birth," says Vivi, who sees another opportunity in her work in addition to applying for a mother's nurse or the Employing a doula to get support as a young mother. One thing is clear to all caring mothers: life with a baby is a real full-time job.
During this time, women must be at peak energy, functioning under sleep deprived conditions while experiencing an emotional roller coaster of ups and downs. If today and in this country there is no longer a village that raises a child together, then we should just build this village ourselves.