Ten years of nannying and nursery school teaching stood Sam Morgan-Hutchings in good stead for supporting people as they become new parents.

The essential skills remain the same; nurturing, caring, cheering people on and helping them to find their own way knowing that one day they will no longer be there to hold hands.

Originally from New Zealand, Sam graduated with a degree in philosophy and politics in 2008, just as recession took hold across the globe.

Finding work as a nanny meant they got to travel the world but not on their own terms.

“I was very much at the whims of what [the family] wanted. Working with the most privileged people in the world and only sharing your set of knowledge and enthusiasm with them when so many more people need it [felt unsatisfying].”

During an event for another third sector organisation, a facilitator spoke about the services Amma provide and Sam wanted to know more.

Having just missed the first training of 2021, they had to sit tight until the next intake in September.

Now fitting in their volunteering as a postnatal companion around a full-time job as a mental health support practitioner at a social care and community development charity, Sam has found that there is natural crossover in the two roles.

They said: “It’s fascinating. The last mum I was volunteering with probably had undiagnosed PTSD. She found it very helpful when I told her what I do – she was so much more comfortable with me.

“Her first baby had been a traumatic birth so it was really useful to get insight and do an assessment about what her birth companion could do to mitigate that. It was such a perfect pairing.”

Travelling between jobs has always marked a boundary between work or volunteering and Sam’s downtime where they can decompress. They said: “I’ve always commuted and I find that helpful. I put on headphones and knit on the bus and that marks doing something different.”

The support from Amma has been “incredible”, particularly the supervision meetings when volunteers share their experiences and get guidance from their peers and a clinical psychotherapist. Sam also loves the ongoing training and is always looking forward to learning more and building on their initial volunteer training. 

They said: “The Amma training is really good because it can be hard to envisage what supporting someone is actually like. Having the intensive training for a week was really good – it was like being dropped in the deep end and I found that immersion really helpful. There’s so much to learn. I didn’t know much about the asylum system and that would have been really intimidating trying to do it alone so it was great to do it together.

“Everyone is so friendly and so interesting. It was wonderful to see people open up and embrace the experience. Being an Amma volunteer is so much more than you think it will be and you will always meet the most incredible people.”

While fulfilling, working with Amma isn’t without its own challenges but Sam has always felt able to ask for support when they need it.

They said: “I’ve had a couple of disclosures from clients that were a bit intense. Not in a bad way but things people have been through can be a lot to hold space for.

“But each time that’s happened Amma staff have been on the phone within 30 minutes to debrief and advise. It has been amazing when that’s happened. I feel so much more confident supporting clients when I know I can get that support.”

One of the things their nannying role showed them was that having a new baby was not always easy – even when you have all the money and resources that can help: “People should have this support. I know how difficult this time can be, even in the wealthiest of families. I had the baby as a nanny to someone who had everything at their disposal so what’s it like for people who have nothing?

“It’s a challenging time that can be beautiful but people need support. Everyone deserves that.”