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'I had five children and worked 12-hour shifts in a maternity ward. It was fraught at times'

Mum-of-five Heather Nuzam has always worked shifts too; and she now has five children.

"When I had my first baby in 1998, I worked on shifts as a nurse in a boarding school," she says.

"Then I worked in a community home for the elderly, doing the twilight shift. My husband covered that, or I'd get in a teenager.

"My second was born in 2001, and I decided to become a midwife. The course was two years and it was full-time. I was working days and nights and there were 12-hour shifts. I hired a childminder who lived locally, and my husband would juggle times with her. And we occasionally used a teenager. It was fraught at times."

Then three babies arrived within 13 months, including a set of twins, who are now three.

The babies were premature and sick on an off their first year, so Heather reduced her hours down to 12 a week. But there can still be problems organising the babysitting.

"I use my childminder five hours a week. For the rest, I juggle my husband and a teen. And in a crisis, my friends are always amazing. They have always helped out for free.

"I work in the Cork University Maternity Hospital in the emergency room. It's mainly routine, but you have to be on the ball for when scary cases come in.

"I have to have had some sleep, or it could be dangerous.

"I make sure I have childcare, and block off the afternoon before to sleep -- and again the morning afterwards. Without that, I don't think I'd cope."

Irish Independent