Meredith Ball loves babies, whether they're tiny triplets born two months early or a nine-pound boy whose parents also have a toddler.
As a specialist in caring for newborns, more commonly called a baby nurse, Ball spends her days and nights caring for infants -- and teaching their parents to manage their bundles of joy. She will stock the nursery and arrange the baby's things. Often, she moves in with the family.
Ball, 28, of Parkton, Md., grew up as one of 11 kids. "I was a second mother to my siblings and also to the foster babies that would visit us," starting around age 11, she recalled. At 18, she became a mother's helper to two families with six young children.
These days, she runs a one-woman business called Babiease that helps parents with the first weeks after their multiple babies come home. Ball figures she has cared for more than 110 babies in and around Baltimore and Washington in the past decade -- including 17 sets of twins, 17 sets of triplets, one set of quads and two of quints.
The skills required to be a baby nurse are organization and an ability to multi-task, as well as a calm, caring personality. No degree or specialized training is required, nor is the position licensed in most states.
Baby nurses can earn $25 or more an hour; Ball charges around $28 and says she gets so busy she often turns people away.
"My goal with each client is to give them the confidence to care for their babies on their own," she said.
-- Vickie Elmer