Maternity nurses and midwives, to be specific.
In the Victorian and Edwardian periods, when large families were the norm, these women were vital members of the community. Some would come to the expectant mother's house for the delivery, and perhaps stay on to look after the household while the new mother was confined to bed. Others might provide accommodation for a small number of women, particularly those who lived in remote areas.
With two weeks considered the minimum "lying-in" time, and perhaps longer after a difficult birth or if the mother had a particularly gruelling journey ahead of her, many mothers and nurses must have got to know each other well—even more so after the sixth or seventh baby, a number that would not have been especially noteworthy. No doubt they often forged strong bonds, and many nurses must have enjoyed watching the progress of "their" babies.
|Nurse holding an infant. Photographer unknown: Photographs of a baby and children. Ref: 1/4-016328-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23118015|