The Nanny Connie Way
I know nothing about my celebrities before taking care of their babies—that is, of course, except for my sweet baby Brooke Shields. Hell, who didn’t want a pair of those Calvin Klein jeans?
I don’t keep up with the movies or the music my A-listers put out. If I’m not listening to one of my lullaby compilations, I’m jamming to Aretha Franklin, Earth, Wind and Fire, Donny Hathaway, Nancy Wilson, Curtis Mayfield, or Prince. So, when I enter my celebrity homes for the first time, I tell them nine times out of ten I can damn sure guarantee I haven’t seen or heard their work. And all of them, from Matt Damon to Justin Timberlake, give me the same gut laugh in response to my honesty.
I’ve cared for more than 270 families and worked in the homes of celebrities, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, Young Presidents’ Organization members, congressmen, foreign dignitaries, the owner of Ruby Tuesdays, the former CEO of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the Collier Family who saw the beauty of the Everglades and developed Collier County, and even the granddaughter of the inventor of the lava lamp. But a parent—even one who is still rocking
her Calvins after two sweet babies—is a parent is a parent. And all parents need help! No matter their status, all my families only wanted to be the best parents to their children, and that was the glue that bonded us together for life.
I’ve been asked many times what it is like to work with so many people in the public eye. The answer is simple: It doesn’t matter who my families are—they all need the same advice. Nothing more and nothing less. The Nanny Connie Way is for all parents.
This really hit home when I went to Dallas to work with one of my sweet moms, Catherine Rose. She was very quiet and soft-spoken, tending to the needs of everyone in her family as well as her outside obligations as a local philanthropist.
I normally sit with my moms when it’s time to feed the baby, just to chew the fat and keep them from thinking about the baby tugging on their breast. One day as Catherine and I were talking, I glanced over to the stack of magazines on the coffee table. “God bless them,” I’d say to myself as I finished each one, knowing I could not wear any of the tiny clothes or expensive shoes or even imagine carrying the money that went inside the purses, much less the purse itself.
“Hmm,” I said, “I think one of my favorite magazines is missing.” And this, my children, is where Nanny Connie proceeded to insert her foot into her mouth and told Catherine I called it The Book of Needless Markups.
She simply smiled and continued to see if I could put my other foot in my mouth as well. I was like, “I don’t understand why it’s so overpriced. It’s unbelievable that someone would buy anything at that price, not to mention the crazy ideas they have for their Christmas catalogue.” Listen, I was giving her the Nanny Connie rundown. As you young folks like to say, I was hatin’! Now the whole time I’m running my riot act, Catherine Rose was just smiling and laughing at me.
When I was done, in her very soft-spoken way, she said, “My grandfather was Marcus of Neiman Marcus.” She dropped the mic on me! Yes, the magazine I had the love/hate relationship with was the Neiman Marcus catalogue, and yes, I was reading the riot act of my love/hate relationship to the granddaughter of Mr. Marcus himself. Let me tell you, if I could have dug a hole from Dallas to Mobile, I would’ve!
Catherine was one of those moms who taught me I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. She put me in my place and helped me understand that all parents are just that, PARENTS, and the outside world does not matter.
For more than three decades, I have been teaching parents just like you the basics for their newborns. I have been in the trenches with them all, from parents who barely had a roof over their heads to parents gracing the covers of magazines. My focus while working with all of these families is not only about making sure their babies thrive, but also that the parents succeed as well.
Nothing will compare to the sheer bliss and overwhelming love you’ll feel when you gaze upon the face of your precious newborn and marvel at the tiny little fingers and toes. Can this amazing baby really be yours?
And nothing will compare to the sheer, overwhelming panic that will set in as soon as that gorgeous little baby starts crying inconsolably in what feels like surround sound, followed by the jumbled thoughts of OMG! I am the parent now, and there is nobody here to help me!
Don’t hit the panic button! You’re supposed to be scared! Taking care of a newborn is a brand-new job that has you sailing off into uncharted waters. That’s why I’ve written this book for you. It’s why I am here to snatch you up, give you a great big metaphorical hug, and reassure you that you will be fine—and your baby will be, too!
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
I am a proud product of the Deep South. There, I was taught the importance of manners and learned the values of knowledge, wisdom, compassion, love, and patience in abundance. Nurturing is something that was instilled in me through my family and Southern heritage. I was taught this just as I was taught to prepare dinner or say my prayers or do my daily chores. These values have made me the baby nurse I am today.
I grew up surrounded by the love of a large extended family who instilled a strong work ethic in me and taught me it takes a village to raise a child. Nurturing is in my DNA—from my mother, Aliece Simpson, and my father, David Simpson’s, great-grandmother, Grandma Hannah.
Grandma Hannah was a larger-than-life figure, dressed in her white knee-high stockings and hand-sewn dresses, her hair neatly tucked under a white turban. Her story, passed down through the generations, is that prior to coming to America, she was a house slave on the plantations in Africa, where she bore an unknown number of children. As were the standards in those times, slaves were viewed as nothing more than property to be separated with no regard to their families. Although presumably still in her twenties, she was considered past childbearing age and was sent to America. She would eventually come to know freedom in the United States and bear twelve more children. For the first time in her life, she did not have to dream of who her children would grow up to be. Living as a sharecropper, Grandma Hannah became a highly accomplished and nurturing midwife in her community of Deer Park, Alabama. Although I would never have the chance to meet her, as a young child taking trips with my grandmother to visit our family who still lived on Grandma Hannah’s homestead, I would quietly play on the porch and listen to the stories they
told, not knowing that our paths would one day be so intertwined.
My mother was graceful, compassionate, patient, and, most of all, a woman of God. She exuded the pure essence of love and saw no wrong in any human. All of those qualities translated into her role as a nurse. She was one of the first African American aides to be waivered in as a practical nurse in Mobile, Alabama. She tutored under the watchful eyes of the Sisters of Mercy at Mobile’s African American hospital, St. Martin de Porres, and then worked as an LPN under one of the few African American physicians making house calls, before eventually moving to private-duty nursing. I would go along with her on some of those follow-up house calls and sit in the living room, waiting for her to finish up with her patients. She would bring out the best in everyone she came into contact with. You see, she had the most loving parents in Gladys and Tom Smith, even with them caring for all their eight kids. Without hesitation, my grandparents would give to others, be it children or families in the neighborhood. Their door was always open to someone in need.
As for me, after attending Mississippi University for Women, Mobile College, and Southern University in Baton Rouge, where I majored in early childhood education, I interrupted my studies to take care of my young daughter, Courtney, and then returned to school for further training in the Montessori Method. My career took many turns: I worked as a public-school substitute teacher, a grocery store baker, a public-school cafeteria employee, a summer lunch program organizer, and a small gumbo shop owner.
Eventually, I stepped out on the limb of faith with a woman I loved and respected, my cousin Ileaner Gipson Randall, affectionately known as Mu. She was more than just my cousin—she was everyone’s mother. Like my mom, Mu was a woman of God who conveyed the pure essence of love, a nurturer who could take you at your worst and restore your soul. She instilled the importance of
family pride, respect, and generosity not only in her children and grandchildren, but also in any and all she came into contact with. She gave me the confidence to shift gears.
After teaching at a local preschool, I began working as a baby nurse for two professional parents from a prominent family in Mobile who desperately needed help raising their newborn. I soon found myself in great demand as a local baby nurse.
Mu had reminded me that before certifications and degrees were available to African American women during slavery, and even as late as the 1960s, the word nurse meant “nurse back to health,” not the clinical term we use today. I grew up surrounded by nurses and their loving wisdom, and I am honored to use that word to describe what I do.
My world of baby nursing took me from Huntsville, Alabama, to Dallas, Texas, to Washington, DC, to Hollywood, and no matter where I traveled, all parents had the same issues and faced the same hurdles—from setting a daily routine and trying to get their little ones to eat on a decent schedule to juggling their own personal and professional obligations while never seeming to get enough sleep.
I always tell my families I will give them all of the knowledge I have so we can get through the next three to six months together, because they can handle it. My families eventually learn that this larger-than-life woman living in their homes doesn’t want anything more than to build a firm foundation for them and their new baby.
It’s absolutely essential to pour a foundation that will become as sturdy and durable as your love for your baby. It’s what you will build upon for the next eighteen years . . . and it’s the first step to making your baby happy and healthy—and becoming an even happier and more resilient parent who can face whatever life throws your way.
Because every baby is unique and you’re going to be learning on the job, I want you to know that everything is going be okay. Believe
me, your baby is a lot stronger and smarter than you are. You can and will learn what to do.
HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
This book is divided into four parts to make it as easy as possible to find the information you need.
Part One gives you the essential, reassuring information you should know before the baby arrives. I’ll tell you what items you do (and don’t) need for baby care, who to hire and what to ask, how to arrange your schedule, and what to check off your pre-birth checklist so you’ll be as prepared as possible once the baby arrives.
In Part Two, I’ll tell you what to expect in the delivery room and in the immediate after-glow of your baby’s birth.
Part Three is the operations manual for baby care, covering everything from latching on to diaper rash to my tried-and-true sleepy-time ritual that will have your baby conking out on a predictable schedule.
Part Four is the operations manual for parents. Taking the best possible care of you is just as important as feeding and nurturing your baby.
Jessica Biel: “Nanny Connie was with us every step of the insanely challenging way for the first year of our son’s life. She sat up with me night after night while I struggled to breast-feed. She held my hand and my head as I sobbed and ached through postpartum. She told it like it was and somehow made me laugh when I thought there was absolutely nothing funny about any of this.”
I wish I could take care of you and your baby the way I took care of all my families, but instead, I’m going to be there for you in every page of this book. Even if your partner is pretending to be asleep while the baby is screaming in the middle of the night, I’ll be there. I’ll be there when you and your baby are covered in pee, poop, and puke. I’ll be there when you realize you put the car keys in the freezer because you’re so exhausted from sleep deprivation. Yep, that will definitely happen. I’ll be there with you when the side eyes cut across the restaurant because you dared to go out to eat with your child. I’ll be there when passengers on a plane hold their breath, hoping you and Baby won’t sit by them. And I’ll definitely be there when you’re sweating your tail off because you’re fully covered and trying to breast-feed in public.
I’m ready because I know you can do this!
This book is going to give you not just the advice you crave, but also the reassurance that will empower you to become the best, the strongest, and the most phenomenal parent to your little one. It’s not just about making you the parent you want to be—it’s about making you the parent you have to be. Before you know it, you’re going to be rocking your baby’s world with confidence and love.
While you can’t have me (or my hugs!) helping you feed and take care of your precious newborn, you can have the very best of my years of experience and knowledge in these pages. This book is what I’ve learned from being in the lab for thirty years. My oldest “baby” is now thirty-seven years old, and I still get phone calls from her, so I can talk her off her own parenting meltdown ledge.
Let’s get to nurturing!