When Becky Drummy Fehman played with dolls as a child, the make believe world she created was a little different than that of most 7-year-old girls.
With her dad at the controls of a home video camera, she pretended to put on a television show in which she instructed parents how to care for their children.
Now, armed with two college degrees and experience as a registered nurse, Fehman’s advice is the real deal. In addition to working full time as a newborn intensive care nurse at St. Vincent Women’s Hospital in Indianapolis, the Indiana State University alumna runs a home-based business called “Ready the Nest.”
When Fehman completed a bachelor’s degree in nursing at Indiana State in 2007 it was her second four-year degree. She had earlier earned a degree in public relations at Butler University and worked in that field for a few years before deciding to switch careers.
It was after she had been working at the women’s hospital for several years that she got the idea for a business based on her childhood home videos.
“I called it ‘Baby TV.’ I was acting like it was a TV show. I was telling people how to clothe their baby and how to put them to sleep and what earrings are appropriate to wear – something I would never talk about now,” she said. “When I really thought about it in the real world I was teaching newborn care classes at the hospital with 25 people in the room. Every time we had a break, I’d get bombarded with people who had questions they felt uncomfortable asking in front of everyone else. I thought it would be so much more comfortable in their living rooms.”
So that’s where Fehman primarily works. She sits on the floor and sets up dolls on a coffee table as nervous new or prospective parents sit just a few feet away on their couch.
After easing into the business in late 2011 with family friends as her first clients, Fehman officially launched her maternity/baby concierge in January 2012.
“I was freaking out,” recalled Amy Lenihan of Noblesville. “We had a new house and I didn’t know how to baby proof it.”
Lenihan and her husband Jason were expecting their first child when they agreed to be “test parents” for Fehman’s business.
“She helped us baby proof, looked at all of the electrical outlets, told us how to install bumpers around coffee tables and made sure the baby couldn’t get into the fireplace,” Lenihan said. “She was a tremendous help with the registry. My friends pretty much had everything picked out but I wanted a professional nurse’s opinion on what was going to be necessary.”
As for actual child care, Lenihan said Fehman covered everything from baby’s first bath and care of the umbilical cord to swaddling and breastfeeding.
“She is amazing,” she said. “And she came to our home so we didn’t have to go to a hospital.”
While she works primarily with expectant parents, Fehman also puts on monthly programs for adoptive parents and occasionally does refresher courses for grandparents.
Working with grandparents can be especially challenging, she said, “I always get, ‘Well, I raised three kids and they’re just fine.’ Well, back when they were raising their children I’m sure they were doing things by the most current research at the time but the field of baby care is ever-changing.”
For example, grandparents are often surprised to learn that experts now advise placing infants on their back to sleep and not their stomach because stomach sleepers are more prone to sudden infant death syndrome.
Then there are those finicky car seats. Generations of parents still haven’t mastered them. Three out of four child safety seats are still installed incorrectly, she noted.
Lenihan was surprised to learn that using fabric softener on her fair-skinned son’s clothes was not a good idea.
“You want the child’s clothes to be free of perfumes and other scents to protect against allergies,” she said.
Fehman is quick to praise Indiana State and especially Esther Acree, who then served as dean of nursing, for ensuring that her pursuit of a second four-year degree went so smoothly she completed it in 2 ½ years – including summer classes.
“My first semester, I went straight into clinicals, which was amazing. I was 25 and wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do,” she said. “My first clinical was in a nursing home and I thought if I can do this, I can do anything.”
But it was while serving an externship in Union Hospital’s pediatric and newborn departments that “I knew this was what I wanted to do,” Fehman said.
“Ready the Nest” has grown during its first year of operation and Fehman has even been contacted by a nurse in the San Francisco area for tips on how to launch a similar business in the Bay Area.
In the past, new parents could often count on parents, siblings or other family members to help them through the first few months of parenting but, with America’s population now more mobile, growing numbers of new parents don’t have that option, she said.
“I had a client recently who had no family close to home, no one to turn to to ask questions, so I was her resource for those things,” Fehman said. “I hope that I give that feeling of ‘I have somebody that … can come over if I’m thinking that I’m not doing something right. I’m very accessible to my clients. I feel like I can be a source of comfort for them.”
Dave Taylor is the director of media relations.