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The Little Way of Medical Motherhood, by Kathryn Anne Casey

Delightfully I encountered Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up four

years ago when I was pregnant with my son. I sprung to action filling bags and bags of clothes that failed to spark joy.

Being an avid reader of Real Simple, I was a connoisseur of organizing methods. My

personality lent itself to finding more and more efficient ways to store goods and run our

household. But as the daughter of children of the 1950s who excelled in the generational

virtues of seeking financial stability and owning stuff, my goods increased exponentially each

year.

Real Simple advised, if you haven’t used it in one year, get rid of it. I made that a two-

year rule so I would be sure to hit any maternity and postpartum periods within the time period of judgment.

Kondo took a step forward. Most readers will recognize the method. You gather

everything you own from a particular category: clothes, books, miscellany, and mementos.

Miscellany includes those cleaning supplies Real Simple recommended I keep throughout the

house. Turns out, there was an excess.

Piling in everything from throughout the house in one space not only creates havoc when

there are toddlers afoot, but helps you to see how many of an item you actually own and provides the opportunity for a fresh perspective on how this pair of black shoes stacks up against that pair of black shoes. The one tidying then holds each item and asks, “does this spark joy?” If yes, throw it in a keep pile, if no, throw it in a garbage bag.


Now, problems abound with this method when you

(1) take her directions exactly (thanking inanimate objects which we Christians believe

have no actual living spirit) or

(2) take her directions the way she does not mean them (get rid of everything, don’t own

more than 12 books) or

(3) cannot afford to replace all the maternity shirts you hate when you get pregnant again

in two years and

(4) have an awful lot of things that do not spark joy but are necessary to have around (like

diapers).


Since having two children, Kondo has acknowledged her method does not work so well

with the aforementioned toddlers under foot. And all the organizing advice in the world seems to fall short when it comes to medical supplies. I tried to keep on hand only what I needed only to have the Pharmacy’s warehouse forget an item in the next shipment. UPS Air to the rescue.

I discarded 10 bags of clothes and boxes upon boxes of miscellany and almost three full

boxes of books only to find myself with severe sciatic pain and return from the hospital four

months later after an 11-day stay in Benioff Children’s Hospital, hours from home, to behold a delivery of five boxes filled with unfamiliar medical supplies. We dug for what we needed and left the remaining boxes on the ground, avoiding eye contact whenever possible, unwilling to thank them for their existence, hating them for their necessity. They had no spirit themselves, but they represented enough of our lost life and our new normal that I could look at them only long enough to find a new OG tube after my son coughed up his first.

We returned a week later. Four weeks after that, we brought a new set of boxes home.

This time, a thoughtful and fastidious nurse went through each box before we left, sorted and labeled bags of what each thing was for “TPN Emergency Supplies,” “Dressing Change,” “G-tube supplies” and so on.

I blessed her every week I saw those, feeling that this organization into categories made

the mess manageable. We used a dresser in a closet for our infant’s supplies, with the Sharps container out of reach on the top shelf of the closet. No one could play in the nursery. He stabilized and so did we.

There is nothing about C-batteries that spark joy. But the day I realized each little act –

each swipe of an alcohol wipe, each saline flush– keeps him alive, I embraced the Little Way of medical motherhood. There, I found, in a round-a-bout way, I loved these things. I could love these things because I loved my son.

When we moved, it was time for him to join his siblings in the familial camaraderie of a

shared room. We set up a tall Craigslist cabinet in the laundry room and stored his things there, with an Ikea KNODD metal bin with lid for medical garbage (Sharps container still up high).

Copying the doctors, I found a short stool I could sit on and put him on a tall stool to keep him still and his body’s medical equipment at eye level. The bathroom nearby allows for easy diaper changes and potty-training. We shut the doors for the sterile dressing changes, everything we need is in arm’s reach.Real Simple’s tips came in handy once again.

KonMari falls shorts because we cannot love everything we need, but we can love the

person for whom we need it for. And that, after we have worked through the tears and anger of diagnosis, makes it joyful to keep it around.


Kathryn is a Northern Californian wife, mother of five children on earth and three in Heaven, speaker, newspaper reporter, columnist and author of Journey in Love: A Catholic Mother’s Prayers after Prenatal Diagnosis. She splits her time reading, writing, homeschooling, attending to her Peter’s medical needs, and shuttling him to appointments at University of

California San Francisco while listening to her favorite podcasts. To read more of her writing, go to www.kathrynannecasey.com.

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