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
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
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 sib