Photo: Alana Zavett Green

On Nov. 26, I gave birth to a pink-skinned, black-haired, 8-pound beautiful baby boy. My husband, Steven, and I were so grateful to welcome our second son after a swift delivery and agonizing, yet blissful natural labor. In addition to feeling tremendous relief that we avoided delivering on the Golden Gate Bridge (the second labor is as fast as they say), I was thrilled that I was able to give birth the very same morning my in-laws flew to town. Steven joked that with my propensity for organization and planning, I willed it all to happen. 

The weeks leading up his birth, I was overcome with worry. I spent most of my days listening to my hypno-birthing app on repeat to distract me from checking the abysmal air quality index from the Northern California wildfires. My family zeroed in on the fact that bringing a newborn into the smoke-filled air and having family members with preexisting breathing issues travel cross-country for his birth were less than ideal scenarios. 

In an effort to find peace in an utterly anxiety-inducing situation, I looked to my organizational skills to help me with the things I could control.

I shifted my focus to what we would do with my four-year-old when we went into labor. With our families on the other side of the country and a sneaking suspicion that my baby would make his debut in the middle of the night, I needed to devise a master plan. It had cells and rows and different colors and contingency plans of who would step in when, depending on the onset of labor. I was determined to be ready for any scenario thrown my way.

Friends reassured me that with such a stressful end of pregnancy (did I mention the gestational diabetes?), surely I would be blessed with an “easy newborn.” While we certainly consider ourselves very blessed with this perfect child, my postpartum experience has not been without its share of challenges. 

Delinquent milk supply coupled with a short tongue and one adorably sleepy eater meant that my baby boy lost significant weight in his first few weeks. No matter how much I wanted to will the exclusive breastfeeding to happen, my baby’s need to thrive came first. So supplementing with pumped milk and formula became our reality and days of pumping turned to months of constant work to boost my supply. 

I considered throwing in the burp cloth, but just kept living my motto “one feed at a time.” I became laser focused on getting through each feed rather than getting defeated by weeks of hard work ahead of me. If I had a goal of eventually ditching the bottles and the pump, I would have to get really organized. 

Taking herbal supplements, staying on a restrictive diet, doing tongue exercises and pumping seven times a day became the hallmarks of my routine. Figuring out when to squeeze in feeds every 2.5 hours, coordinating them around preschool drop offs and pick ups, making sure that bottles and pump parts were always clean and prepped, and remembering to bathe and feed my family felt like I was constantly performing magic acts that no one would ever pay to see. But my desire to stay on track to ultimately breastfeed my baby was my end goal and with the aid of a very supportive and hands-on partner, Lactation Consultant, and wonderful group of friends, I was able to persevere.

Recently, in between late night feeds, Steven and I started binging the Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. The show features a Japanese organizing consultant who works with American families to streamline their home and help get rid of belongings that don’t “spark joy.” While the show is about decluttering physical belongings, I think her philosophy can translate to help us eliminate emotional baggage in our life, as well. 

For me, getting emotionally organized means approaching life by the sum of its parts rather than being burdened by the whole. Just as Kondo tackles one room at a time, we as parents can only tackle one obstacle at a time. Whether navigating a birth plan, pumping schedule or carpool coordination, the times I feel most successful as a parent are when I compartmentalize issues and customize individual goals. 

Being a second-time mom, I know all too well that organization can only get you so far; we can only control so much and when living with little ones, plans fall apart more likely than not. However, I find the more prepared I am emotionally, the more likely I am to let go and accept situations when challenges arise. 

And anytime my kids are involved, joy is inevitably sparked in the process.