A CLIENT OF MINE, Rachel, had a six-month-old daughter when I started working with her. She admitted that there were things she had let go during her pregnancy because she was too tired to deal with them and didn’t want to ask for help. Before the baby, she was still able to stay relatively on top of things, and she didn’t want to put anyone out or admit she couldn’t do it all. And then her baby was born, and she realized she really couldn’t! Rachel finally did reach out to friends and family, but by that point she was buried under mess and disorganization, not to mention clutter. After that, she promised herself that she’d never hesitate to ask for help again (which included hiring me).

By now, I trust that your environment is taking shape. This month, you’ll want to devote more time to getting your team in place. I want you to feel supported and nurtured as you begin this journey. There are many times in life when an experience demands we have a village of supporters around us. Never be afraid to ask for help. After all, now you’ve opened the door for the other people to ask you when they have needs. This is the essence of family and community.

One safeguard is to have several relatives and friends available who can each do a few things, rather than dumping everything on one or two good-hearted folks, especially your spouse. It’s also wise to give each person an assignment he is going to enjoy and actually be good at. You’d want chef Tanya to cook a meal for you and you’d ask me to organize the nursery. It could work the other way around, but neither one of us would have as much fun. You also want to stock up on a reasonable number of supplies. Sending your spouse or a friend out for diapers at midnight isn’t the best use of anyone’s time or energy.

As you make final maternity leave arrangements at your place of employment this month, keep that advice in mind. Be sure the coworker who is covering for you is capable of keeping the ball rolling on your projects, making all your clients feel secure, and in general keeping your office /project systems in place. You won’t be open to receiving frantic calls when you are in labor (although I do know one working mom who wanted to take her Blackberry into the delivery room).
Never Leave a Room Without Making It Better (This will keep items where you have designated them to be) This month at home, we bring order to all the bathrooms in your house. I’m always amazed how a room that’s dedicated to cleanliness is almost always a mess. It doesn’t take much effort to introduce order, just cooperation and attention to detail to maintain your work. (But then, you and your spouse are experienced Zen Organizers by now, so tackling one more room should be a breeze!)

As time goes by, you will develop an uncanny sixth sense about all the rooms, cupboards, drawers, and closets in your home. You’ll be able to tell in an instant when something is out of place. Please understand that I don’t want to turn you into a “space Nazi” who never allows anyone to relax. I want you, your family, and your guests to enjoy themselves; but enjoyment need not be synonymous with sloppy, chaotic, or messy. My goal is to turn you into someone who has control over her environment. It will bring you peace and calm, restoring you especially on days when you feel battered by emotional storms.

Once you organize a space, take a mental snapshot of it. This month, whenever you’re about to leave a room, take a quick look around first to see what’s out of place and return items to their designated areas. Do CDs and DVDs have to be returned to a media album or jewel case? Did someone leave the throw for the couch in a lump on the floor? Did magazines and newspapers get taken out of their respective holders? Are they now abandoned on the coffee table? It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to do this. One big thing that happens with children is that items get left all over the home. Babies and toddlers have to be taught to be tidy. You are their teacher and the one who must set the example. Late-stage pregnancy is a great time to practice this life skill.


Create Your Team

This week, you can
• Think about the people who will play an important part in your life before, during, and after the birth of your baby

YOU’RE JUST ABOUT two months away from your baby’s expected arrival date, and only now am I asking you to arrange your support team? That’s right. My late timing for this topic was quite intentional, and here’s why: The people you might think you want to be in the delivery room, visiting you in the hospital, or staying in your guest room as you welcome your baby to the world might be very different at the end of your pregnancy than they were in the beginning. A woman I know named Alison invited her two closest friends to be part of her birth experience within hours of getting the double pink line on the pregnancy test. By the time she was six months pregnant, however, the two friends had had a falling out, and the tension between them could darken any room. Plus, one of the women had turned into a control freak when it came to Alison’s pregnancy, giving her constant unsolicited advice. Alison became so annoyed that she started avoiding the friend . . . who still fully expected to be called when she went into labor! Alison finally told a white lie, informing both friends that her hospital policy only allowed family to be present for the birth. But she went through a lot of stress leading up to it.

When your pregnancy was new and your baby’s arrival seemed far off, you may have had some ideas about who would be involved in her welcome . . . and you may find that those ideas aren’t weathering so well now. Maybe you have come to realize that your mother, whom you’d planned on having in the delivery room, is driving you crazy with advice you don’t want or need and that doesn’t agree with your birth plan. On the flip side, you may find that somebody you never thought of as a birth attendant—like your child-free aunt—has turned out to be so warm, encouraging, and helpful that you’d love to have her there. Give yourself time to think about the birth experience you’d like to have before you give anyone a definite invitation—and even then, let them know that you may change your mind, and if you do it’s nothing personal. As you get larger, slower, and more uncomfortable, it’s very normal to find yourself drawing inward and focusing on the life within you and the big event and transition about to take place. You may find you’re a lot more selective about how many people you want to share this time with than you thought you would be.

See what I’m getting at?

As you think about assembling a group of people that will be with you during this eventful and life-changing time, I want you to be very selfish. This is not the time to worry about not hurting feelings or trying to include everyone. This is also not the time to be dealing with old baggage or wounds that have yet to heal. You are welcoming a new life into the world and you need to be nurtured and surrounded only by people who make you feel comfortable and safe. Visits from your toxic aunt whom you have decided to tolerate twice per year for your mother’s sake can wait until your baby is a bit older and you’ve gotten your groove back. And that cousin who never lifts a finger to help when she visits? Forget it. You will be too busy playing Mommy to your actual baby to worry about people who can’t or won’t help out.

Every person you invite to be part of this event should have a clearly defined role. A woman in the late stages of pregnancy or caring for her newborn should not have to play hostess. People should not be hanging around the delivery room or your house just to get a shot at holding the baby—they need to have some helpful purpose for being there! Sometimes it can be hard for friends and family, no matter how well meaning, to know exactly how they can help you. So I recommend having a clear plan ahead of time of all the different support roles you may need, and who will fulfill them. That way everybody will have a clear sense of direction and will know exactly how to help you. Here are some questions to think about:

• If you have last-minute shopping needs when you go into labor, who can take care of them?
• Do you have friends who could make you a meal ahead of time that you can put in your freezer?
• By the end of a pregnancy the simplest tasks—such as bending over to load the dishwasher or sweep dirt into a dustpan—can seem impossible. Do you have any friends who would come over and tidy up for you?
• Who will care for your pets while you are in the hospital?
• Who will walk your dog when you’re home from the hospital but resting and/or busy with the new baby?
Labor and Birth
• If you are single or if you go into active labor and your husband isn’t at home, who can drive you to the hospital or birth center?
• Who will care for your older children when you go into labor? Have you thought about the logistics? If possible, your sitter should plan on coming to your house. If you go into labor in the middle of the night, you don’t want to have to worry about waking the kids and loading them into the car, not to mention the hassle of adding another stop on the way to the hospital.
• If you plan on having your kids at the hospital or birth center with you, who will look after them? You need to have a support person on hand besides your husband. If your child isn’t handling the situation well and needs to leave your hospital room, you don’t want your husband to miss the birth! Your support person doesn’t have to come into the delivery room—she can sit in the waiting room, and your husband or doula can bring the kids out to her if needed.
• Who will be in the hospital room with you while you are in labor? Why will these people be there? What role can they fill? Will these people all stay for the birth? Why or why not? Would you like them to have an active role in your birth, or simply be present?
Back at Home
• Who will visit you in the first few days after your baby is born?
• Who is coming from out of town? Where will they stay?
• Do you have a plan “B” in case your plans to have a houseguest don’t work out?
• Who can do laundry?
• Who can keep your dishes clean?
• Who can cook or bring you meals?
• Who can hold your baby while you shower or take a nap?
• Who can look after older kids?
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