Shoe-drop thinking: How to let go of the past?

(Yes, there is something growing in there!)

I'm pregnant, again... I'm almost 10 weeks along and definitely feeling symptoms of first trimester pregnancy this time.

No big announcements, clever texts or Facebook posts, no balloons or flowers or drama. Just quiet and cautious happiness... somewhat. You see, it's actually been difficult to enjoy the good news because I'm suffering from self-proclaimed "shoe-drop thinking"; things are going well, so when will the other shoe drop? When will that bad thing happen, you know, because something bad always happens?

I've felt exhausted on a new level, and the nausea started on cue right at 6 weeks. The occasional tugging in my lower abdomen signals the growing pains of my uterus (even though there's not much visible outward growth yet). I've had three ultrasounds that show perfectly-timed fetal growth and a strong heartbeat.

But when I have a day where I feel more energetic, I think maybe it's all over. I intermittently push on my ballooning breasts in hopes of detecting tenderness (my husband thinks I'm insane). If I don't have nausea for a while, a twinge of worry comes over me. What it comes down to is that I'm ironically glad if I feel like crap. I live for the next appointment, the glimpse of a little fluttering lima bean, the next evidence of reassuring progress.

I'm not alone in this thinking pattern. I have spoken to a few friends who have also had similar experiences. I always ask, "When did you stop worrying?" They always answer, "Never." I also recently came across this article from the NYT Motherlode blog and this article from HuffPost Parents, both written by women describing what it's like to be pregnant after IVF and/or fetal loss. The New York Times author even goes so far as to describe her experience as "IVF PTSD". While some of her feelings echo mine accurately (notably when she said, "I’m still mentally preparing myself for the worst, running through the scenario at the doctor: the silence of the ultrasound technician when something is wrong, the stillness of the fetus, the trauma of everything suddenly being over"), I would not consider myself to have PTSD. My IVF experience has been relatively un-dramatic compared to many, I have learned a lot from it, and I feel lucky that I know and understand the cause of my infertility.

Shoe-drop thinking could be an impediment to progress in other situations as well. How do people ever climb fluidly and without fear after suffering an injury in a fall? And in an even more common scenario, how do people drive after being the victim of a car accident? I suppose they regain trust in the process.

Because stressing and worrying is sure to be detrimental to my and the growing fetus' health, I'm working on redirecting my thoughts. I do this through journaling, meditating, or releasing the negative thoughts into the open air (with or without the presence of a good listener). I do some tapping of the meridiens along my head and neck while repeating a mantra, a technique that has been shown to help with feelings of anxiety and worry (for more info, check this out).

Shame researcher and vulnerability expert Brene Brown said, "We can spend our entire lives in scarcity . . . just waiting for the other shoe to drop and wondering when it will all fall apart. Or, we can lean into the uncertainty and be thankful for what we have in that precious moment." So my recent mantra is trust the process. I'm so grateful to be pregnant, and there will always be something to worry about. As other parents have told me, it doesn't stop after the baby is born!


  1. This is so wonderful! You two are already wonderful parents!

  2. Dawn,

    I am so happy for you! I completely understand your feelings of apprehension, waiting for the other shoe to drop. When you have gone through what you have it is certainly understandable, but you are approaching it so well with journaling and meditation.

    When I was pregnant with my first child I was on a residency NICU rotation so I never let go of that feeling of worry and uncertainty seeing all of the worst case scenarios. And you are so right - the worry doesn't go away it just shifts onto the many other things that can happen!

    You deserve the best and I will be thinking of you.

  3. Thank you Sara! I wholeheartedly agree that being a physician adds another wrinkle of apocalyptic thinking based on the badness we've seen at work. Another thought pattern to manage...

  4. Dawn thanks for posting this, very inspiring

  5. You so much deserve it. I will keep my fingers crossed for you. (Had a baby followed by brain surgery 2 months later myself). Remember to "thirve" - rest and let the nature take care of it.

    1. Wow - Good for you, and thanks for your thoughts!!

  6. Congratulations!! Why are you thinking so much? It's the time you should stay calm and no worries in your mind but you're just doing alternate. There is nothing like each time you need to face something bad, hope for the best and have faith on Jesus. I'll pray for you and my blessing with you. I would like to share something, hope it will helpful to you. Pregnancy Care Tips. God bless you.

  7. You so much deserve it. I will keep my fingers crossed for you. (Had a baby followed by brain surgery 2 months later myself). Remember to "thirve" - rest and let the nature take care of it.


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