It’s been eighteen months since your last breath escaped the body that held your spirit.
I have felt your absence lately. Like when a knife carves out space, leaving the edges raw. I do not understand the full extent of why. Is it because I have things to tell you? I will always have things to tell you Papa.
A few days ago the boys and I made a quick trip back to Idaho. We went to trade our car in. I always asked you about cars. You were my car guru; now you aren’t.
As I drove into town, the thought of your empty chair got stuck in my throat like a cotton ball, something you are never meant to swallow. Your feet no longer entering the house from the garage. The sound of your cowboy boots clicking against the linoleum. I still hear it if I listen hard enough.
Your sweetheart and I mulled over what images and words will be placed on the bench that will mark your grave, and eventually hers. The place where your shell and hers will forever remain.
Did you sense me as I drove by the cemetery where you lay? Is a part of you still roaming this earth, connected to me? I desperately hope so.
I pondered stopping. I wanted to, but the boys were waiting for me with your love. I wanted to but I wasn’t sure I could find you without your new, shiny nameplate. I wanted to but I was afraid of the hysteria that would ensue if I couldn’t find you. I kept driving back to your house.
Before I left I dug through a drawer that housed some of your things. I found a picture of you as a young man, wearing converse, jeans rolled, looking effortlessly hip. I want to know the younger you. I have so many things I want to know now that I know I will never know.
As I type these words on your old laptop I touch the keys and feel our connection. Your DNA remains on these keys, now mixed with mine. Thank God you also left me your eyes. I am pretty sure I have handed them down to Kidran. You also left behind your nose for Cohen. Even in your absence you are present.
It’s been eighteen months.
The past two and a half years have held a great deal of change for my life. Leaving Northern Ireland, the land where I cut out part of my heart and planted it. My Papa being diagnosed with cancer to his passing from this earth. My mother-in-love being diagnosed with lymphoma and surviving in the most extraordinary way. To my most recent experience of an early miscarriage.
As Bryan and I chatted in bed one night, the tears filled my eyes. I explained to him that my heart had felt so heavy for so long. I reflected on everything that was bright, beautiful, and alive in my life. Then I described something else.
The grey thread.
For the past two and a half years I have carried around a heaviness. I can easily see the charms of my life. I have an incredible husband, two miracle sons, a job that has purpose, family that I love, friendships that go deep like a well. My life is rich and I know it.
Still, in all the richness, in all the vibrant yellows, reds, blues, and purples of life, there is a grey thread. It hides for awhile. Life feels normal, manageable. Then, I see it. The dull color, working it’s way to the surface again. Wrapping itself around the yellow, turning it a muted brown. It takes the other colors too, toning down their brilliance, creating a type of shadow land.
It feels like the opposite of putting on rose-colored glasses. This grey thread takes the shine out of almost everything. It cannot remove that which is solid, thank God. Yet it can change my view and perspective, making it harder to see clearly. It becomes like a fog, covering up the parts of my life that stir me to live.
Through time and effort, I can stand on the thread once again, regaining my life back. However, out of the corner of my eye, I see the end of the thread wriggling. Then I see it disappear beneath my life’s palate again. A sense of relief floods my body. It is gone for now. Yet, in the back of my mind, I wonder for how long?
We are renting the sweetest little house right now. It’s small but perfect for this season. I can hear and know where the boys are at all times. I often stand at our kitchen sink, doing dishes, tidying up the remnants of another meal time. While I get caught up, the boys run up and down our short hallway, chasing each other, laughing as they speak in their own special language. Not using their growing vocabulary but sounds of their young past instead. Sometimes the play gets out of hand, and someone cries or a picture gets knocked off the wall.
This very scenario played out a few days ago.
The boys were playing when they bumped into each other and hit the wall. When they hit the wall, the thud caused a small picture frame to jump off the nails where it was hanging on the opposite side of the wall. When it fell, that picture hit another frame sitting on our writing desk. That frame then let loose three pictures that were balanced against it, held in place by a harmonica. The pictures and the harmonica fell to the floor.
These moments play out often in my life; they cause me to pause. One little blip that connects itself to something else entirely, which then triggers a thought, and a deep seeded emotion follows.
As I stood happily doing the dishes, I was smiling to myself as I listened to the sound of my sweet, lively boys being boys. I heard the thump against the wall and then the crash of the frame. When I looked over, I could see the harmonica lying on the ground and the last of the three photos was falling to the ground, the affects of gravity causing the photographs to fall in slow motion.
I walked over and began putting the frames back up. I collected the photos in my damp hands, and paused. I looked at the pictures once again. These photos are some of my favorites. They are pictures of my sweet papa and me when I was a little girl, innocent, sweet, loving the time with her father. I set the photos back in their place. I picked up the picture that had fallen from the wall. It was a tiny, black, IKEA frame with a photo of the Giant’s Causeway tucked inside.
That’s when the ache started.
The ache is hard to fully describe. It’s an ache that’s full of longing, satisfaction, grief, and deep love. The North Coast of Ireland, especially the Giant’s Causeway, is where I cried so many tears as we grieved our failed rounds of ICSI. The North Coast of Ireland is where I came face to face with God, more than once, and walked away with my own limp, yet I knew He was with me. Memory upon memory have been made on that coast line. That small frame, with it’s shrunken version of the Giant’s Causeway also reminds me of the longing that still fills my heart for Northern Ireland. Full stop.
Back to the old photographs though, the ones where my dad was big and I was little. Where the world was much simpler and made sense. Those photos remind me of the presence my father kept in my life. That presence is now gone in the physical world, but my heart aches for him to still be here, with us, sharing himself with our little boys. I long for my boys to have moments with him, mingled with disbelief that he is really gone.
This one little moment also reminded me of the ache of satisfaction and fulfillment. My two boys, the ones I cried for, prayed for, dreamed for, and longed for with every fiber of my being are the reason I am standing, holding these precious photographs. These are the children I asked God for as I sat on that rock at Port Ballintrae, crying unending tears, feeling the waves of grief wash over me again and again like the waves crashing in front of me. These boys are my present, they represent my past, and they help me move forward into the future.
Still, it is all encapsulated in that ache. As Shauna Niequist described it in one of her books, it’s the bittersweetness of life.
Have you ever experienced this kind of full circle ache that I’m describing? Where your heart is broken, healed, and open all at the same time? If so, I would love to hear your story!
When I was in high school, I liked English. My teacher however made it very clear to me, on more than one occasion, that English did not like me. She held my paper up, covered in red marks, in front of both classes, and announced that I made the most mistakes in both her classes. It was a defining moment. From that point on, I became pretty insecure about my ability to write throughout high school.
Imagine my surprise then, when I tested out of the basic English composition class to move onto the next level when I arrived at college! It gave me a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, I could actually write. Combine that spark with years of journaling, and I decided to ignore my high school teachers decision of my ability.
I did this when I started blogging for the community coffee shop I opened in Northern Ireland called The Press. I would share about the experiences in the coffee shop and announce our upcoming events. I LOVED IT! Writing had always been an outlet and at that point I started to find my own voice.
Fast forward a few years. Bryan and I decided to give IVF one last shot, no pun intended! I figured the easiest way to keep people informed of our progress was through my personal blog. I had only one or two entries at that point. I guess I also need to rewind and insert this little fact. Through the years that we struggled with infertility I also journaled. I used my writing as a way of processing my pain, as a way of praying, as a way of dealing with the grief I carried, but didn’t always want the world to know. I also didn’t want to consistently be “Debbie Downer” by always talking about the sadness I felt. This could be partly my personality or partly the lies we believe that people can’t handle our pain and suffering, I’m not really sure.
Anyway, back to what I was saying. Years before the blog started, Bryan and I had made a special trip to London to see Phantom of the Opera with the London cast. It was one of my bucket list items. It happened around my 30th birthday along with our first failed round of IVF. As we sat having dinner in a little Italian restaurant across from the theater, we decided that someday, when our family had finally arrived, by whatever means it came, that we would share our story in a book.
That moment has arrived. The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants is our story from my personal perspective. I allow you to crack open pages of my own journals, private pictures, sketches and my honest response to the struggle of infertility. I really hold nothing back. I am not trying to shock people, but I am trying to wake people up. This issue is painful. Painful for those struggling and painful for those who are watching someone struggle. 1 out of every 8 couples will deal with infertility now, 1 out of 8!!! Next time you are around that many couples, just look around because I would bet my own money that someone you know really well is struggling. It’s that real friends.
This book took me almost two years to complete. Life happened in a not so kind way almost immediately after I had the full manuscript completed. My father was diagnosed with cancer. At times the book felt like a burden I couldn’t shake while dealing with the grief of watching my father deteriorate. Other times it felt like an escape and a lifeline. What definitely helped was writing. Writing has become a way of life for me. Thanks to authors like Shauna Niequist, Jen Hatmaker, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Brene′ Brown, I began to believe in the power of my own voice. I also had my husband and amazing family and friends cheering me on too!
So the other night, March 12th at 7 p.m. I had my very first book launch! I was overwhelmed to see so many lovely faces come. Some I hadn’t seen in years, and some I have only recently become friends with. It was a beautiful collection of people and I am so grateful for each person taking the time to come and support me in such a tangible way.
Now I have the privilege of promoting this much needed book. I get to share my story again and again with people. Validating each time that what I went through, what we went through, and maybe what you are going through will not be wasted if we let it help and guide others. Our pain truly can bring comfort to someone else’s suffering, if we will let it. It means standing with our hands open instead of with clenched fists.
“I would describe infertility as a process of purification. You go through the fire, but at the end you come out your truest self.” p. 51 The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants
What have you experienced by way of pain in your life? Are you willing to open that area up to even just one person? If so, I think you will find there is healing there. There is purpose in your pain there. There is also forward momentum that helps you leave the past in the past and move towards your future with hope and joy. Please share your story, the world needs it!
Before there were twins, before we had these little men, before I was a Mom and Bryan was a Dad there was INFERTILITY. For NINE years. For nine years we struggled to get pregnant. We tried so many different approaches, doctors, philosophies and suffered disappointment after disappointment. Maybe this is where you are at. Disappointment. Or maybe you know someone who is there. It is not the place you want to be. People seem to not understand, are insensitive, you feel crazy, exhausted, heartbroken and the list goes on. I will never forget those nine years. Nor will anyone forget any amount of time they struggle with infertility.
What seems like the most natural thing in the world, reproducing, slips out of your tightly clenched fists and you didn’t even see it coming. You thought it would just take some time. The days turn to months, the months to a year, the year to years. I am literally having a difficult time breathing as I type this because the memories I carry from infertility are so very real and are still present in my everyday life. I don’t want to sound extreme but at times I have wondered if infertility can produce Post Traumatic Stress symptoms? I am not trying to belittle people who suffer from this very real and awful disorder but I think that infertility is a trauma. It effects your mind, body, emotions and soul. It has left imprints on my heart that will never disappear. And that is one of the biggest reasons why I wanted to write about our journey. I needed to write about it. To sort through it in my own head and heart. To find some kind of catharsis in the midst of this nightmare that I lived and breathed for so long. I also figured that maybe I would share our story if it could help others. So here I am today, finally sharing my Facebook page about my book and even posting info on my Insta story. Man how life has changed in the last ten years! Dear love the teens trying to navigate this crazy world of social media!
So this is me celebrating my small starting victory of actually putting myself and our story out there! In the Big Bad World of Social Media! Yikes! It scares me a little when I say it like that. But mostly I am just relieved. (White wine and chocolate covered peanut butter filled pretzels thank you very much!)
I have been walking around with this book burning a hole in my soul for the guts of two years now. I had plans of it being published shortly after I wrote it but life happened.
Funny how that works! I wrote the book, we moved to back to the states and into our friends sweet home for four and a half months. Bryan worked his tail off and commuted for those months. My sweet Papa was diagnosed with cancer. Then we moved into our own place, I started working again, Bryan somehow managed to balance his work with my work. Summer came. Northern Irish family visited. We went to Alaska to see the Chud family. Came home to Pre-Season and worsening news about my Papa. Bryan’s Mama was diagnosed with Lymphoma. Then September hit and all hell broke loose. Cancer destroyed any remaining health my Father had and the day after his 80th birthday he went to be with Jesus, the 2nd of October, 2017. All the while our sweet MamaChud had started chemo. So yeah, lots of life happened.
While life was happening I was living a whirlpool of emotions. One day I was peaceful and content, the next I was sitting on my couch sobbing about the rapid loss of my precious Dad, fully grieving the man that had always been my hero. Due to all of these things I feel like the last year or so I didn’t have the chance to really enjoy the boys as much as I wanted to. It was much more about survival than any type of thriving. Since my Father’s passing I have been focused on soaking up every ounce of enjoyment they possess. I also have felt that fire burning my bum cheeks reminding me that this life is but a vapor.
I have been playing extra hard with the boys. We have built more train tracks than I can count and created play dough planes and sharks often. Hide and seek is still a favourite and I kiss them constantly, tell them I love them at least every hour they are awake. I just can’t help myself nor do I see the need to stop. This life is so brief and these moments were meant to be savoured and enjoyed!
This again is part of the impetus of pushing forward with this book. I talk to so many women who are struggling, I have friends who are being crushed under the weight of infertility and I want so badly to change their story but I can’t. What I can do though is share my own. I can share how some days I literally wanted to curse every pregnant woman I saw. I couldn’t attend parties for worry that some curious and oblivious bystander would ask ‘why we hadn’t started our family yet?’ I still feel your pain friends. I still get sweaty and my heart races when I think about taking a pregnancy test after years of negative results.
No one knows what the future holds and I can’t promise anyone a family. Oh how I wish I could! That every couple longing to become parents would! Yet that is not within my power. All I can do is use my one precious life to help others. To daily love my husband, love on my boys and share the painful parts of my story that God has been restoring and healing.
Now if you read all the way to the bottom of this post, thank you. It was a bit lengthy I know. Thank you for sticking with me! For those of you who are interested I will be putting updates on my social media sites including Facebook, my blog and Instagram. You can find out more about my book on my Facebook page specifically for the book: https://www.facebook.com/breannajochud/ You can also follow me here at my blog: http://www.breannajochud.wordpress.com or at Instagram at Breanna Chud. What I hope for is that this book finds those who have been isolated because of infertility. Are struggling and can’t even talk about it with their closest friends. Those who feel alone or simply crazy because let’s be real, infertility does that! Please share this with them if you know who they are!! Please read along so that you have a better understanding of what this all looks like. I promise, knowing how to love someone in this difficult time will not be something you will regret! Thank you again for your time and support!!
We all write for specific reasons. Some people write to speak out, persuade or promote. I write to help me process the seasons of life I find myself in. (I am slightly more introverted and get stuck in my head A LOT). I am not writing to try to tell you how to live your life or persuade you to follow me or share my blog. All of those things are good and fine, and if you want to by all means please do, especially if it will help someone else! But those reasons are not my motivation. So today, if you are going to read my blog I would encourage you to grab a cup of your favourite beverage and get comfortable. This is going to be a winding road.
Today I write to help me release my tears, my heavy heart, the unknowns of the future and help me to live in the present. When I write I reflect, stand back and absorb all that my sweet, simple life encompasses. And right now I am reflecting on my Father, laying in a hospital bed in Utah because he is battling cancer. I want to be there, with him and my Mom, holding their hands. But I am here in Idaho because my reality is being a Mum to twin toddler boys who will soon be three. A whole different post will be for that fact!
Let me back up a bit for those just starting this journey with me. Last July Bryan, my husband and our twin sons moved back to Kirkland, WA. My husband received a job opportunity at our old university and we felt it was the right time to take it. Fast forward a few months of being back and my Dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Over the coming months he went through his first surgery removing tumors on his neck which then came back within three weeks (not six months as the doctors suggested). He then went through six weeks of radiation five days a week. Unfortunately this did not work. Surgery number two was completed I think around May. Still they were not able to get all the cancer. It was at that point that my amazing and supportive brothers strongly encouraged a second opinion which I agreed with too. It was time.
With the second opinion came more options which we have been so thankful for. The doctors started immunotherapy about three weeks ago and were hopeful that it would kick in and start building up the strong cells to help them fight off the cancer. So Tuesday my Mom, Dad and sister in law left for Utah. When they arrived at his appointment Wednesday morning they admitted him to the hospital at the Cancer Clinic because his blood sugar was dangerously high. Since then we have been living through text messages, phone calls, waiting on CT scan reports, etc. All the processes you go through with cancer treatment. It’s not smooth sailing for sure but more a knot-in-the-stomach-producing kind of thing. Through yesterday and today we have found out that they will most likely skip immunotherapy and move to chemo. My Dad also has a blood clot in his neck and they are struggling to keep his blood sugar under control. All of this means that my parents will be staying in Utah till at least Sunday. Of course I wish they were here but again I am so thankful for the team of specialists who are attacking this from all sides and working so hard to heal him.
I feel like I need to say it publicly too that I am believing for a miracle for my Papa. The kind that means we will have him around for many years to come. That he will be here for birthdays, Christmas, summer trips to the Oregon Coast or the mountains of McCall. Yet right now I am in the waiting. The waiting is where I write. The waiting is where I fall back on my ways of finding comfort.
For so many years the place I found peace and comfort dealing with life was on the North Coast of Ireland.
Here is one of the many coastlines that we frequented when we lived there. This picture was sent to me by a good friend in NI (that is her husband, another dear friend). She sent it to me to bring me comfort and it did just that. It reminded me of the times that I cried out to God about our desire to have a family. I cried more times than I can remember up on that coast. I did deep soul work on those beaches and rocks, the kind that cannot be shaken or shifted. That work is still there, rooted in me. I still long for those shores on a daily basis and even more now when life feels uncertain and foggy. Don’t get me wrong. I am beyond thankful that we are here for this season. Being in NI while this is going on would have been more like torture. So in God’s good grace he allowed us to be close, so very close and for that I am thankful. I have traveled to Idaho six times since we moved back. Yet my soul wants the air, the rolling hills and the cliffs to ponder on. Just for a day. To cry out to God once more in the place that feels familiar. A place where I fought off my own doubts and found a new kind of faith.
Another way I find help is by connection. I have done this by sending out more texts than I can recall asking for prayer and support as my family is walking this road. Earlier today I was listening to a podcast by Jen Hatmaker with Brene′ Brown and one of the very first things Brene′ says is that we are hardwired for connection.
I wholeheartedly agree with that statement! Hence why I have been burning up my phone updating friends on what’s going on and asking for more prayer. The connection to my husband, family and friends has been so important not only for me but for my Dad and Mom too. They have been bolstered up by the support they are receiving from people who care so deeply for them.
Music is also healing for me. Before we left Northern Ireland last year, a good friend gave us this album by Foy Vance.
The album washed over my broken heart as we packed up our sweet home and traveled the North coast of Ireland one final time before moving stateside. Since returning it has been a balm to my heart on many occasions. It is no different right now. One of the songs Foy sings is called Burden and it says this:
Come to me, my brother, and I will sit with you a while
Pretty soon I’ll see you smile and you know you will
No matter how much you’re hurting right now
You know that everything will change in time
So let me carry your burden
This song makes me weep right now. What our family is carrying is a burden. We are hurting. But the promise is that everything will change in time. I find comfort in knowing that this is not forever. I am hopeful and believing this for my Dad. That he will not be sick, that he will be well. That he will feel like himself again and smiles will come easy and last long. But I am so thankful for songs like this that speak to me at such a core level.
I am also finding peace by grabbing the moments that I can (as limited as I feel) and be in the present.
My Dad hasn’t liked having his picture taken for awhile but I have been taking pics of him anyway. Us in our sunglasses with our sweet smiles, love it! My Dad and the boys in their adorable little boy underwear, pure Mommy love! The boys celebrating their third birthday a little early on the deck at my parents with my Mom, eldest brother and his wife, such a sweet evening! The boys exploring every inch of my younger brothers property usually in just their nappy or pajamas, I can’t get enough! These are the moments that help to keep me here and now, in the sweetness of life while still tasting the bitter. (Thanks again Shauna Niequist for that wonderful book Bittersweet!)
As I sit here and finish writing this blog, the boys are awake from their nap and now are watching another show. They have had way too many treats and late bedtimes. But this is the last way I am processing. By being gracious towards myself. This weird in-between is not forever. Soon enough we will be back in our home, in our routine. Bedtimes will get earlier, treats will be fewer as will shows. Yet for today, I am smothering myself in tons of grace. And sometimes that grace looks like bending the rules for all of us.
I want to say thank you to each and every one of you who are praying for my Dad and our family. It means to much to us all. Please continue! And to the different artists/authors who have contributed unknowingly to my life, thank you for what you have brought to the table. It is helping more people than you can possibly imagine, including me.
I am so thankful for our parents! Yes, that is a massive understatement as there will never be enough words or pages to truly explain all the ways they have been there for us. They supported us through the long painful years of infertility and celebrated more than anyone else when we finally got pregnant. I remember crying with Lynda over the phone as we shared our significant news and I will never forget my Mom standing up in Mancino’s restaurant shouting ‘Thank you Jesus! Thank you Jesus!’ While my Dad’s face beamed with a mixture of tears and elation as he expressed his delight quietly.
Since the moment our boys arrived our parents have been there. My parents came and stayed with us in Northern Ireland for six weeks and Lynda stayed for three and a half months. They have visited us wherever we have been and let us come crash into their lives by ourselves and now with our boys. Their generosity is humbling and their kindness inspiring.
It has been with great joy and contentment that we have had the pleasure of Lynda visiting us here in Kirkland the past few days. Amma Chud has had so many special moments with our boys this trip and they have embraced her with open arms!! It has made my heart swell seeing our boys connect with their Amma as it does when they are with any of our family members but grandparent connections are about the sweetest.
Since Amma Chud arrived we have enjoyed some wonderful weather and have taken advantage of it fully. We have visited parks, downtown Seattle, watched Bryan’s team play their first spring season game and simply soaked up some much needed Vitamin D. We all sit back and watch the boys with joy and pride. They provide constant entertainment for us and anyone who happens to be in their vicinity.
The picture above says it all. The boys love their Amma! They have matching curls and it’s adorable!!! Plus the picture of Bryan and I on our wedding day in the background speaks to me of the legacy our two families are creating within these little boys lives. Seeing her read to them as they sit on her lap and listen, engaging with the story and read along brings me to tears.
I find myself taking so many mental snapshots right now. I am trying to let these days, even the not so fun ones, really imprint themselves on my heart and mind. It will be ten years from now in the not so distant future and I will look back at these times with our boys and cry. Cry for what has happened, for what we didn’t capture and for the future that is coming all too quickly. Yet I will also smile and ponder these things in my heart, recounting the ways Cohen always embraced life and every adventure. I will replay the nature walks with Kidran that took three times as long because he noticed every little detail and every bug, stopping to fully take in these tiny forgotten fragments in the array of large life. I will remember Cohen’s consistent greeting of ‘Hi Momma, hi Dadda!’ with his dummy in his mouth, holding both toy bears, as if it was the first time he had seen you in ages! I will reminisce about the way Kidran always used my clothes as his towel when getting out of the bath while clinging to me, cuddling in till I put his fresh PJ’s on.
So tonight, as you tuck your own children into bed or say goodnight, whatever their age, remind them of what they were like when they were little. What did you love about them at age two? Age five? What did they do then that they do now? Tell them the silly things they did or the sweet things. Share the joy their lives bring to you with them and create some more memories!!!
Then if you want a really good cry, go watch this Ed Sheeran video! It’s absolutely one of my favourites!!