Growing up in a rather charismatic Christian environment, I had developed a secret belief that Jesus would come back when I turned 20. This little hidden belief was strangely solid and I genuinely believed it. When I say it out loud it is laughable and makes me feel a little silly. However, when I turned 20, in the year 2000, I felt like I had just entered bonus time that I wasn’t expecting. Like going on holiday and at the end of the it someone tells you that your trip has been extended an additional week.
I wasn’t a very ambitious 20 year old, at least not that I can remember. Fun, yes, full of youthful zeal and energy, definitely. What I knew was that I wanted to get married at some point and I wanted to travel. That was about the extent of what I really knew I wanted.
Well the sweetest thing happened right around my 20th birthday. I met my future husband, we went on our first official date on Valentine’s Day (mind you he was technically dating another girl and he promptly left our date and went to break up with her), a few short weeks later we were official. Everything felt right about him. As we walked back to our college campus in the early hours of the morning one night, holding hands, I felt a gentle nudge to give this a chance. That chance quickly turned into the love I had dreamed of having, steady and constant, solid and real. It was just the beginning.
My 20’s were full of Alaskan adventures, marriage and honeymoon bliss. Settling into life as a wife, saying goodbye to family and friends as we moved overseas to Northern Ireland. Doubting that Northern Irish people were actually speaking English while being embraced by this new group of people and culture where we had no family ties. Learning to live in a community of like-minded people while communally living and throwing ourselves into a new, shared way of life that suited our young years. Lots of travel and world view changing moments. Certain dreams came true, new ones were birthed, all the while the dream of a family came into clearer focus yet remained just out of reach.
Enter my 30’s.
Words I would use to describe those years? Well…bitter, frustrating, surprising, fulfilling, sad, prayer filled, enriching, heartbreaking, soul destroying, and solid. The 30’s have been the hardest thus far. Failed rounds of IVF/ICSI, personal shortcomings, artistic struggles, loss of illusions, leaving Northern Ireland, and losing my father. On the flip side my 30’s have been the richest. I ran a marathon, opened a community coffee shop through our church, learned to play guitar (a little bit anyway). Went to new depths in my marriage, finally became the mother I dreamed of and longed to be while watching my husband be the father I knew he would be and more. Embraced the beauty and love of so many friendships. Received the gift of living closer to my parents during my father’s last year of life, watched our sons get to know their Alaskan family and roots, while watching them soak up Idaho family summers and winters. Settling back into the PNW life that we had started so many years ago while learning to be present in the chaos.
This past decade I have also been on a journey to my own personal core. At times it’s felt like falling down the rabbit hole, not knowing where the ground or walls are, desperately reaching for something to grab onto. Other times it has been a welcome free fall, letting go of that which no longer serves me, and allowing myself to be held by the wholeness of God as I become whole. I have learned more about myself than ever before. This process has allowed me to expand within my limitations, lean into the strength of my weaknesses, and embrace the beauty of my imperfections. Laugh lines and section scars remind me that I have been living in the joy and pain of my life.
As I stand on the mountain top of these past 40 years, I look behind me with a content heart. I have much to be thankful for and I do not take it for granted. I am a pilgrim who has walked and endured many miles. I have met wonderful souls along the way and am thankful to have married one of the richest of them. We now hold tiny hands as well and will help guide tiny feet along this continuing path. I carry with me a rucksack filled with books, journals, earrings, stones, and shells. Trinkets of value to no one but me. So today I pause and take in the view. The many mountains that have been climbed, the valley’s filled with sorrows, the landscape that has forever been changed by loss. While the sun peaks through the clouds shining brilliantly on this rugged terrain of my life, I can clearly see that this one precious life of mine is enough.
This day will end and it will be like all others, except I will be different. I will blow a kiss to the past and turn to the future. A new job awaits me this next week, one that will challenge me more than I am even aware of. I will not run down the mountain because I value the way of slow, small, and sustainable progress now. I will hold the hands of my husband and children knowing that we are in this together, forever connected by our love. I will speak less, listen more, and ask for eyes to see the unseen. My search will be for the mystical moments where I can only look to God as the creator of and be thankful that I am included in the unfolding.
40, I welcome you as a friend and companion. You will no doubt change me but I will use my lungs to breathe you in and rest in your wisdom. I have what I need of that I am sure. I am becoming and that is the whole point.
“Writing is really quite simple; all you have to do is sit down at your typewriter and open a vein” (Listening to Your Life by Frederick Buechner p.190).
Friends, I am about to open a vein.
Today, the 1st of September, 2018, my twin sons turned four.
The day was rather unspectacular if I’m being honest. We are having a proper celebration for them in “two more big sleeps.” So there was no big party or presents today. It was like any other day, except it wasn’t.
On this day, four years ago, my swollen belly waddled into Craigavon Area Hospital. A few hours later — our boys were in our arms. This act of birth that happened in mere seconds, had taken nine painful years of infertility to get to.
So today could have felt and seemed normal, except that it wasn’t.
I took the boys to Top Pot donut shop in Bellevue for a birthday breakfast. To everyone in that place I was a normal mom, sitting happily with her twin sons eating donuts. Except I wasn’t.
I was the mom who was sitting, staring, at two walking, talking, laughing miracles. I was looking at my nine years of tears cried, longing to be a mother. I was looking at what seemed like a crazy promise fulfilled. I was looking at my husbands’ and my face staring back at me, seeing both of our families in the faces of our sons. I sat looking at the most tangible proof I have of a God who hears me, sees me, and answers the deepest longings of my soul.
I LOVE being Kidran’s mom and Cohen’s mom. I love the connection that we have fostered these past four years. I love that they give me their best and throw their worst at me too. I love all the crazy ways they make me laugh and at the same time make me want to pull my hair out. I love that they are big lovers, who lavish me with hugs and cuddles. I love, love, love being their mom. My heart is beyond full as I live in this reality of my dream.
Now though, the vein is beginning to open.
After nine years of infertility, we gave birth to our handsome and healthy twin sons, Kidran J Caleb and Cohen V Ryan. We were one of the “lucky” couples who finally became pregnant. What many of you may not know is that our final round of ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection) was so successful that we now have eleven remaining embryos.
We don’t know what our future holds. What I do know is I cannot have potentially eleven or more children. That fact slaps me across the face sometimes. I hate that I do not have the capacity or means to give birth to all these miraculous, potential lives. I hate that I feel stretched to the max being a mother to two incredible, energetic sons. I hate that after years of struggling to finally have our family, we are now wrestling with this additional piece of the heartbreaking puzzle of infertility treatment.
Of course I can see that this is where so many others would long to be. I am not stupid or blind. I see others who cannot produce even one viable embryo and here we are sitting with eleven. I also know that the only option for us and these precious embryos is not something I’m sure I will ever have peace about.
Early on in our treatment we made the decision that if we were fortunate enough to have any embryos left that we could not care for, we would adopt them out. We would not discard them, leave them to science, or not pay the storage so that the holding clinic would end up making a decision regarding their fate. (Yes, people are starting to do this more often because they can’t make a decision either.) We decided that they were lives and we would give them the best chance of a life we could, even if that home was not our own.
This is the part of infertility that I was not prepared for or I guess didn’t anticipate. I have cried so many additional tears about this. I have questioned the capability of the family/lies who may adopt our baby embryos. What if they have a baby like Cohen? Will they put him on meds because he seems to have “too much” energy? Will they see the subtle change in their baby’s smile that is similar to Kidran when he gets excited about something he really loves? Will they fill their house with laughter, patience, creativity? Or will it be strict, rigid, full of hardline rules? The questions are endless, and so is the grief.
When I think of not having these babies, it strikes me as one of the biggest points of grief I will ever experience in my life.
Yet, I had another thought.
Maybe, just maybe, these sweet, unborn lives will be placed with people who have exactly what my babies need because I think at the end of the day I will always feel like they are mine. Maybe we will help answer years of prayers for someone else. Maybe, just maybe, someday I will get to meet them.
I have agonized over this very scenario time and time again. Even as I write these words, my eyes are full, tears waiting to be released, to let the next wave of grief hit me. This choice and choosing it feels impossible. My stomach hurts thinking about it. Years of trying, waiting to now be here.
I know I can’t answer this question right now. Instead, I can work on more of the party favors for the boys Star Wars themed birthday party in two days! They recently had a little family party in Idaho that only wetted their appetite for birthday parties and presents. They are now truly excited for this birthday and that excitement is spreading. I even found Star Wars shirts for Bryan and me to wear! Roll on Monday evening! All things Star Wars, light sabers, and cupcakes! May the force be with you!
I am so honored and thrilled to be announcing my Northern Ireland book tour this coming May! I will be visiting four locations: Armagh, Lurgan, Coleraine, and Dungannon. Each event is set up on my Facebook page @breannajochud. Find the events there and let the event holder know you will be attending.
Northern Ireland is where so much of my story played out. It’s where I grew up in many ways, into a mature woman. It’s where my desire to start our family began, it’s where we did much of our treatment for infertility, and it is where we eventually welcomed into this precious world our sons, Kidran and Cohen.
The island holds my heart in every way. The people, the land, the culture, all of it makes me feel very much like myself and I am so thankful to be returning for this trip. I will not be going alone. Two of my oldest and dearest friends will be joining me for this journey. We are anticipating some incredible moments both personally and for those we come in contact with on the trip.
If you live in or near any of these locations and are struggling with infertility, please come! You do not have to walk this road alone. You can also follow the progress of the trip as it gets closer on Instagram @breannachud and Facebook @breannajochud. The book is available on Amazon but does take a few weeks to arrive right now. Would you also do me a favor? If you have read the book, would you please leave a review on Amazon and on my Facebook page? It is great for others to know how you are finding the book. Thank you again everyone for your support and encouragement! For my Northern Irish family, I cannot wait to see each and every one of you!
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!
Last night I gave our two energetic boys a bath. While they played in the bath I put fresh sheets on our bed. I could hear Cohen whining a bit so I went back into the bathroom to find that Cohen (it’s always Cohen) had pooped in the bath. Thus a fresh bath was drawn and the boys enjoyed having more time to splash and play. Once Cohen was dried and in his PJ’s, he headed downstairs to watch a show while I got Kidran out to get him ready for bed. In the moments while I dried him off, I lifted him up to put his arms into his PJ’s. Each time I tried to put his arm into his sleeve he leaned into me and hugged me tight. This went on for five minutes at least. He would lean out, look at me, smile and then lean in for another tight squeeze. Of course my Momma’s heart melted. These are the moments I am sure Mary pondered in her heart. These are the moments that feel like I am touching heaven. In these moments, I am the reality of a dream so long sought after. I am a mother, who is holding her precious child. These are also the moments I hoped for that caused me so much pain at times as I wondered if they would ever come to be.
Flashback to the image above. The one of me wearing a beautifully crafted necklace, eyes closed tightly, touching my swollen bump while multiple hands pour out heartfelt prayers over me. I remember that moment so clearly. It was two days before my scheduled C-Section. I was uncomfortably large, feeling sharper pains by the day, anticipating the arrival of our two miracles. The women hosting my baby shower and those attending had walked this painfully long journey of infertility with me. These babies were as much theirs as they were mine. Each of them had cried with or for me at some stage, prayed and longed for the day when they would see me become a mother. In that moment I had the privilege of representing hope fulfilled, no longer hope deferred.
After a nine year wait I knew what it meant to experience hope deferred. At times I wanted to throw hope into the sea and never think of it again. I couldn’t squelch my hope though, which if I’m honest was annoying. My hope kept rising, kept resurfacing, kept appearing.
Over those difficult years I wore the necklace you see in that picture. I used to rub it between my fingers as I prayed for our future children. I used it as the image for a women’s conference at our church and now I even have it tattooed on my wrist. So many people knew of this necklace, they knew of its significance to me. The necklace was a timely gift from my dear friend Ailsa during one of my lowest points. I treasured the generous gift from the moment I received it and the necklace became a reminder of hope. A hope that was strong, resilient and based on the promise from a good God that someday I would be a mother. It brought me strength on days when I didn’t believe or couldn’t believe it would happen. It reminded me on days when I wanted to forget. It brought me comfort when I needed it the most. In many ways it was my own Ebenezer stone, reminding me of all God had done so far in my life, and encouraging me to keep believing for what He hadn’t done. It kept my flickering flame of a dwindling hope alive when the circumstances of our situation nearly snuffed that flame out.
I will not lie to you and say that this hope was easy to carry. It was not. Some days it felt like a ton weight placed on my back. This hope caused me to question my faith, caused me to correct some faulty doctrines in my own belief system, this hope caused me to relinquish the way in which I saw myself as a mother and allowed me to open my heart to many other forms of mothering. Some of you may be at the beginning of a very long journey, one which may be causing you much heartache. Some of you may be in the middle and some of you may be approaching the end of a difficult period of time. Where is your hope? Do you need more hope today? What would remind you, visually of God’s faithfulness and character on the days when you need it the most? What would ignite your own hope fire? Whatever it is, find it, use it, do it and keep at it.
After the boys went to bed last night, I looked down at my wrist. My symbol of hope has been birthed into two, vivacious boys. My hope that was deferred has been resurrected in abundance. I could not and would not have planned the way my hope was fulfilled and most likely you can’t either. This is the way of Jesus and His mystery. He has a third way for you as He did for me. Your situation or circumstances are not unchangeable. Yet your outcome may look very different to what you are dreaming. So today, as you look at the picture of my wrist, with this tattoo forever marking this personal journey for me, look also at my open hand. Keep your hands open to that which God may place in it. Open up your dreams and your hopes, because most likely what He has in store is far better than you could dream up yourself!
On the 1st September 2014, Bryan and I welcomed the arrival of our two beautiful sons. Kidran J Caleb Chud was born at 11:48am weighing 5lbs6oz and Cohen V Ryan Chud was born at 11:49am weighing 5lbs1oz. From the moment we heard Kidran and Cohen’s first cries our lives were forever changed. The boys are incredible! They are handsome, sweet, have reasonably chilled attitudes so far but with very distinctive personalities. We are in love! Hours are spent each day simply staring at their perfection and the blessing that they represent in our lives from God. We are caught in the web of not wanting them to grow up already yet longing to see how they change and develop in time. Each day is precious whether it be an easy day or a difficult one. We are living each moment as much as we can and enjoying the journey. Thankfully this has been made easier by the help of my giving and generous parents who are here for 6 weeks. We also had the privilege of our good friend Molly Olsen coming and helping us get onto pure breastfeeding for a whole week! The help doesn’t end there as Bryan’s mum Lynda arrives the beginning of October to stay for 3 months. It has been such a huge adjustment having our two wee bundles at home but we are loving it. We have been inundated with such extreme generosity from our family, church family and friends both here and in America and feel incredibly fortunate that so many people are celebrating the birth of our boys with us! Thank you to each person who has blessed us!!!!
There is so much I could say but my brain won’t really allow me too and there’s not a lot of time as the boys feed every 3 hours at the moment. (Totally worth the sleep deprivation as Kidran now weighs 6lbs1oz and Cohen weighs 5lbs15oz!) As you can imagine there have been so many moments that have wrecked both Bryan and I when we contemplate the road we have travelled to arrive where we are. God’s faithfulness displayed in such splendor is almost too much at times to take in! Yet one of my favourite moments that comes to mind is the day we brought our boys home from the hospital. As we drove down the M1 back to Dungannon Bryan played an album by Kristine Mueller- Those Who Dream. (If you can, buy this album! You will not be sorry!) The album has special significance to us as it was played non-stop during our first two failed attempts at IVF. A few years on we lost the album when our computer crashed. This Christmas Bryan was able to get it again and as we moved forward with another round of treatment the songs took on greater meaning. One of the lyrics talks about God making us into mountains that cannot be moved or shaken. Throughout our journey to start our family we have felt God so close and had many ‘thin place’ experiences. We do not believe He orchestrated our struggle to have a family but we do believe He walked through it with us. He used the experience to make us into mountains. Mountains that display the grandeur of God’s faithfulness and His attention to every detail of our lives. Through the process we have become stronger, our faith more solid than ever before. Things that used to shake us or tried to move us have less of a hold. That does not mean what lies ahead will be easy or we will be unshaken. Still we have the promise of God always being with us and this settles my heart and mind. Another lyric states this fact: ‘Over and over, you prove yourself faithful’. As we drove home with our physical representations of God’s promises fulfilled, we were both overwhelmed by God’s proof of being faithful. Our eyes filled with tears, our hearts beat that much fuller and we knew we had met with God, we had experienced one of the holiest moments of our lives.
So here are a few pictures of our beautiful boys! They are from the first week so already they have changed and grown so much but I wanted to capture them this way as much as we could! Enjoy!!!