Over the years as we have wrestled with infertility we have learned some valuable lessons. The most valuable lesson is this:
Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, focus on what you do have.
This concept makes logical sense when you read it. You may even be tempted to think that it’s easy or basic. My friend, let me assure you of one thing; it is not.
When we were in the depths of our struggle, I would look around at women who were pregnant. They were looking at strollers, buying diapers, preparing a nursery for their sweet bundles to come home to.Watching women grow before me, welcome new life into the world, and have their family expand was torturous. Without even trying, these women were showing me exactly what I was dreaming of for my own life, while pointing out all the ways that it wasn’t happening. These women were not doing this on purpose nor do I hold it against them.
It did however force me to find ways to survive. I say force because it was not a gentle decision to choose a new way daily. Over time I began telling myself I had two choices. I could either continue focusing on the one thing I didn’t have, a baby; or I could begin choosing to see everything that I did have.
At first this practice was hard. I felt like I was trying to convince myself at times that I didn’t really want a baby or to have children. Then I realized by choosing to see my life this way I was not diminishing my desire or hope for a family of our own. I was not denying this dream, I was merely beginning to allow myself to dream other dreams as well.
When I made the decision to start shifting my perspective, I started making lists:
- I can stay up as late as I want because I am not responsible for a tiny human’s existence.
- I can spend time practicing guitar and learn to play because I have free time.
- I can train for a marathon because I do not have to focus on growing another human right now.
- I can open a coffee shop and give it my full attention because my time and energy is not split.
- I can choose to go on holidays because I do not have to financially take care of a child right now.
This list making went on for years. Some days it helped. Other days it was a list reminding me of all the things I would give up so that we could start our family. Yet over time, this way of seeing my life began to take root and ground me the way nothing else had. This new way of observing life has now become my go-to option for moving forward in all other areas of my life.
So this year did not begin how I thought it would. Yet this lesson remains true. To give it more fuel I have chosen a word for 2019: enough.
I am declaring this word over the following areas in my life:
- I am enough.
- My family is enough.
- My house is enough.
- My body is good enough.
- My effort is enough.
- My ability is enough.
- My writing is enough.
- My life is enough.
- I am enough.
Today I feel tired both emotionally and physically. Instead of being frustrated at my body for not carrying our child to full term, I will remind myself that “I am enough.” I will remind myself that my husband has kindly given me space today without our two sons around so that I can write, nap, and just be.
See, that right there. That was my perspective changing. From lack to abundance. I am enough and I have enough.
This is not only true for me but for you dear reader. In all the areas where you don’t feel “enough” let me remind you that you are. Your life is enough. You have enough. Don’t simply listen to your feelings. Keep them in check, speak what’s true out loud, and then take baby steps forward.
Does this resonate with you? If so, how and what will you do to practice “enough” in your life? Share your ways of finding enough in your life. I promise, it will help.
Have you ever moved far away from your home and family? Did you wonder if you would make friends? Were you overwhelmed with a sense of panic, realizing you had no clear idea of what you were actually going to do?
Welcome to our move to Northern Ireland! In 2004 we felt strongly that we were meant to move to Northern Ireland. With a home church stateside encouraging us and supportive family and friends, we quit our jobs, sold our cars, and packed away our belongings.
We landed in Belfast with one real contact and a few loose connections. From our first home to the church plant we were invited to that first week, it was evident we were leaning into the mysterious ways of our very BIG God.
Some of the first people we met were Garry and Lynne. They welcomed us into their home, guest room, and kitchen immediately. Our friendship was forged over multiple nights playing cards, laughing till our bellies hurt, eating fajitas, and drinking Whittard orange hot chocolate. If you ever have the chance, request Garry to make it, he adds extra mallows!
Those days marked a carefree season for all of us. No children, no big commitments, no real time constraints. Simply time to invest in deep, meaningful friendship. I thank God for those days so often. The older I get, the more I realize how rare those seasons are in life.
You see, these friends welcomed us not only into their home but into their extended families. For years we spent Christmas day with Garry’s family or Lynne’s. We were treated like a son and daughter, and in fact we still feel that. The family ties are still strong.
So much has changed since those times. Garry and Lynne started their family earlier than us. They have three beautiful children who carry all the good of their parents and then some. We have our beautiful boys. Lynne and I both have lost our fathers. They church planted in a new town. We moved back to the states. Still the friendship remains. Solid, sturdy, like a well weathered rock that refuses to move. Those early days set a strong foundation that cannot be shaken.
It seemed fitting that Lynne was the one who collected us from the airport and that our first event of the book tour was held at their family home. I can’t recall just how many times Garry or Lynne collected us or dropped us off at the airport. It was the most natural way to be greeted! Thank you Lynne!
That first evening was sweet, small, and intimate. I knew some faces and met some new ones. As I looked around and shared, there was such an openness from the women present. The kindness in their eyes, the understanding nods as I shared some of the difficult parts of our infertility journey, the smiles as I shared about our miracle boys that eventually came through ICSI. It was all so sweet.
Many times that day and evening my eyes welled up with tears. Being back in Garry and Lynne’s house, sharing our story and my book, it was so surreal. It was like a tidal wave that had been building for years. For so long the water had been pulling me back, back, and back. I tumbled around, forced by the current underwater, at points feeling like I would never catch my breath.
Then, finally, I caught the wave.
All those years struggling, crying with Garry and Lynne. Having them cry with and for us. Finally getting pregnant, seeing them at the hospital holding our two miracles. Seeing their kids play with our kids. Then coming back to our other home, Northern Ireland. Coming back to all of our other family, all those women and men who invited us into theirs over the years, adopted us like their own. It felt like I finally got my feet on the board and could ride the wave. I know more life will happen. The wave will disappear and I will once again swim out to sea to battle the water. But now I know I can weather the waves and ride them too.
Pipe Dream: An unrealistic hope or fantasy.
Have you ever had a pipe dream? Sure! We all have at some time or another. My most recent pipe dream was to go back to Northern Ireland, do a book tour for The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants (the book I self-published), and to bring along two of my oldest, dearest friends.
My amazing husband, Bryan, was the first one to mention this little fantasy. As soon as he did I couldn’t stop thinking about it. As I let it marinade, I got this little nudge in my gut, that maybe this pipe dream could become a reality. Why not at least throw it out there to my two girlfriends and see what happens?
The two girlfriends I invited were Kelly and Molly. Kelly is a dream activator and freedom fighter. She dreams big and tackles the practicals with grace and confidence. Molly is my sister from another mother, sister wife, on call nurse, and hashtag diva. Between these two I have been privileged to experience the true depths of friendship that covers 19 years, 7 children, and lots of long distance friendship work. So I crossed my fingers, legs, and arms, then threw the idea out there. Within about a week of proposing the idea to my friends, we had somehow managed to book our flights and the trip was no longer a pipe dream but a living, breathing reality.
Husbands were on board, grandparents, and friends were on board, jobs were on board. All the details started coming together and the dream began taking real life shape and form.
At the beginning, I think the nudge I felt was the Holy Spirit getting my attention. This trip was not just about me, my story, and my journey. This trip would be about so much more.
Anytime God calls me to something (or you), it will always involve others in some way. This trip was no different. There were specific reasons both of these girlfriends were meant to come. First of all, I could not have done it without them. I am absolute crap at marketing myself and selling my book. These girls were superstars at it! As women, we are usually more comfortable promoting someone else other than ourselves. Thank you Sheryl Sandberg for making this crystal clear in Lean In!
During the week these friends each found their own gems to bring home which was exactly my hope for them. Not to mention all of the different women we shared with, spoke to, prayed, laughed, and ate with. This trip was a trip of connection. Real life, face to face, personal connection. Yes, we embraced social media’s perks but more than anything we embraced real people with real hugs and real conversations. What a gift!
This trip symbolized so much of what my journey through infertility had been about. Beauty for ashes. A phoenix rising from the flames. Finding a strength within myself that I had never known existed till I had to go to the depths of myself and crawl back out, alive, breathing, and full of hope for the future.
So welcome! This is the beginning of my unraveling of this journey, this pilgrimage, this pipe dream turned reality. Who would have thought that one of the most painful parts of my life could become one of the most fulfilling and joyful?!
Dreams are beautiful. They can lure you forward, towards a destination or a trip. They can be fuel to your fire to pursue something that you’ve envisioned but didn’t think was possible. They can also be the closing of a full circle.
My recent book tour back to our other home, Northern Ireland, was all of these things. Since arriving home, I have been trying to recount the adventure in my journal. I am still savoring, soaking, and processing all that happened in this brief whimsical window of time.
Over the next few weeks or maybe even longer, I will try to unpack my mental and emotional suitcase and share it with you, my lovely readers. As I unpack the journey, I invite you to come along. I want to help you feel the warmth of this place I love. To sense the spirit of exploring both inward and outward that took place not only for me but for my two incredible friends who joined me.
So come, reflect with me, walk down the winding lanes with me, enter the chapels and coffee shops.
Live this precious pilgrimage with me.
For now, I am happy and thankful to be home. Happy to be reunited with my Hot Hubby Chud, Kiki Bear, and Coco Bean. They survived just fine without me by the way, that’s the beauty of a marriage partnership!
Now back to the other parts of my dreamy life, like laundry and cooking. Which I am also utterly thankful for because it means I have a husband I love and sons that I longed to care for and nurture. I am so very rich and it’s not lost on me. Maybe you need to be reminded of that today too as you stare at your mountain of clean clothes or think of tidying up the house one, more, time.
The last seven days have been interesting to say the least.
This past Friday at 10:22 a.m. my beautiful and strong grandma, Ardith Maier passed away. She was surrounded by family and went peacefully. She was the ripe old age of 98! Her mind was sharp but her body had failed her.
One of my favorite last memories of my grandma was a few years ago when my grandpa was still alive too (he passed away 5 days shy of 100!). We had completed our third transfer after 9 long years of trying, and were finally pregnant. My mom, aunts, cousins, sister-in-laws, and nieces then threw us a baby shower before we headed back to our home in Northern Ireland. The shower was at my grandparents house so my grandma could be there. My grandpa was of course there too, loving every second of us being there to celebrate this joyous occasion.
Right before we left my grandpa and grandma told us they wanted to pray for us. So I knelt in front of them while Bryan stood by my side. They laid their aged, wrinkled, and wise hands on us and prayed.
It wasn’t an eloquent prayer. It wasn’t long. It was however, powerful. It felt like a baton being passed. They had prayed constantly for us to have a family. They persistently knocked on heaven’s door for us and I am thankful they did. In that moment, we entered a holy place. A place where the veil is thin. What had been such a dark season of time for us was finally turning into a bright, blinding light. They were there to witness it and that felt huge.
So Saturday, I grieved the loss of my grandma. I grieved the loss of my sweet papa again too. It all hit me harder than expected. My body felt numb, I didn’t really want to move but just sleep. As usual my incredibly aware and loving husband took our boys and gave me space to just “be” that day. Thank you my love. Thank you for knowing when I need space and doing what is necessary to create it.
As I had the space and time, I cried at times. Then I signed copies of my book to send to some special women. Some of you who already bought the book know this, but I included the infertility struggle of other women at the end of my book. Every infertility story looks different and I wanted the women who read my book to find themselves in at least one of these stories. So I wrote my thank you’s to these women and posted their copies to them. Thank you ladies for entrusting me with your personal journey and for allowing me to share it this way with others on the same road. We are all in this together.
After feeling like I was in a bit of a funk, and going through Easter morning not feeling very present, we had the pleasure of spending the rest of the day with our adopted PNW family, the Wheelers. They love on us and our boys like family. They were also the ones who did an Easter egg hunt for Kidran and Cohen, not us. As I stood in their house, where we lived for our first four and a half months back in the states in 2016, I was overwhelmed by how thankful I am for each of them and their presence in our life. Thank you Wheeler Clan for loving and including us in such a generous, big way!
Tuesday rolled around, a day I had been anticipating. I was anxious for the day because I had my very first podcast interview about the book (which hopefully will be available mid April!). I was a mixture of excitement and nerves, wondering if I was going to totally blank on every question but hoping I would instead be able to speak straight from my heart. I think I was able to do the latter. My sweet friend Ailsa, who is ever gracious and accommodating, offered to watch my boys while I did the interview. What a gift!
I dropped the boys off at her house and we chatted over coffee for a bit. Then I drove home, lit a candle, prepared my material for the interview. I quieted my heart, had a few moments with God, and centered myself. Then I became truly present.
The interview went beautifully. We had a heartfelt discussion about infertility, the book, the ups, downs, and everything in between of this difficult journey. I LOVED IT!
I had recruited extra prayers that day and I am so thankful I have people who do pray for me. Many of those same people carried me for years as we walked in a childless exodus, trying to find our familial promise land. We indeed have landed in a sweet place now.
As I reflected on the interview, this is what I came away with.
Infertility felt so dark to me at many points. It enveloped me, to the point where at times I could not ever see a way of getting out. Now to have written The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants and be able to share my story with so many others, it feels like light breaking through. Being able to share about the book in an interview where I came away buzzing about how much I enjoyed it, again, light breaking through. Maybe the light seems brighter too because of the darkness from those years of isolation, heartbreak, sorrow, and tears cried in secret. To openly display my pain and see light cracking through every crevice as I expose my own dark journey feels like redemption.
Where are you walking in the dark right now? What part of your life is the most painful? Maybe, just maybe, in the near or far future, that pain will be what grabs the hand of someone else stumbling down a dark corridor, to help guide them towards a brighter, light-filled future. Will you share your own story of darkness and pain with the chance that it may help someone else? I really think you should.
*If you are interested in purchasing the book you can do so by heading to Amazon or if you are local to the PNW, you can DM me on Instagram, @breannachud or FB @breannajochud. Please share this book with those who may be struggling and if you read it, would you do me a favor and review it on Amazon and my FB page? Again, the podcast interview should be up mid April so have a listen and review that too! Thank you!
Over the last five years, I have started using a Lent devotional from Biola University. This practice has been so helpful for me. I haven’t always been faithful to do it everyday, but even still, I find it helpful to create a type of rhythm. I enter into the waiting of Lent with purpose and direction, which in turn has led to deeper meaning for me personally.
This beautiful poem from today’s excerpt felt very close to my heart. Much of what was discussed was the way Mary pondered the events of Jesus’ life in her heart, as his mother:
Poetry: A Child in Starlight
By Elmer Diktonius
[Translated by Martin S. Allwood]
There is a child,
A new-born child—
A rosy, new-born child.
The child whimpers—
All children do.
And the mother takes the child to her breast.
Then it is quiet.
So is every child.
The roof is not over tight—
Not all roofs are.
And the star puts
It’s silver muzzle through the chink,
And steals up to the little one’s head.
Stars like children.
And the mother looks up at the star
All mothers understand.
And presses her frightened baby
To her breast—
But the child sucks quietly in starlight:
All children suck in starlight.
It knows nothing yet about the cross:
No child does.
As I read this poem, it struck me that every mother will watch her child/ren endure a cross, possibly more than one. My mother watched me endure infertility for nine long years. She watched me heave that cross around. She watched me break under it’s weight at times. She pondered this and I’m sure had flashbacks to me as a little girl, wild and carefree. It’s so hard to watch your baby carry a cross.
My boys are still pretty tiny. They have only spent three and a half years on this planet, such a short space of time, yet they are learning so much. A few days ago our eldest, by one whole minute, finally was forced to give up his pacifier/dodie. In his small, three year old world, this was his cross. The dodie actually split in two and my husband and I made the decision that it was time to not replace the dodie.
Bedtime that first night was a little rough. His eyes welled with tears after he asked for his dodie and we told him there was “no more dodie.” He asked me to go to the store to get a new one and I said “it’s time to be a big boy.” Talk about heart wrenching!
That was a few days ago now. Life had moved on. Then I read the devotional for today and I felt tears welling up in my own eyes. As I sat across from my boys, looking at each of them, I pondered why this was coming up for me. It hit me that it was the end of my babies being babies. Cohen had willingly given up his dodie long ago, and that felt fine because Cohen always wants to be bigger than he is and further along in life than he is. Kidran, on the other hand, has felt a little more needing of nurturing so I felt okay about letting him still have his dodie. However, now I was gently forcing him to take a step towards growing up. I was encouraging him to turn his back on being a baby and walk boldly towards becoming an independent little boy. Hard swallow. Lump in my throat. I did not like the moment.
This brings me back to my devotional reading. Mary was my kind of mom. God was so gracious to have her show us moms that it’s okay to ponder our children, to store up memories for later to relive and visit. I replay that line “let them be little” over and over sometimes. They won’t be little forever momma, ponder these little times. Ponder them wanting to be by your side every second, not giving you any space to breathe. Ponder there outbursts, they are waging through a forest of emotions that are new and overwhelming to them. Ponder the toys everywhere, the handprints on the windows, the 100th reading of the same story, and those cuddles that come out of nowhere. Store up those things in your heart. You are gonna need them for later.
As I sifted through these thoughts, I pondered Easter and the waiting it involves/d. I naturally turned to my longest period of waiting to date. It was the nine years of waiting to be a mom. Waiting for sleepless nights. Waiting for dirty diapers to be changed. Waiting for my baby to spit up all over my clean shirt for the third time in one day. Let me tell you something truthful though. God did something to me in the waiting. He began making me a mountain(which is what my little piece of pottery says). If you let Him, he will do that for you too. There can be purpose in our pain if we let there be. Will it be fun and easy? Probably not. Will it help others? I can almost guarantee it. Will it be hard? Yep.
The other picture I have added to this blog is a picture of the pendant my dear friend Ailsa gave me at one of my lowest points in our infertility journey. It helped me in the waiting and came at a time when my world seemed bleak, dark, and hopeless. Yet in time, the image of the dove carrying the olive branch, began to create a strong hope in me. Hope for the future. Hope that my waiting would come to an end. Hope that someday I would lay down my cross of infertility, and that I would resurrect as a mother.
As you enter into these final days of this Lenten season, take time to ponder. Remember Mary. Remember that God is with you. What are you waiting for? What cross are you carrying? Where do you want to see resurrection in your life? Take some time to ask these questions, talk them over with a close friend, your husband, or God. Lent is almost over and my prayer for you is that your waiting is almost over.
If you would like some extra encouragement in learning to practice some spiritual disciplines check out Lacy Clark Ellman. She has a beautiful website and podcast with tons of valuable resources to help you begin to create space to practice things like Lent.
*I still have copies of my book as well The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants. If you are local to the Kirkland/Seattle area contact me directly through my Facebook page @breannajochud to buy a copy directly. Otherwise you can order a copy on Amazon. I would encourage you as well to think of buying this book as a gift for a friend or for yourself to learn more about the struggle of infertility. You can also find my info on Instagram @breannachud.
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!