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!
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!
I have a secret to tell you…come close, I’m gonna whisper it.
I am writing my first book.
‘I’ means me, little old Breanna Jo Chud from Nampa, Idaho. ‘am writing’ translates to currently doing which is true, it’s actually nearly done. ‘my first book’ implies that there is more to come which I hope is equally true.
After our first failed round of ICSI fertility treatment Bryan surprised me with an overnight trip to London to see Phantom of the Opera with the London cast for my 30th birthday. This fulfilled a dream I had since university and was a great distraction from the pain of our pursuit to start our family. On that little trip we went to a small, authentic Italian restaurant close to the theatre. We ate thin crust pizza, dared each other to eat green olives which we both hate and continued to dream of our future together. There were a few tears shed but at one point we both agreed that our story needed to be written in a book someday. Well family, friends and those I hope to someday meet, in some ways that day has arrived, just not fully. Let me explain.
I have been working since February quite consistently on my first book and it’s called…The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants. I have spent hours reliving this emotional and many times painful journey. I have experienced the same emotions over failed pregnancy tests that I had years ago, etc. (It’s crazy to realise just how much your body stores your memories and emotions!) Needless to say the process has been intense and exhausting, yet very therapeutic and healing. Plus, it wouldn’t be happening at such an intense rate if it wasn’t for my amazing husband, this unique season we find ourselves in and the constant help of my friend Hilary!
This first book is about our struggle over 9 years with infertility that eventually led to having a family. The book is a handbook/guidebook of sorts for those experiencing infertility on a personal level as well as for those who know someone going through infertility. In the book I share my personal experiences of treatment, the emotional roller coaster of infertility/fertility treatment and also give what I consider to be some helpful and practical advice on surviving along the way. I also have stories of other people who have struggled as well as the impact infertility has on your relationships. In many ways it’s a journal of sorts that I am giving people permission to go through and read. It feels a lot like the dream where you are walking down the hall with no clothes on and everyone is staring at you naked, yep, that one, the really unnerving one.
This book is aimed at a wide audience of people because I know infertility touches so many lives whether it be your life, your wife, daughter or friend, we all know someone who has been affected by infertility. My desire is to allow my own vulnerability and honesty to help someone else along the way. Am I terrified? Yes!!! But I think that’s part of what makes it worthwhile, it scares me! The reason this is hopefully only my first book is that I would like to write a second book chronicling the faith journey I went on in more detail. It will be a very different book with a different audience yet I feel both books are valid and important enough to distinguish between and write.
I am planning on publishing the book myself in the coming weeks while also sending it to publishing companies. Once I can get the final edit done and figure out all of the publishing lingo I will be flying! So watch this space!!! I will be putting any book updates here on my blog, on facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
(For those interested, I am sharing a bit about the book and my journey at Causeway Coast Vineyard Women’s Breakfast Club on the 24th June, 2016. If you would like to come reserve your space by clicking the link!)
We are past the two month mark and we are settling into being a little family. The boys are growing so fast and getting stronger everyday. We love watching them hold their heads up now to look around as they are taking in more and more of their surroundings. I am a little sad that they are getting so big but also enjoying this new stage. They have started to smile and that makes you feel amazing! Seeing their faces light up when you talk to them is probably one of the best feelings I have ever felt. Sleep deprivation has been lessened thanks to my incredible husband and his amazing Mom. Everyone is so concerned for my well-being making sure I am eating properly and getting enough sleep that sometimes I feel like I am more rested than everyone else! I will enjoy it while it lasts thank you very much!
People keep asking what has been the best thing about having Kidran and Cohen here and that is so hard to answer because it’s not just one thing. Each of them has their own personality, likes and dislikes. They have their individual cries and preferred holding positions. They feed differently, sleep differently and are so unique in every way and that is a beautiful thing. The best thing is that they are real, here and are ours, no one else’s.
People also keep asking what’s been the biggest adjustment? In all honesty it hasn’t been that different than what we imagined. It is hard, really hard at times but so incredible that it just seems worth it. Period. I would say I do miss time with Bryan but that will come back too and we are already planning date nights to make the most out of having a constant babysitter right now with great credentials!
More than anything we are finding our way, getting to know our wee men and soaking up every second of this stage. These times are precious, times that become fixed in your memory and that you will replay constantly as they grow up, and eventually leave home (no, I am not ready to think about that in any way!!) These feel like the moments that we will share with them as they get bigger. Cohen, we remember when you used to sit straight up as we tried to burp you and look around taking in everything. Kidran, we remember when you used to grunt and groan all the way through a feed with your raspy voice. I could continue listing these little memories but I would bore you all.
Abba, I don’t spend a lot of time talking to You these days. I do spend a lot of time thanking You under my breath. Thank you for Kidran and every detail of his perfect face. Thank you for Cohen’s pensive eyes and sweet smiles. Thank you for entrusting us with these two treasured gifts. We pray you help us be the best parents for them, seeking You in every stage of their lives so that we can direct them to You. We pray you protect them, speak to them from an early age and that you give them courage to be the men of God you have designed them to be. Thank you again Father, Amen.
I will keep this post short as it is already 11:14pm and we have to be at the hospital for 6:45am tomorrow morning. We can’t believe it is the night before our boys make their way into this world! I don’t know if you can fully let the reality of these moments sink in and properly digest them. We feel excited, terrified, so ready to meet our boys yet nervous all at the same time. I am pretty sure these are all the appropriate emotions for becoming parents and bringing new lives into this world. Yet we are so incredibly thankful to have experienced this whole journey so far and for the future of raising our children, God’s gifts, in a way that points them to Him.
The picture above is from Saturday 30th August at our Northern Irish Baby Shower. Baby Showers are not the norm here so I was thrilled when my good friends Julie and Chelle decided to throw us one. We had brunch, played a few fun games, opened gifts and then the wonderful women of our community surrounded me and prayed for us. As people shared, the tears began to flow. This has been such a long journey and at times felt like our prayers to have a family would not be answered. So many people have walked this with us, cried with us and petitioned God on our behalf. Still over the years God has continued to speak to us about our family. It never felt that God was saying ‘No’, just ‘Not yet’. Hearing other people share their perspectives of our journey was so special, moving and encouraging. We have had moments of discouragement, disillusionment, hurt and frustration but more than that we have been convinced of God’s faithfulness to us in the midst of pain, suffering and hardship. Yes, there is so much pain in this world that far surpasses ours but God is so personal that He always met us where we were, wept with us and journeyed with us. Never once did He leave us alone.
Tomorrow morning we will wake up early, get into our new miracle car (thanks to the Fentons), drive up the M1 to Craigavon Hospital, check into the Assessment Unit at 6:45am and hopefully find out what time our section will be at. Then through the hands of our skilled surgeon and team of medical staff we will meet our beautiful baby boys whom we are already in love with. Our hearts will be full whilst overwhelmed at the responsibility we will possess in caring for these two precious human beings. We cannot wait to introduce you all to our boys!!!! Bringing them home will be one of the greatest moments we have experienced. Then they will get to meet their Grandparents and so many others who love them already. Our story has been incredible already and we cannot wait to see how much our lives will be challenged and enriched by this next step. God, you have so much more to teach us.
So boys, your Dad and Mom can’t wait to meet you, see your faces, hold you, cuddle you, feed you, change your bums, wipe your tears away, discipline you, teach you things…but most importantly love you unconditionally every day!!! Happy Birthday- 1st September, 2014!!!
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We have had our 20 week scan and are delighted to announce that we will be having two boys!!! They were very proud and showed off quite a bit for us. My good friend Lynne Archer came with me to the appointment since Bryan was in Austria. It was lovely to be able to share in that moment with Lynne as she is one of the many friends who has carried our burden with us over the years so thank you Lynne! The scan was so much fun! The woman performing it was great and explained everything as she went and she was very happy with everything she saw. The boys are growing well and developing at the right rate so praise God for two beautiful, healthy boys!! The first picture above is two of our scan photos. As you can see they look quite different already which is wonderful and as soon as I saw their profiles I just fell in love!!! I cannot wait to kiss their lips and faces and just cuddle them! Bryan was so excited too and I know it was difficult for him to not be here for such a memorable moment but we have made the best out of this time and are feeling thankful for God’s continued provision and for this blessing we are experiencing.
The next two pics give you an idea of how much I am growing! I feel huge at times and have put on probably around 25lbs. I am taking it all in stride though as I am amazed at what the human body can do. The fact that I can grow and sustain the lives of these two little ones never ceases to amaze me! Thankfully I am now experiencing more pregnancy symptoms than anything else. There are still times where I can feel the scar tissue trying to stretch as the babies are growing but overall it’s not too bad. One of my favourite pregnancy symptoms is the movement of the babies! I love feeling each kick and punch. Feels like assurance that all is okay and that they are healthy, just very special.
This week is a pretty big one for us as Bryan arrives home Wednesday evening!!!! The boys and I are so excited to have their Daddy back and start working on the nursery and getting everything ready for the babies arrival. (The last pic shows a bit of what we have collected for them so far, much of it is thanks to my amazing family who threw us a baby shower before we left the states!) Bryan completed his course and passed with flying colours and I am so proud of all that he accomplished while he was away!! He truly amazes me with his ability to learn and absorb so much information in such a short time as well as his heart for people. I know he is going to be an incredible father as he already is a great husband! I also start back to work this week so I am looking forward to seeing everyone again and having a bit of routine back in my life.
Overall my heart feels full. We are in such a precious season of life and are surrounded by incredible people who have blessed us in more ways then we can count (ie. Sunday lunches at the McCammon’s, Cheryl Roberts coming and hoovering for me to keep the house nice and tidy-to name a few). Our church has truly been the church to us through this whole time. The generosity of so many has made me want to be more generous. I think knowing that we will be bringing two little lives into this world to shape and mould has made me look at our lives and ponder them. I want our boys to know how to be kind, how to be giving, how to be fun and spontaneous, adventurous and how to be intentional. More than anything though I want them to know Jesus. That has become very clear to me since becoming pregnant. Jesus is the central figure in Bryan and my life and that is the greatest legacy we can leave to our children. Not religion, not rules and regulation but a genuine and real relationship with the Creator of the universe.
My prayer is this: Abba, our children are yours. We give them back to you and thank you for entrusting them to us. Thank you!!!!!!