“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!
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.
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!
Tonight as I folded laundry I began thinking about so many things I learned while we walked the difficult road of infertility. I thought about our two wee men, sleeping tight next door in their sweet little shared room. I thought of God.
As these thoughts swirled in my head, a concrete idea formed…turn in…not away.
Infertility is brutal and cruel. There is nothing kind about taking one of the deepest longings of a woman and man’s soul then playing table tennis with it. Back and forth, through treatment after treatment, one doctor to the next, one injection to the next. The game goes back and forth. The game can continue into other parts of your life too. You can argue with your husband about how much caffeine he is drinking, don’t you know it can reduce your sperm honey? You can tell your Mom you are fine for now, that you aren’t ready for a family just yet. When your friend announces they are pregnant you can fake excitement. When you just cannot understand how God can ignore your prayers over and over again to have a child? Back and forth, you can live your life, with your emotions hidden.
You can turn in…not away. Turn into your husbands arms when he drinks that second cup of coffee. Tell him you are scared his caffeine intake may affect your chances, this is the truth of why you may be tempted to nag at him. When your Mom asks the next time about a family, instead of turning away, turn to your Mother, the one who carried you into this world, who would most likely do anything she could to protect you from harm, and tell her the truth. Tell her how your heart is breaking everyday because you long to be a Mother yourself. When that friend announces her pregnancy that happened all too easily, allow yourself to feel the hurt and anger. Then turn to your friend and rejoice. Because I guarantee, if you turn into her friendship she will mourn with you. Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. That’s what real friends do.
And finally, let me plainly state this: God’s character does not change depending on our circumstances. Things are going great, well God is good. Things are crap, well God is not good. No. That’s not how it works. He is good, all the time, full stop. Life is hard, full stop. But what a good God does is this, He offers comfort in our suffering. When we turn into Him He meets us with an intimacy that cannot be rivaled. He is so so close to those who are brokenhearted, hurting and suffering, if we will only turn in…not away.
Just like any good parent He will help us learn to walk through this life if we let Him. Just as a parent walks behind his toddler, hands outstretched to catch the child if he begins to fall forward, yet remaining unseen by the child. And the child eventually learns to walk. This is how I see my Abba in these times. He has so much confidence in my ability, in my desire to turn into Him, not away that He remains hidden for a time, hidden but not absent. During the hidden times He is encouraging us to turn in…not away. I believe this is how it is for all of us. He gives us freedom upon freedom to learn, seek, grow, to walk. And I think one of the biggest lessons He teaches us in life’s more challenging circumstances is to turn in…not away and it applies to all of life. Where do you need to turn in today? Start there.
Hey lovely blog followers and those of you who just happened upon my site! This is not a normal entry but one to let you know that I am days closer to having the release date of my book The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants: A raw glimpse into the painful journey of infertility. This book has been in the making for the guts of two years and I am so delighted to be this close! My proof draft has been ordered and should be in my hands by the 13th of February. This means that if I have no real changes to make to the book it should be available to all of you lovely people as soon as the 14th of February which would be incredible!
I decided it would be my birthday present to myself to get it done this month since I turn 38 on the 16th of February. Valentine’s Day holds an extra special place in our hearts too for it was the day that we found out both of our little, long awaited embryos had implanted! It was the day our hearts expanded twice over instantly.
My hope and prayer is that this Valentine’s Day can hold special meaning for others too. Not necessarily the same way it does for us (although that would be incredible!) but that maybe it can be a day when you feel supported in your journey. A day you feel loved by your spouse even though you feel you are failing miserably because your body just won’t do what you want it to do. I could go on but all of that to say, I am beyond thrilled that we are at this point friends. You and I are very close to getting to know each other a little better, well you me at least. I hope my open and raw story telling will help ease your pain or help you better understand someone else’s pain.
If you want more info you can find me on Facebook @Breannajochud or on Instagram @breannachud. Please feel free to share this book with anyone and everyone who needs it or may benefit from reading it!