“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.
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!
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.
When a person looks at these pictures I feel like they see shiny happy people. The Instagram/Facebook portrayal of a perfect life. A romantic couple who love each other, fun and adventurous. As much as those things are true (not the perfect part!), the pictures don’t tell the whole truth.
The first picture was taken at our good friends wedding where we danced the night away and had a great evening. Yet in the back of my mind I was holding onto a hope that we may just be pregnant. It had been fifty four days since my last period. I had bought a pregnancy test that I would take the next morning. Yes, it was a fun filled evening but I was also full of anxiety on the inside, hoping against hope that the next morning our lives would be changed forever.
The morning came, I took the test. Negative. Again. I crumbled. The friends we were staying with went out to give us some space. I couldn’t stop crying. Once again, we were not pregnant.
A day later we were flying out to Amsterdam to see an old friend who had invited us for a visit. I couldn’t wait to escape our reality for even a few days. I enjoyed the trip so much (especially the bicycle rides over picturesque bridges). But the whole time in the back of my head was our truth, the reality I was trying desperately to ignore. We were still not pregnant. We were still not going to have our desired family. It was hard, really hard.
Fast forward to present day and imagine this picture with me. A tired Mom sits on the floor of the bathroom as one of her twin sons learns to use the potty. She says to him again that she knows he can do it. Then they both hear it. A tiny, tinkling stream comes out. Success!!! She throws her arms around him and tells him how proud she is of him. They lock eyes, he leans in and gives her a sweet kiss right on the lips and says ‘I wuv you Momma.’ She tells him she loves him too. Her eyes well with tears and she hugs him tight, for that extra second.
That moment right there, the one that is dirty, stinky, un-showered and NOT on social media is the real stuff. That is the moment that a Momma thanks God over and over again for the gift of her miracle boys. The moment when she can’t believe she is living the dream that for so many years had turned into a nightmare of struggling with infertility.
All those tears of bitterness have finally turned to tears of sweetness. And that is why I wrote my story. Maybe, just maybe you are that couple struggling that will be next to get pregnant. My heart is breaking for you. The waiting is torture. Or maybe you are the couple who wonders if your friends are struggling? You bounce your baby happily while your friend seems distant. This is the bittersweetness that encompasses all of life. Resolution and answers may or may not come. Until then, take each day as it comes. Love on people in real life. You never know what those other shiny, happy people are going through.
Side note: If you want to find out more about my book: The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants follow me on Instagram @breannachud and on Facebook @Breannajochud.
Before there were twins, before we had these little men, before I was a Mom and Bryan was a Dad there was INFERTILITY. For NINE years. For nine years we struggled to get pregnant. We tried so many different approaches, doctors, philosophies and suffered disappointment after disappointment. Maybe this is where you are at. Disappointment. Or maybe you know someone who is there. It is not the place you want to be. People seem to not understand, are insensitive, you feel crazy, exhausted, heartbroken and the list goes on. I will never forget those nine years. Nor will anyone forget any amount of time they struggle with infertility.
What seems like the most natural thing in the world, reproducing, slips out of your tightly clenched fists and you didn’t even see it coming. You thought it would just take some time. The days turn to months, the months to a year, the year to years. I am literally having a difficult time breathing as I type this because the memories I carry from infertility are so very real and are still present in my everyday life. I don’t want to sound extreme but at times I have wondered if infertility can produce Post Traumatic Stress symptoms? I am not trying to belittle people who suffer from this very real and awful disorder but I think that infertility is a trauma. It effects your mind, body, emotions and soul. It has left imprints on my heart that will never disappear. And that is one of the biggest reasons why I wanted to write about our journey. I needed to write about it. To sort through it in my own head and heart. To find some kind of catharsis in the midst of this nightmare that I lived and breathed for so long. I also figured that maybe I would share our story if it could help others. So here I am today, finally sharing my Facebook page about my book and even posting info on my Insta story. Man how life has changed in the last ten years! Dear love the teens trying to navigate this crazy world of social media!
So this is me celebrating my small starting victory of actually putting myself and our story out there! In the Big Bad World of Social Media! Yikes! It scares me a little when I say it like that. But mostly I am just relieved. (White wine and chocolate covered peanut butter filled pretzels thank you very much!)
I have been walking around with this book burning a hole in my soul for the guts of two years now. I had plans of it being published shortly after I wrote it but life happened.
Funny how that works! I wrote the book, we moved to back to the states and into our friends sweet home for four and a half months. Bryan worked his tail off and commuted for those months. My sweet Papa was diagnosed with cancer. Then we moved into our own place, I started working again, Bryan somehow managed to balance his work with my work. Summer came. Northern Irish family visited. We went to Alaska to see the Chud family. Came home to Pre-Season and worsening news about my Papa. Bryan’s Mama was diagnosed with Lymphoma. Then September hit and all hell broke loose. Cancer destroyed any remaining health my Father had and the day after his 80th birthday he went to be with Jesus, the 2nd of October, 2017. All the while our sweet MamaChud had started chemo. So yeah, lots of life happened.
While life was happening I was living a whirlpool of emotions. One day I was peaceful and content, the next I was sitting on my couch sobbing about the rapid loss of my precious Dad, fully grieving the man that had always been my hero. Due to all of these things I feel like the last year or so I didn’t have the chance to really enjoy the boys as much as I wanted to. It was much more about survival than any type of thriving. Since my Father’s passing I have been focused on soaking up every ounce of enjoyment they possess. I also have felt that fire burning my bum cheeks reminding me that this life is but a vapor.
I have been playing extra hard with the boys. We have built more train tracks than I can count and created play dough planes and sharks often. Hide and seek is still a favourite and I kiss them constantly, tell them I love them at least every hour they are awake. I just can’t help myself nor do I see the need to stop. This life is so brief and these moments were meant to be savoured and enjoyed!
This again is part of the impetus of pushing forward with this book. I talk to so many women who are struggling, I have friends who are being crushed under the weight of infertility and I want so badly to change their story but I can’t. What I can do though is share my own. I can share how some days I literally wanted to curse every pregnant woman I saw. I couldn’t attend parties for worry that some curious and oblivious bystander would ask ‘why we hadn’t started our family yet?’ I still feel your pain friends. I still get sweaty and my heart races when I think about taking a pregnancy test after years of negative results.
No one knows what the future holds and I can’t promise anyone a family. Oh how I wish I could! That every couple longing to become parents would! Yet that is not within my power. All I can do is use my one precious life to help others. To daily love my husband, love on my boys and share the painful parts of my story that God has been restoring and healing.
Now if you read all the way to the bottom of this post, thank you. It was a bit lengthy I know. Thank you for sticking with me! For those of you who are interested I will be putting updates on my social media sites including Facebook, my blog and Instagram. You can find out more about my book on my Facebook page specifically for the book: https://www.facebook.com/breannajochud/ You can also follow me here at my blog: http://www.breannajochud.wordpress.com or at Instagram at Breanna Chud. What I hope for is that this book finds those who have been isolated because of infertility. Are struggling and can’t even talk about it with their closest friends. Those who feel alone or simply crazy because let’s be real, infertility does that! Please share this with them if you know who they are!! Please read along so that you have a better understanding of what this all looks like. I promise, knowing how to love someone in this difficult time will not be something you will regret! Thank you again for your time and support!!