To the Woman Who Offered Me Her Womb

Everything remembers something. The rock, its fiery bed,
cooling and fissuring into cracked pieces, the rub
of watery fingers along its edge.

The cloud remembers being elephant, camel, giraffe,
remembers being a veil over the face of the sun,
gathering itself together for the fall.

The turtle remembers the sea, sliding over and under
its belly, remembers legs like wings, escaping down
the sand under the beaks of savage birds.

The tree remembers the story of each ring, the years
of drought, the floods, the way things came
walking slowly towards it long ago.

And the skin remembers its scars, and the bone aches
where it was broken. The feet remember the dance,
and the arms remember lifting up the child.

The heart remembers everything it loved and gave away,
everything it lost and found again, and everyone
it loved, the heart cannot forget.

“What the Heart Cannot Forget” by Joyce Sutphen

I remember you: meek, friendly, heart dripping stars. We were friends, but not close friends. We were the kind that said “hey” in the halls and wrote “you’re a sweetheart” and “call me this summer” in that year’s yearbook, but never called.

I hadn’t heard from you in over 20 years when we became friends on social media. And we were “friends” in the way it often dictates: the one where you don’t necessarily talk or share, but have access to another’s life, just in case you really want it.

I’d thought of you off and on, especially when I’d see photos or updates roll past my feed, and then one day you reached out.

I remembered thinking it was likely a message sprinkled with nostalgia and perhaps a bit of regret–the kind that comes from losing touch–but what I found was this:

I am not sure where you are in life but I just wanted to reach out to you with an offer. I have thought a lot about this in the past 2 1/2 years since my family has been complete. I am looking into the process of being a surrogate/ gestational carrier for someone. I have done research on several agencies but I am somewhat reluctant to go through an agency because often times they charge the hopeful family a large amount of money for the service. I am not interested in profiting at all from this, I only want to help out. God has blessed me with smooth, uncomplicated pregnancies and I have never suffered a loss. I carried twins until 36 weeks, 4 days and they had no NICU time. I would be willing to carry multiples again. I have followed your blog and I cannot seem to get you or your struggle and pain out of my head. Having a family was a number one priority for me and I cannot imagine what you have gone through. I am very sorry if this offer is coming at a bad time and I completely understand if you are not interested but I just thought I would offer since I will most likely continue to search for a hopeful family in need of help if you are not interested. I feel like we have one chance in this life to make a difference and help others and this is one way I could help someone.
God Bless.

There was nothing to do but cry.

There have been moments when, in blistering heat, I haven’t been offered a sip of water. There have been moments when, in complete and utter despair, an embrace has been withheld. There have been moments when those I love have asked that I never consider them a bodily ally against infertility and pregnancy loss. That I never consider them surrogates of body or spirit.

And then there’s you, offering nearly a complete stranger your womb. And what is it you ask in return??


My heart still hangs on the moon of that evening, grateful that people like you exist…grateful to know people like you exist. And tiny words like Thank you? They’re insufficient.

I know that.

So what do you say to a woman who offered to place your heart in hers?

What can you say?

What can I say?

I can tell you that I will be honoring you, and all those with like hearts, this Mother’s Day and everyday.

It’s women like you–whether through surrogacy or adoption–who give the gift of motherhood to those who would otherwise remain childless.

It’s women like you who give us hope.

It’s women like you who remind us that a child doesn’t have to pass through us to be born of us.

It’s women like you who embody Grace and prove that we are each other’s keepers.

It’s women like you who allow us a chance to cloak ourselves in midnight and miracles and step onto the magically tragic, heartrendingly surreal, life-altering ride that is parenthood.

It’s women like you.

409 the heart. Mop & Glo the soul.


You know that feeling?  The one you have when you’re about to make a horrible decision?  The one you’ve convinced yourself you have to make because there are no other options (even though there are)?

I had that feeling nearly four years ago.

We had decided to take on a new renter while we lived abroad in Brazil.  We knew she was off.  That she was prickly.  That her all-too-nice exterior was covering something toxic.  But, instead of bolting in the other direction, we signed on the dotted line.

The dotted line that stole our peace


our sanity.

The woman who moved into our home (I specify that it was a home.  We had made it that way.  We had loved it that way.) was a horribly sad case.

This week she finally left.

This week we went to assess the damage.

This week we found a revolting reality.

Our home, now just a slab and walls, had become a sub-standard shelter.  A place without life.  Without soul.  Without love.

Looking around, I felt sick and angry and completely overwhelmed.

I can’t do this.

Where do I even begin? 

What’s the financial cost?  The emotional?? 


Is it even worth it?

One look to my husband confirmed that it was, so I started toward the kitchen and opened the fridge.

There was a strong waft of Y.U.C.K against my cone mask.

Worse than I thought.

I removed all the shelving, the bins, the ice maker and started sudsing.  And, after four hours, I stepped back to admire my work:

It. Was. Like. New.

Like the neglect and indolence never happened.

Like she never happened. And I smiled at the thought of it.

Then stepped outside of myself and felt utterly cruel.

And realized…

all that time I’d spent hating her, I should have been praying for her.  Because for her to become the person she is must have required horrible neglect and indolence on the part of those who were supposed to love her.  To protect her.  To shelter her.

And I felt something for her then that I’d never felt: compassion

How much easier it would be if we could just 409 our hearts and Mop & Glo our souls.  If we could be made new, with some sudsy water and some serious elbow grease, like my lovely fridge??  And then I realized…

We can.

Anything that is loved can be restored.  Perhaps it won’t be exactly as it was before.  Perhaps we won’t be as we were before. And maybe that’s a good thing.  Maybe what could make us bitter should instead make us better.

Perhaps it would be good for her to know that.

I don’t know if we’ll move back, if we’ll rent again or if we’ll sell.

And really…it doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that I know now that things are not always what they seem.  And that, oftentimes, the experiences that test the most, teach the most, as well.

A friend’s return

Image courtesy of Elizabeth Schafer Stutzman

Image courtesy of Elizabeth Schafer Stutzman

Over the years−whether by accident or by design−I have lost touch with multiple friends.  For years it bothered me.  Knowing that these people held slivers of my heart in their possession bothered me.  Knowing that perhaps those pieces of me meant nothing to them bothered me.  Knowing that perhaps I meant nothing to them bothered me.

As a teenager and into my early twenties, I fought against it.  People moved on or away and I wrote and called and persisted.  They showed less interest and I continued on−possibly being annoying, probably being pathetic−because I just didn’t get it.  How does someone who means so much suddenly mean nothing?  The rub was that it wasn’t sudden; it just felt that way.  In reality, it was a slow fading away like watching a tree shed its foliage one precious leaf at a time.

Not until I lost touch with one of my most treasured friends did I finally learn to accept.  Hers was the house I ran to when I found out my family was no longer a family.  She was the one I cried to the countless times my high school boyfriend dishonored me and I, in turn, dishonored myself by staying with him.  She was the one who guarded my secrets and stood watch at the gates to my heart.  She was the real thing.  And then she slipped away, slowly like the leaves, until she was gone.

Just days ago, after 15 years of emotional and physical distance, we reconnected.

A beautiful thing.

I don’t pretend to know who she is now or the many roads she’s taken to get where she is.  I don’t pretend to know who has cheered her triumphs or sat in silence with her when there simply were no words.  I don’t pretend to know her heart or her dreams like I once did.  And somehow.  That’s okay.

The only thing that I do know is that I’m thankful.  And perhaps that the foliage is full and I am seeing her, for the first time, once again.


Image courtesy of Rodrigo Machado

Image courtesy of Rodrigo Machado

I walked past a house today that, just yesterday, was hit by lightning; it burned to the ground.  I saw a black car parked in the drive, charred remains of a roof that once sheltered a family and a scattering of things and dreams.  I couldn’t help myself from looking, from examining the evidence left behind, from asking the question, “Was this simply a house or was it a home?” Had it been filled with laughter?  Had little ones run through its front door and flopped themselves onto a couch exhausted from the whirlwind that is childhood?  Had its rooms smelled of banana bread and egg soufflé (the kind with the bits of sausage in it) and that famous chicken only Dad could make?  Had people loved and fought and loved again?  Had there been a reckoning of losses, of the times one person’s ego had been boosted by sacrificing another’s?  Had hands been held?  Had the silence been sweet and peaceful?  Had it been more than just walls and beams and bricks and slabs of concrete?  Had it been the place where things are made right?  Where the soil of the heart is fertile and the memories of togetherness and F.A.M.I.L.Y are fresh and ever present?  

In the silence, I said a prayer for the family, and then walked briskly down the street in the direction of my own.