About El Momma

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Mothering through the Unexpected and the Tragic

The most difficult year of mothering yet.






This time last year, Moustapha and I just found out we were expecting. It was too early to have an ultrasound and to know if everything was going okay. But we knew we were pregnant. We’d been trying for a few months and tbh we were praying for a little girl. At our 9 week appointment, we got to see our little gummy bear, a strong heartbeat and all signs that he or she was doing great and growing as expected. 




At 10 weeks, I could listen to the baby’s heartbeat at home. I did this most evenings. We had some blood work done around 10 weeks and got the results at our 13 week ultrasound. 




We were told that our baby was a girl and she was growing perfectly. I loved that ultrasound so much. Our baby girl was dancing! Putting her hands to her mouth and gave me all the feels of a happy little baby! 




We told the Els around this time but waited to tell them our baby’s sex until my 40th birthday. The kids were so excited to know either way and delighted to learn she was a she. 💗💗 




After this, we treated the next three weeks as normal. We enjoyed family time and my baby bump continued to grow. 











At just over 17 weeks, I couldn’t find her heartbeat at home. I was headed for my regular appointment the next morning and I didn’t let myself believe that she could be gone. But, the next day, my worst nightmare was confirmed. Our baby girl had passed, her heart had stopped beating. I now had to mother all of my children through a situation I never imagined for any of us. I had made promises to them- promises that they would hold their sister. Promises that we would be a family of seven. Promises of a life together. 


This was not what I promised. But, I leaned on God and kept going. Should we let the Els see Mary-Linda? Hold her? We decided to let them decide. We had photos and when the Els arrived to the hospital the day Mary-Linda was born sleeping, we let the Els look at the photos first. We gave them the option to look and then if they wanted to see her after that, they could. And, if they wanted to hold her after that, they could. One by one, they made the decision. And we kept the promise that they would all be able to hold their sister. 











It doesn’t stop there. I don’t get to mother Mary-Linda here on earth, the way I want to. But, losing her has changed the way I mother my other children. I don’t know if I’m doing it right. Is there even a right way to move through this? But, I haven’t stopped. I’m trying to love my children through it. I can’t say I’m looking forward to Mother’s Day this year. I can say I thank God for every single one of the precious souls who made me a mother. 


Please know that I’m thinking of and praying for all of the mothers out there who’ve lost, who’ve longed for a baby on earth, who have loved ones in heaven. I’m thinking of you. 


Much love,

El Momma

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

As Mother’s Day approaches, consider the heartbroken, the bereaved Mother, the woman who longs to be a Mother



It’s an innocent question.

Not meant to do anything other than start up or continue a conversation.

And, it’s a question we get a lot.

"How many kids do you have?"
"Oh, you just have one girl?"
"Just the one girl, huh?"
"Wow, all boys?"
"3 boys and one girl?"

A while ago, Trinity was standing with me at a checkout counter. The clerk noticed a couple of Trinity’s brothers and said “oh, you’re the only girl?!”
Trinity glanced toward me to see what I would say, if anything. I smiled and nodded to let her know that she could answer this question how she felt comfortable.
She answered quietly “yes.”

Recently, Leeland was a guest at a birthday party. I overheard another mom talking to him, sweetly asking about his siblings. How old is your brother? Oh, you have two brothers? How old is your sister? So, you’re the baby?
That’s when he looked over to me for approval. How should he answer this? He’s NOT the Baby of our family. Mary-Linda is the baby and she’s in heaven and that’s not something that we feel we need to tell everyone in every situation.

So, I gave him the same look I gave Trinity. The “whatever you feel comfortable sharing is okay” look.
He answered her sweetly by nodding “yes” he is the baby.

One morning a few weeks ago, I was at a breakfast meeting. I noticed another group of moms meeting. And one baby in a carrier. I don’t know how old the baby was, but I thought for a second, that could have been me, if Mary-Linda was still with me...the person we were meeting with started the conversation by asking us all how many kids we have.

One by one we answered. I felt the tension well up inside me. I said four. In this instance I had just met the woman and may have more encounters with her in the future. I just didn’t feel like sharing. 

Later that same morning, I was in a totally different setting and was asked how many kids I have by someone who I have just started getting to know over the last couple of months. So, this time I mentioned losing Mary-Linda in August. I said "We have four living children and well, you may have heard, but we lost our baby daughter in August- when I was 4.5 months pregnant.” The conversation continued. I cried. She cried. It was sweet and tender and appropriate for where our relationship is headed, as we become better friends. Mary-Linda is not a secret. She’s our daughter, who just happens to be in heaven. 

Please don’t misconstrue this post to mean we shouldn’t ask people about their kids. It’s just something to keep in mind, as you meet people and get to know others. There are so many things we don’t know about other’s lives. 

As a dear friend of mine often says “everybody has stuff.” It’s true. We can’t walk around on egg shells, worried that we might uncover their “stuff” and know them beyond the surface level. 

Would that be so bad? Of course not. But, I think it’s important to think about this as we approach Mother’s Day. This can be a very tough time for many. Those who long to have living children, those who are mothers to children in heaven, those who have lost their mothers, those who have found other ways to mother those they love. This can be a very painful day for many different reasons.

I meet with a loss support group once a month, organized by MEND- Mother's Enduring Neonatal Death. MEND shared these 5 suggestions today on their facebook page. I would add- don't assume that since you know someone a little that you know everything important there is to know about them. And most importantly, communicate. Talk. Ask your loved one what their boundaries are and respect them. For me personally, I want to talk about and think about my baby girl, Mary-Linda on Mother's day and every day. So, if you happen to see me...you will make me smile to let me know that you have not forgotten our little angel girl. Our sweet Magnolia flower in heaven. Mary-Linda Elizabeth.


Happy Mother's Day, friends. Sending much love and prayers for you all. May grace and peace be yours this May.

xo,
El Momma

Always Your Mother

Mother's Day 2018

From before the moment I knew
you were mine
you were loved
adored
perfect and tiny
beautiful little dancer
oh how you danced
fluttered like a butterfly
strong like no other
you were taken from us in a moment
in an instant
silence
without warning
you were gone
and yet, you linger still
the love you shared with us all
your family
your siblings, your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins
we all miss you so
and thank God for you
your little life
goes on and on
Now, you are in the arms of Jesus
Dancing
Singing
Praising
And, I'm here, joining you from my place on earth
I hope you hear me when I sing with you
I hope you know me and know how much I love you
Do you know your mother?
I long for the day I can hold you
to see your beautiful eyes open
our beautiful Magnolia flower in heaven
Our Mary-Linda Elizabeth
gone too soon



Saturday, May 5, 2018

International Bereaved Mother’s Day and our Mary-Linda Bear





The organization, Molly Bears, provides weighted Bears to families who’ve lost their babies. Our Mary-Linda bear weighs 6oz and all of the Els have taken turns holding her. It’s a wonderful source of comfort. 💗💗

To my fellow Bereaved Mothers: Today I honor your baby and babies in heaven. I grieve with you. I celebrate their lives with you. I cry for you. I hold my living children a little tighter for us all. Knowing that life from conception is a TRUE MIRACLE. And, I look forward to the day when we are reunited with our loved ones who were taken too soon. Until that day, live this one in the moment #bereavedmother #elmomma

Monday, March 19, 2018

Letter I sent to the Houston Astros today...let's get our favorite Astros' fan out on the field to throw out the first pitch this season!


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March 19, 2018


Dear Houston Astros,

First of all, a huge congratulations from our family to yours on the 2017 World Series Championship! We couldn’t be happier for our favorite team!

I wanted to reach out to tell you a little bit of our story. My husband, Moustapha and I both grew up Astros fans and returned to Houston after getting married in early 2004. Attending Astros games with my brother and his wife, quickly became part of our regular routine. In 2005, we welcomed our first son, Bakri (now, almost thirteen years old) and started off his journey to become a lifelong Astros fan. Even taking him to a World Series game dressed as a bumble bee!


Over the next five years, we would add three more Astros’ fans to our family- Maddux-11, Trinity-9 and Leeland-7. Each of our children loves the Astros, but especially our Bakri, who can hardly wait for the season to begin again each November. Bakri was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at five years old, when we had four children under the age of 6. It has been a challenge for our family and especially for Bakri. However, he’s met the challenges head on and has already excelled beyond many of our hopes and dreams. He’s a seventh grader at the Meyerland School for the Performing and Visual Arts concentrating on Vocal Performance and Piano. He’s a member of the Houston BoyChoir Chamber Choir and has been absolutely delighted to sing the National Anthem for two Astros games!



Early during the 2017 season, we found out we were expecting our fifth child! We even had an opportunity to do a photo shoot at Minute Maid Park- on the field and in the dugout, as a surprise for Father’s Day for Moustapha. In July, we learned that our fifth child was a baby girl. We celebrated and our four other children were beside themselves happy. In mid-August, our daughter, Mary-Linda, was stillborn in a Houston hospital. We were and are devastated. It has been the most difficult thing we’ve been through as a family. Within a few weeks, Harvey hit and our friends and family were hit hard. We continued to mourn and look to our Astros for an outlet. They were struggling and we just wanted them home. Going into the playoffs strong, meant the world to us. Moustapha made sure that he and the older boys were at MMP when we clinched the pennant. A dream come true.



We made it to every home playoff game and as the ALCS series was returning to Houston after being in NY, we were nervous. So Dad, aka Moustapha, called a family meeting and we decided that as fans, it was our job to help the Astros get their bats going. So, that is how the clapping batting helmet fan (87 million views on his GIF) was born. All six of us attended game 6 and we were so excited to get that win! Moustapha would wear his batting helmet and gloves every time the Astros batted and take it off when we were fielding. We felt like, as fans, we were part of the Astros success.


For game 7 of the ALCS, we only had four tickets and Bakri had a Houston BoyChoir concert in midtown at game time. We decided to split up- Dad would take Maddux and I would bring Bakri later. During the Houston BoyChoir concert break, I went out to check my phone to see a ton of messages alerting me that Moustapha had been on National television. I thought it was cool, texted him, but didn’t think it would be as major as it was. Memes, and tweets, Instagram posts, and articles popped up during the game, all talking about this amazing, intense, clapping, Astros fan. By the time Bakri and I arrived to the game, the internet had exploded. Over 70 million views on the MLB gif before we left the game. And, the Astros won! Off to the World Series we go! Our family needed this so much and now Moustapha was experiencing another piece of it, with this sudden Astros Fan fame.

via GIPHY


It couldn’t have happened to a better guy at a better time. What happened after, was a storybook tale. News story features, articles, and a Law and Order type scene for MLB Network! And, after attending home games of the World Series, the ending was the best of all.

It’s easy for outsiders to empathize with a mother’s loss of a child. Even so, It’s difficult for some to understand, because they feel as though we didn’t know her or we should be happy because we have four other children. Not understanding that losing her and holding her little body in our arms, forever sleeping, is one of the few experiences we got with her. We mourn that she’s not on earth with us. We mourn that she’s not going to grow up with her brothers and sister. We mourn. People understand that more easily for a mother. But, our sweet Moustapha has mourned very deeply. He lost his dear baby girl and this has been a very sad time for him. This experience with the Astros, gave joy back to our family, when we needed it most.

I respectfully request that the Astros organization honor this special Astros fan during the 2018 season. Specifically, by calling on him to be recognized as an amazing Astros fan by having the honor of throwing out the first pitch at a regular season home game. Our son, Bakri, will be singing the National Anthem again with the Houston BoyChoir when the Astros take on the New York Yankees on April 30th. Wouldn’t that be a perfect game? But any will do and your consideration is deeply appreciated.

So, again, on behalf of the El-Hakam family, thank you Houston Astros! You are our favorite team and your win came at a perfect and much needed time for our family. We love you.





Rebekah Maddux El-Hakam


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Our Baby Daughter's Due Date


















Sweet precious Mary-Linda,

This isn't how any of us wanted to spend your due date- without you here with us on earth. But, this is our reality.

Philippians 1:3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you



We will love you forever, Mary-Linda Elizabeth. 

love,
Momma, Daddy,
big brothers- Bakri, Maddux, Leeland,
and big sister- Trinity




Monday, January 1, 2018

LOVE NEVER FAILS

Our year was full of JOY as we anticipated the arrival of our daughter, Mary-Linda Elizabeth (expected in January 2018)


and as we were able to celebrate our favorite team, the Houston Astros, winning their first World Series.

Moustapha even became the Most Famous Fan in the process. (87 MILLION views on his GIF & an awesome acting performance on the MLB Network!)


However, in mid-August, at 4.5 months gestation, our Mary-Linda went to be with Jesus.


We are deeply saddened that she is no longer here with us on earth. We have great hope that we will be reunited with her one day.

And, we thank God for the joy her life brought to our family. Thank you to each of you who have expressed your sympathies. We do not walk this road alone. May the joy and peace of Christ Jesus be with you and yours this Christmas and always. Wishing you hope and peace in 2018.

HOPE REMAINS

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Doing the best we can...and getting through...

Warning. This post discusses loss. 
Our daughter, Mary-Linda Elizabeth was born sleeping at nearly 18 weeks gestation. 

We don’t know what to expect. We’ve never been in a situation quite like this one.

Holidays. Experienced without a growing child that was supposed to be still growing in my uterus, due anytime after Christmas.

Holidays. Not looking forward to what her first holidays will be like. Instead, these are our first holidays with our Mary-Linda. Except, she’s not with us. She’s in heaven. And, our hopes and dreams for her future with us, no longer exist. They will forever live in that place of dreams and hopes that can never BE on this earth.

Thanksgiving was good. My cousin graciously hosted my side of the family, as she always does. I have absolutely no responsibilities on thanksgiving with my side of the family or my husbands. I am thankful for that. My only job was to show up.

I only had one breakdown at my cousin’s house and none at my sister-in-law’s house. That’s not saying it’s bad to have more breakdowns. Whatever we experience is what we experience and that needs to be okay. It’s so hard to control when a wave of sadness hits. So, don’t try. But, I do believe thinking through moments and lowering my expectations helped. I was nervous about seeing everyone on my side of the family who I hadn’t seen since Mary-Linda died. Talking to my cousin on the phone before Thanksgiving helped so much. It removed that “first time we’ve talked” element from the equation. And, that was super helpful.

My sister-in-law altered the tradition of going around the table and everyone listing off what they were thankful for this year. She, instead, asked a representative from each family to give a list of family thanksgivings. That was perfect. I could just sit and listen.

At the end of the day, as I was happily tucking myself into bed next to my dear husband, I began to laugh hysterically. And that laughter turned to deep, loud, weeping, ugly crying. I think it was just all the emotions built up from the day, coming out in crazy, awesome ways. I got through it. With the help of my husband who doesn’t judge me as I grieve, and I don’t judge him.

Now, with Christmas around the corner and as we are in the season of Advent- waiting. We wait and create new memories and traditions to honor our Mary-Linda.

My dear friend, Holly sent this beautiful silver angel ornament with Mary-Linda's initials engraved. It was the first ornament we put on the tree this year.


A few weeks ago, we were shopping and I spotted this beautiful angel topper. We've never had an angel on top of our tree. This seemed like a perfect way to honor our Mary-Linda for years to come.


In the coming days, we will place this angel on top of our tree. In honor of our Mary-Linda Elizabeth, who is now in heaven.

I don't know how we will get through Christmas, as Mary-Linda's due date draws near. Pregnancies have such a wide range of safe delivery- a 5 week range that doesn't even include earlier than 37 weeks gestation that can also result in healthy babies. So, I don't know that we will do anything on her actual due date. I'm thinking we might want to do something to start the new year. I can't say that I will be sad to see 2017 go...it hasn't been the best of years. Hoping for a much better 2018.

No matter what, our hope remains in Jesus. We await His second coming and we anticipate being with Him and reunited with our loved ones in Heaven one day. And, I look forward to holding my Mary-Linda in heaven one day. I imagine she'll do cart wheels as she runs to greet me and she'll joyously leap into my arms. It will be the biggest hug ever.

We wish you a wonderful Advent season and a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

love,
El Momma