Wednesday, August 5, 2020
Many years ago, the tradition began. The story has been told many times. It almost feels like a legendary tale at this point. And, so it goes.
I was the baby of the block. My mother had many dear friends in our neighborhood- but, two families in particular, who were more like family than friends and who lived only a couple of houses down from us. These were the kind of friends that we would see every single day. My mom would be in their home when they arrived home from school having her coffee break and she, especially, was a sounding board and mentor for their daughters. My mom is still dear friends with the daughters in these families to this day- in fact, they were there with us at the hospital this year after my sister, Melinda unexpectedly suffered a stroke and passed away at 50 years old on Valentine's Day. And, the families were intricately involved in my sister's physical therapy as a child. (pull-hold-release)
So, all of the other kids on the block were a little older than me. Some, in high school when I was born. Some, in college. One, in particular, Ste-bo (nickname for Steven) was in college, I believe, when I was born. I remember, yes, remember being 3 years old and believing that I would grow up one day and marry Ste-bo. The tradition of the yellow roses began with Ste-bo. He passed away before I turned 4 years old, after an accident. My mom was there at the hospital. She was there when their momma would talk about heaven and how she wanted to know everything she could about heaven because Ste-bo now lived there. Their momma (affectionately called "Place" by my sister) drove my momma over railroad tracks when my due date had passed and my momma was still pregnant with me. Ste-bo was studying to be a doctor. His life was just getting started. It was a tragic loss for all of us.
If my mom can locate it, I will add a picture of us. I think there is one somewhere with me wearing a yellow rose of Texas t-shirt. He called me the yellow rose of Texas and his momma continued giving me yellow roses on my birthday long after Ste-bo had passed away. My momma and daddy picked up the tradition at some point when I was in high school, I believe. There hasn't been a year go by, whether I was in Texas, living in California, or on vacation that my momma didn't find me with the yellow roses.
It's a pretty special tradition and has made for lasting memories and beautiful photos through the years.
Love you, Momma. Thank you for continuing this tradition started by the Place family many years ago.
clockwise from top left: 1982, 1984 (??), 2016, 1998 (??)
2017 with Moustapha and pregnant with Mary-Linda
2020 with Baby Jimmie, 14 months
Sunday, August 2, 2020
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Rebekah/ El Momma
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
Sometimes I feel like it’s all too much. It’s all too real. It’s all so overwhelming. As I stared up at Jimmie’s first birthday banner, proudly displayed in our unfinished kitchen, my eyes began to well up with tears. Because on that banner there are images of Jimmie from each month of his life. 15 images total that give a glimpse into his amazing, big, bright personality.
We’ve been through so much in this little guy’s first year of life.
Being able to celebrate him is such a gift and we are not going to let this pandemic stop us. Jimmie is delighted to celebrate with a social distancing walking “parade” down the street and birthday cake in the driveway. Jimmie won’t grow up thinking he missed out on the usual El baby first birthday experience. And, he won’t be missing out. In fact, of all the Els, Jimmie has had the easiest adjustment to quarantine life. He loves having his siblings, parents and grandmother around all the time. And we sure to love having baby JJ around.
Happy 1st birthday to our sweet Jimmie Josiah!
Wednesday, March 4, 2020
It’s hard to believe that it's been a year since my dad, Jimmie left this world behind. On this morning, one year ago, we were standing at his bedside singing softly "Be still and know that I'm with you...Be still and know that I am here...," as he lifted his head and closed his mouth and peacefully went to be with the Lord. I was right there. I felt the peace fill the room. I felt the presence of the Lord almighty, there to bring my dad home and there to comfort us. Just over two months later, we would welcome our baby Jimmie earth-side, as we were again filled with the peace of the Holy Spirit. Two very different, but very similar experiences, knowing the Lord was with us, in the room, moving through us, comforting us and giving us peace.
Less than three weeks ago, on Valentine's Day, my sister, Melinda peacefully went to be with the Lord. We surrounded her bedside and as my mom spoke The Lord’s Prayer over her, she took her last breath on earth. She was so beautiful and peaceful. God is good. It may not seem as though we would believe that, as we have suffered a lot these last few years and there have been many trials. But, we have not traveled here alone. The God who is and was and is to come loves us with an unconditional, forever, agape love and is right there with us ...in every heartbeat, every breath, every song, every moment. How I am thankful for the peace of the Lord.
Yesterday, I felt as though I was walking through mud. Such a sense of heaviness. That is grief some days. Today, the Lord is carrying some of that heaviness and I feel a little lighter.
Tuesday, December 31, 2019
It’s hard to look back on the last year and not be filled with complete and total gratitude.
Because, God gave us YOU in 2019.
You were with us through the uncertainty as we wondered how we would be okay with extra medical bills and only one income.
You were with us when your grandfather became ill for the last time and we spent days with him until he took his last breath.
You were with us when I whispered to your grandfather, that we had named you Jimmie, after him.
Your birth was full of emotion. After delivering your big sister still, in August of 2017, your birth was so emotional for all of us.
Jimmie, through all of the loss and heartache that came this year, we thank God for you.
I recently read something that your sister Trinity wrote the year Mary-Linda died. She told of her dad answering the phone and how she heard a sound like nothing she had ever heard before and she knew something terrible had happened. She wrote “my sister is dead.” Trinity was nearly 9 years old at the time. But, reading those words last week, made the heartache that these older children have experienced, so much more real. We have been through such a difficult time. Losing my dad, Grandfather, just as we were expecting you, was just so hard.
I am so grateful they were able to be in the hospital room when you were born, crying, peeing (immediately!) and soothed on your momma’s chest.
You have his blue eyes and his smile.
Thankful for 2019. If I’m being honest, I’m Thankful it’s over. And, thankful for Jimmie and all of my beautiful children. I pray for health and healing for all of us in 2020. Much love to all of you, our families and especially Grandma, Jiddy and Grandmother.
Thursday, November 7, 2019
A story of our rainbow baby’s birth in 2019
*warning*this post does discuss loss and contains photos of birth
On the evening of May 21st, 2019, we headed to the hospital to begin the induction of labor for our 6th baby- our rainbow baby boy, Jimmie. I was 38 weeks pregnant.This is Jimmie’s birth story.
After we experienced a second trimester stillbirth with our fifth baby- our daughter, Mary-Linda less than 2 years earlier, I was considered high risk. On top of that, I was already 41 years old (which is seriously old lady time aka geriatric for a pregnant mama!). We decided with both of our doctors, that we would induce labor, if necessary and deliver Jimmie at 38 weeks. What should have been a quick labor- since I had already birthed 4 full term babies, and 2 of them without an epidural, was not a quick labor at all. But, (SPOILER ALERT) this birth story does end well!
Almost a year after Mary-Linda died, we learned that I had an antibody in my blood that was detected early in my pregnancy with her and could cause harm to a baby. Since the cause of Mary-Linda’s death was determined to be fetal maternal hemorrhage, we had something to watch for throughout our entire pregnancy with Jimmie. Every ultrasound was always completed with a check for any sign of anemia in the baby. M-L’s anemia went undetected and therefore untreated. We were going to do everything we could do to get this baby here and in our arms, alive. We started the induction shortly after arriving to the hospital on that May Tuesday evening. Our village of friends and family caring for our older Els and making sure they would be at the hospital the next day.
We were told that it was possible I could have the baby very quickly OR we would add induction methods in the morning. We wanted our older children to be present, so I was hopeful that we wouldn't have Jimmie until the next morning. I labored ALL NIGHT LONG. It was impossible to sleep. I thought I must have made some progress and by morning time, my cervix had changed and opened a little. We were hopeful that starting pitocin would mean that baby Jimmie would be here before lunch time. My doctor even said "the baby will be here around lunchtime." I remember, because my other children kept reciting this quote as the day continued on into the night!
But, Jimmie wasn’t here by lunchtime and by lunchtime there wasn’t much progress. In fact, we began increasing pitocin and things were getting unbearable. I bounced on the ball. I walked the halls. I moved around. But, it was so painful and not enough was happening. After more than 24 hours of labor, with the last few being extremely intense, I asked for an epidural. I felt broken. Defeated. I had experienced two full-term labors with no epidurals. I knew my body could do this. Neither of those labors needed pitocin. Why couldn’t I relax and allow my body to progress and birth this baby? I was a failure. After more than thirty minutes, (and likely a transition to the next stage of labor) the anesthesiologist arrived. It felt like forever. My contractions were INTENSE at this time and were coming 3 minutes apart with little break in between. But, again, the work without progress feels futile. My mom and children and husband left the room for the epidural to be administered. The rest of the labor story felt familiar. Things began to progress and my pain was gone. I also couldn’t feel my legs, but that was okay! My children became so comfortable as the day went on. Fighting over what we were watching on the television. As the baby’s heartrate began to show signs of distress and I needed to change positions, my older children seemed focused on other things. They seemed honestly shocked when my doctor announced it was time for Jimmie to be born.
And, with one push, Jimmie was out. As my doctor turned him to face me, he immediately began to pee as he cried loudly. The kids were over the moon and the rest of us were completely overwhelmed and grateful that this miracle baby was here, earthside.
This birth experience, although not perfect, ended in the most perfect way imaginable.
May 23, 2019 I wrote this: “Yesterday we experienced a glimpse of heaven on earth. Our miracle, prayed for, hoped for, dreamed of, little boy joined our family in dramatic style. He came when he was ready. Momma and baby are both doing well. And all the Els are over the moon for their baby brother. I know Mary-Linda and grandfather are together in heaven rejoicing for us.
Introducing Jimmie Josiah El-Hakam. Born May 22, 2019. 9:33pm. 7 lbs 5 oz 20 1/4 in long We love you so much, Jimmie 💙💙”
Friday, June 28, 2019
The last two years have flown by and yet, as they say, the days have been very long. At this time, two years ago, we were 10 weeks pregnant. It would be three more weeks before we would have another ultrasound, learn we were expecting a baby girl and announce the pregnancy. Our Mary-Linda was on her way. But, having our healthy baby girl in our arms in January of 2018, never happened. In mid-August our Daughter’s heart stopped beating and we delivered her and held her in our arms way too soon. The pain and numbness we felt was like nothing I had ever experienced before. Loss of our daughter and the loss of every dream and hope for her life on earth. It nearly broke us. In fact, it did break us.
We are not the same as we once were. Sometimes I think we battle with past perceptions of ourselves. But, the truth is, we are changed. We are not the same as we were before our daughter was born sleeping. Perhaps we are stronger now, more tender, gentler, more loving, tough?
We are parents of a child in heaven. Our daughter died. And, we lived. It’s hard.
Over the next year, our outward and inward focus was on grieving, healing and figuring out how to move forward. How could we move forward with our baby girl in heaven?
So, we leaned in to God. We leaned in to family. We kept busy with work. That Fall, I wrote five new songs - one, as a cry to God after losing Mary-Linda and four songs during the season of advent. I continued to grieve outwardly, and share my experiences by writing. This really helped the healing process for me and I’ve continued to receive messages from grieving parents telling me how much this meant to them.
Exactly one year after losing Mary-Linda I experienced a chemical pregnancy and I found myself without a traditional job (I have plenty to do with four living children!) I hit rock bottom and yet, all I had to cling to was my family, friends and God. And, I knew peace. Such a strange experience to know a peace that just doesn’t make sense. But, I knew God had this. The very next month, we learned we were expecting again. I had the entire school year, while I was serving as PTO President, to just be pregnant and grow this sweet baby. We had two doctors overseeing this pregnancy. My care was so much better than my previous pregnancy.
What a dream. I didn’t ask for this but the Lord knew what I needed. I needed to be surrounded by love and to care for my baby. And that’s exactly what I experienced. It has not been easy. There have been huge financial burdens on our family but somehow we have always been provided for.
And, that brings me to this moment.
Two years almost to the day since learning I was pregnant with Mary-Linda and I’m holding her baby brother. The relief. The peace. The grateful heart. It’s all there. Delivering a baby with a heartbeat. It was everything I dreamed it would be and so much more.