About El Momma

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Getting through the Holidays and finding moments to be THANKFUL for


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



It’s personal, y’all.

We know this in our hearts. Deep down. And, yet, when we see a friend grieving we want to tell them it will be okay. 

Life will go on.

The earth will keep turning.

But, for your grieving friend, it will never be "OKAY" again.  

The deep loss can’t be replaced. In my personal experience, the loss is a child. But, I have many friends who lost their homes and sense of safety and security in the floods during and after Hurricane Harvey. Their “loss” is also one that can’t be replaced. 

Life is such an emotional rollercoaster.

The highs so high and the lows, very deep and low.

Several weeks ago, one of my childhood friends (who knows the deep loss of losing a child) texted me that a friend of hers had lost a baby at 39 weeks. The next day, another dear friend of mine was in labor with her seventh baby. I spent the day deeply invested in the outcome of her labor and delivery and in prayer. Her baby was safely delivered in her own hands Tuesday evening. 

I received two hope boxes when we lost Mary-Linda. What would I do with two hope boxes?

Hope boxes are a ministry of “Hope Mommies” 

I soon knew that my extra Hope box was meant for this other mommy who I didn’t know, but I now grieve with. I added a couple of CDs of hope and mailed it right away. 

I went to bed that week bawling. I’m sad for my friend’s friend. And, I’m joyful for my friend who just gave birth to her seventh child. (Her rainbow baby)

And, so, I grieved.

Heavily.

It makes me so sad when a family loses a child. When a mommy loses her baby.

I’m also sad as I experienced the joy of my friend’s birth and later grieved that I’ll never experience that joyous birth with our Mary-Linda.

Please don’t tell me that I should be okay because I have four living children.

Please don’t tell those who have lost their homes, that it’s just stuff. It isn’t just stuff. 

I know you love us and you want us to be okay.

But, Sometimes we are not okay. 

I believe that I am way better than I would be without my four living children, but that doesn’t mean I’m okay with losing a child.


I held my daughter’s lifeless, tiny body in my arms for hours. I couldn’t let her go. She was nine and a half inches long. She was beautiful. She was lean and seemed strong. She was born with her legs crossed and her eyes closed and her head turned to one side. She looked at peace. But, she's not alive on earth. She's gone. And, I'm devastated.

I don't know how I will grieve through the holidays. Or through Mary-Linda's expected due date.

All I know is that whatever I feel is what I feel. 

So, for all of those in our lives who may be grieving this Holiday season, a few kind reminders:

1. Lower your expectations. 
Your grieving family member might not be able to do things they “normally” do at the holidays. (Baking, cooking, gathering around the kitchen just to visit, etc.) Showing up might be all they can do and that’s okay.

2. Be willing to change or alter traditions.
In our family we usually take turns around the dinner table saying what we are thankful for. For someone who is grieving a loss, this can be especially difficult. Check out this short video by my friend and Houston Bible teacher,  Kathy Phillips of Prepare for Life Ministry on a great alternative to this tradition. Click this link https://vimeo.com/244088687

3. Try to listen without offering a solution.
It’s hard to see our loved ones sad. But, sometimes it can’t be helped and it is part of the grieving process. It’s better to just be there and say “I love you” and “I hurt for you” than to say the wrong thing. 


Psalm 118 says 
“Oh give thanks to the Lord, 
for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!” 
I wrote and recorded this little tune of Thanksgiving, based on Psalm 118, a few years ago. Still giving thanks!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Bridget's Cradles - a ministry for families who lose their children in the 2nd trimester

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

It has been three months since we learned that our daughter's heart had stopped beating at over 17 weeks gestation. I would have been a little over a month away from being full-term pregnant now, had she continued to thrive in my womb. I am so sad. My heart aches from deep within.

I am going to try to take a few minutes to describe how a wonderful ministry provided for our family on one of the hardest days we've ever walked through together. Bridget’s Cradles

I was in labor all night. Tuesday had turned to the early hours of Wednesday morning. My fever increasing. And, all hope waining. When we learned that Mary-Linda no longer had a heartbeat, we had to make some very scary decisions. Because I was in my second trimester, we could attempt to deliver her. I would be induced. Given cytotec for four doses, followed by pitocen. It wouldn’t be easy, given that my cervix (likely) would not want to open at this point in pregnancy. It could take 3-4 days. The other option was to go in for a D&E. Similar to a D&C but for a pregnancy that is further along. They would remove the pregnancy, but our daughter’s body would not remain in tact and we wouldn’t get to see her. For my heart and the heart and healing of our other children, I wanted the option to hold Mary-Linda, to be available to each of us. 


Throughout the afternoon and evening, we had many visitors. One sweet lady named Heather from “Child Life” visited with us several times. She was so kind to always refer to our baby as our daughter. And, she told us about different services she could offer us. One was a handmade cradle from an organization called Bridget's Cradles. She asked us what color we would like and we chose pink.

I didn’t know, at the time, how special this cradle would be for us, for our baby daughter and for our other children.

After many scares in the night and early morning, and little change in my cervix, Mary-Linda was born quietly and silently with only her daddy and I in the room. She was still in her sac, with her little feet crossed at the ankle and her knees tucked in close to her torso. Her head was turned slightly to one side, her eyes fused shut and her hands were tucked up under her chin. She looked peaceful. And for four and a half months along, she was beautiful. And small. And delicate. The nurse returned and placed Mary-Linda on my chest. She was 9 and a half inches long. 10 perfect toes and 10 perfect fingers. So tiny and yet so big. She even had finger prints. 

Heather, from Child Life, came quickly and dressed Mary-Linda in a cap, pinned a tiny diaper on her and she wrapped her in a blanket and placed her in my arms. 

Our older children arrived later in the day. We had moved to a different room and we planned to do a naming ceremony with the Chaplain of the hospital.

I held our sweet baby daughter all day. When the Els arrived, Heather had already created a book with photos of Mary-Linda. We decided to show the children pictures of their sister (if they wanted to see them) and to give them the option to see her in person and hold her. They were scared, but having the book of photos to look at first, was less intimidating than seeing her.

One by one, they wanted to see her. And, one by one they all wanted to hold her. We had promised each of them that they would get to hold her when she was born. We didn't imagine it would be like this, but it was a beautiful moment filled with so much heartache and love.

I gently placed her body in the hand-knit, beautiful, pink cradle. (given to the hospital by Bridget's Cradles) The cradle held her little body perfectly. Her body felt so fragile. And, Mary-Linda's big brothers and sister all held her. We all cried. It was so sad, but so important for each of us.

I've been given their permission to share some private family photos of this with you here. No one ever wants to be in this situation. Losing their infant child in their womb. But, having all of us able to hold her was a huge part of the healing process we still find ourselves in. This isn't easy. But, I am so glad we were able to deliver Mary-Linda and were all able to spend time with her body and hold her in our arms. 

I will be forever grateful to Bridget's Cradles and to Bridget's mother for providing this ministry to families going through this very difficult time. Thank you and blessings to you always.

love,
Mary-Linda's family
El Momma, Daddy and the Els









Monday, October 9, 2017

An unexpected challenge: Getting dressed after Losing a baby

Warning. This post discusses loss.
Putting on clothes.
Taking a shower.
Getting out of the house.
Putting on makeup.
These are things I haven't felt like doing lately.  Especially in the beginning. 
We lost our baby daughter, Mary-Linda in mid-August. I was 4.5 months pregnant. Just pregnant enough to have a noticeable baby bump. A very happy baby bump.
I left the hospital, two days after delivering our daughter, stillborn. My tummy still sticking out. But, I was empty.
It was a horrible feeling to go from feeling a growing life inside me to feeling empty and exposed.
I got home and ordered clothes. Tent dresses in bulk. Basically, stylish, trash-bag-style dresses that don't touch my midsection. They are way cuter than trash bags, btw! 
I don't want to be asked if I'm pregnant.
I want to be able to leave the house when I need to, and not feel exposed.
A couple of weeks ago, I made the mistake of trying to wear team colors to my son's game. I only had T-shirts. I left the field in a near panic attack. I felt exposed and scared. I don't want my body to be exposed for all to see. I left the field in a rush and sat crying in the car.
I think I'll stick to my tent dress for a while. 

Thankfully, I’ve only been asked if I’m pregnant one time since losing Mary-Linda. My “tent dress strategy” failed me, but only once.
I was at school delivering donuts for our older daughter’s ninth birthday. I had extra for my other children. I went to a table full of second graders to give a donut to our youngest son. I had the box full of donuts in my arms and somehow had caught up my dress in a way that pulled it close to my belly. I was (inadvertently) exposed. This sweet little second grade girl looked up at me, smiled and asked “are you pregnant?” My son’s eyes widened as he awaited my response. I could tell that he was afraid that I would break down and cry right there in the elementary school lunch room! I didn’t break down then. I believe it’s okay if I would have. (Feel what you are doing to feel) It’s okay. But, I answered this little girl honestly and kindly. And, it was alright. It’s good to be prepared for this kind of thing, just in case I get asked.
So, my answer was this. “No, I’m not pregnant right now. But, I was. And, that’s why my tummy is sticking out.” She followed up with more questions. Which, could have been awkward. But, it was honestly okay. Leeland and I told her that Leeland's baby sister is in heaven. And that her name is Mary-Linda. She asked if Mary-Linda left because she was angry. Leeland answered that question and said that Mary-Linda is full of joy. She was never angry. Sweet boy. Sweet girl. 

Expecting Mary-Linda, July 2017

Post loss of Mary-Linda, October 2017


Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Deep Pain of Loss

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

24 weeks.

I should have been 24 weeks pregnant today.

24 weeks.

A baby born alive, as early as 24 weeks gestation has a chance to survive. Sometimes, a baby born even earlier survives. 
I can hardly think about it.

Our daughter would have had a chance at growing up. A chance to have a full life on earth. A chance to take her first breath, look into our eyes, squeeze our fingers, nurse from her momma, cry, laugh, take her first steps, play with her siblings, dance, sing, go to school, make new friends, go to college, get married, find her passions, pursue her dreams...a chance. Just a few short weeks and she would have had a chance at an earthly life with us.

I know she's safe now. She'll never cry or feel the pain of losing a child. But, she'll never know the joy of being a mother on this earth. I hurt so deeply for the many losses the loss of our daughter, Mary-Linda, carries with it. It's the loss of so much more than I can describe. But, it's deep. It's a very deep loss.

We love you forever, Mary-Linda Elizabeth. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Such a beautiful name...

Warning. This post discusses loss. 


We had a list of possible names for our baby daughter. Fifty or more different combinations. We knew we wanted to give her a name that paid homage to both our mothers'.

I remember a day a couple of months ago. My husband texted me one name idea. I replied back with my very large list (which I started working on right after finding out we were pregnant). The list was full of girl names. So many names. All of which connected with our mothers. He replied to my text with:
"Goodness me. This is going to be more difficult that I initially thought."

We thought we had time to know for sure. The kids would often tell us of their name ideas.

Here are just a few:
Caroline
Evelyn
Oreo

We told them, "God knows her name and when we need to know we will know."

On August 15th, 2017 we knew. I remember laying there in the hospital bed, in labor with our daughter and I just knew.

Mary-Linda Elizabeth

Just say it and it sounds so beautiful. So meant to be. Our precious baby.

We named her "Mary" for my husband's mother. Mary means "wished-for child." She is our wished-for child in every way.

We named her "Linda" for my mother. Linda means "beautiful." She is beautiful and perfect in every way.

We named her "Elizabeth" because Elizabeth means oath or promise of God. We hold tight to God's promises. Especially that He never leaves us or forsakes us. Knowing I was giving birth to our daughter who was already in heaven was only something I could go through knowing I was not going through it alone. The Lord was with us. His presence was felt and known in so many ways in that hospital bed.

I often think back to that experience- the worst of my life. But, I can't help but remember so much peace in the deep heartache and suffering. That's only possible through God. There really is no other explanation.

We love you forever, our baby daughter in heaven, Mary-Linda Elizabeth. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

If Grief comes in Stages...I am still very near the beginning

Warning. This post discusses loss. 

Today has been all about guilt and regret.

Over the last couple of days, I have begun to have memories. Memories of times just a few short weeks ago when I was worried. I remember wondering if my baby's heart rate had slowed. Was it too slow? Was something wrong? I googled "Normal fetal heart rate" and found that my daughter's heart rate was in the normal range for her gestational age. But, I remember worrying. I let it go, but I worried. When was this?

I took the time to look at my search history today. I guess so I could regret even more. I found that I did the search twice. I searched on Tuesday, August 8th...when my daughter was still developing and alive. And, I searched again on Monday, August 14th...when my daughter's heart had already stopped beating and I didn't know it.

I regret googling on Tuesday, August 8th and stopping there.

I regret not calling my doctor and going in for a checkup that week. I don't know if they would have caught what was happening with my daughter then, but I could have given her a chance. I am not a big worrier. I walk around with a lot of "peace that passes all understanding." I thank God for that. But, right now, I can't shake this regret. Not now. I wish I would have given my baby girl every opportunity to live. I can't tell you that the outcome would have been different.

Chances are, I would find something else to regret, if I would have gone in to the doctor's office that week.

But, for now. I regret.

I regret that my baby is in heaven and not growing inside her mommy.

I regret that I am sitting in the rocker that we were given 13 years ago to rock all of our babies.

I regret that I didn't sit down in this rocker once while my Mary-Linda was still with me.

I regret that I didn't take my children in to see the 13 week ultrasound when Mary-Linda was dancing.

I regret that I didn't live every moment of this pregnancy like it could end.

I've read that it's good to go through every stage of grief. That it's good to feel all the feels. The bad and the bad and even the good. I guess what I am doing is "good." And, I'm talking about it here, because I planned to talk more about my experiences as my baby daughter was growing. I didn't think it would end up like this. This wasn't the plan. But, I am still talking, because, as I have sadly learned, we are not alone in this. Many of my dear friends have experienced this and come out the other side. I feel very alone and I feel so much better when I am with someone who listens or shares or just sits with me. I know there is hope for me. Hope for us. We have this beautiful, lovely family full of kids that are home with me because of Hurricane Harvey and who frankly are driving me nuts.

But, this timing must be perfect, because it's the timing that it is. I can't change it. And, no matter how much regret covers me, I can't change that my baby daughter is in heaven. So, for now, I'm super sad.

Meanwhile, I shared a song at her memorial service, which we had for the 6 of us with our pastor at Church of the Apostles Houston just before Harvey made land fall. I recorded it in my living room, after the storm, as a song of hope. You can tell I am in a state of shock still, because I recorded it with no makeup on and didn't care one bit. One day I will probably laugh about that and regret it too! But, for now, that is not one of my regrets.

In case you didn't see it and would like a song of hope in your storm. Here it is.

Save Me, Oh God by Rebekah Maddux El-Hakam

Monday, August 28, 2017

An Unbelievable Storm

Warning. This post discusses loss. 


We live in Houston. A beautiful, strong city in Texas. This week, our city is enduring a major storm. Harvey. It's horrible. So much rain. So many friends and family flooded. Mandatory and voluntary evacuations happening now as more flooding is expected. We are very close to the center of Houston. This has been a very scary week.

As we have been filled with worry and fear, we have felt incredibly blessed during this storm. So many of our loved ones who have assisted us and loved on us as we mourn the loss of our daughter, are now in their own storm. We just feel terrible and helpless as our city braces for more damage and destruction and we wait to rebuild.

Please click here if you are able to donate supplies in the Heights area of Houston. This is a local effort. Please do no mail supplies as our Post Office system will be very backed up for a long while.

Mary-Linda
Our family storm began unknown to us on August 14th. And, it doesn't feel like its going anywhere anytime soon. Losing our healthy baby daughter, Mary-Linda Elizabeth at just over 17 weeks gestation, has been the hardest trial and most turbulent storm we've ever faced as a family. Our children are devastated. We are all devastated. 

Our lives have been turned upside down.

On Friday afternoon, as Harvey approached, we honored the memory and life of our precious Mary-Linda.




We had a private service with the six of us and our pastor, The Rev. David Cumbie.

Each of us read scriptures, prayed and we sang together. It was so beautiful. And, so sad.

As I reflect back now, I can't help but feel thankful. Thankful that we were able to honor her life before complete chaos and heartache set in for our entire city. I am thankful that, if, we had to lose our daughter, that it happened when it did and not later. Thankful we weren't in a hospital when Hurricane Harvey hit. Or, that we didn't lose our daughter when we couldn't get to a hospital. So many things to be thankful for in such a heartbreaking time. 

However, it was extremely difficult. Sitting there. Thinking of all the hopes and dreams we had for our daughter here on earth. None of them will come to be. (here on earth) We are thankful for her life. We are comforted to know that she has always been and will always be with Jesus. But that doesn't change the questions. It doesn't change how much it hurts to not have her with me knowing she's growing each day. It hurts so deeply.

Harvey
On Sunday morning, we were flooded in (fortunate) with no flood waters in our home and huddled up together during ongoing Tornado warnings. We sang. We worshipped. And, the kids said they felt better singing to God. I did too. But, our hearts ache for our friends who got water in their homes. We want to help. Move forward. Honestly, I don't know how to move forward personally. I feel paralyzed as we wait out Harvey and I think about a future without Mary-Linda in my arms.

We have to keep going. Our plan is to help our friends and family when we can get to them safely. We want to be there for all of those who have been there for us and continue to be there for us. It's the only way we can move forward, by being there for our friends and family.

Our church, Church of the Apostles Houston, has set up a fund with the National Christian Foundation in order to directly receive gifts for Harvey relief efforts. All gifts will go directly to providing local assistance to flood/storm victims. 

This is a tax-deductible financial gift via check or credit card. Please click here and designate "Hurricane Harvey Relief" when making a donation.