About El Momma

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!


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.


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. 

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

Monday, January 1, 2018


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.


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.

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.


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.

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