About El Momma

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. 


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Disbelief

Warning. This post discusses loss. 

I'm still in a state of shock.

Total disbelief that our daughter is gone.

I've never lived in belief that nothing bad happens. I know it does. I have very close friends who I've walked alongside as they've travelled down this road before. Further in their pregnancies. Perfect babies born silently.

It makes no sense.

And, yet, I never considered that this could happen to us.

We are older with this baby. There are additional risks. Statistics. Blah blah blah.

And, I had more information about this baby than any of my other babies at this point. We'd had 2 ultrasounds. Perfect results from both. At 13 weeks and 3 days, I saw my little girl happily squirming around. She looked like she was dancing. She lifted her arms, put her hands to her mouth and appeared to wave to the ultrasound machine. She was adorable. Joyful. Yes, I felt like I knew her personality at this young of an age.

When I went to my regular check up appointment last week, I was concerned. My little fluttering baby was no longer fluttering. I couldn't feel her the night before. I knew that was a possibility given we were only 17 weeks along, but I was concerned because I felt flutters earlier in the pregnancy and now felt nothing.

We will never know this side of heaven why her perfect little heart stopped beating.

I have faith that God is walking this road with us.  But, I do not pretend to understand the why. Mary-Linda is loved deeply and we believe the Lord grieves with us and did not plan this for her life.

Jeremiah 29, verses 11-13 says "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart."

We never expected to leave the hospital this way. Without our baby girl in our arms. Huddled up. Hoping. Praying. Asking for God to get us through and bonding together.

The loss of a child is unbearable. It's unimaginable and we can not walk this road alone. I am thankful for each of your prayers. Every prayer, every meal, every playdate, every hug- it confirms that we are not in this alone. Even when we feel so isolated. I've learned one thing from this experience.

My children give THE BEST HUGS.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

I will Praise Him in the Waiting...My heart is broken, but hope remains

Praising the Lord in the waiting.
I will hope in the steadfast love of the Lord.
Giving thanks and knowing that the Lord weeps with us.
My heart is broken, but hope remains. 


Heartbroken

The Book of Lamentations 3:21-26
21 But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.


Friday, August 18, 2017

Heartbroken

18 
Warning. This post discusses loss. 



Psalm 34:1, 18
His praise shall continually be in my mouth. I will bless the Lord at all times;
The Lord is near to the broken-hearted

This is the hardest post I've ever written.
And, by far, the most difficult time of my life.

On Tuesday morning, at a little over 17 weeks gestation, we found out that our baby girl's heart had stopped beating.

We are devastated. Completely devastated.

Monday night, as I settled into my place in bed, I reached for the home fetal Doppler monitor so that I could listen to our daughter's heartbeat. It was a normal routine for me. I had done this same thing many times this since she was 10 weeks along. Even at that age, I could find her heartbeat. This night was different. Things didn't sound right. I didn't panic. Mainly because I heard something (turned out to be my own pulse or the placenta beating). And I knew my regular appointment was the next day. I thought my monitor wasn't working correctly. I really didn't hold on to the thought that her heart could have stopped beating.

I decided to sleep in and not work out before my appointment, just in case she was in distress.

I went to my appointment alone. As I mentioned to the nurse that I wasn't noticing her flutters as I had earlier in my pregnancy.  She said she would let the midwife know. When they went to find her heartbeat, my heart began to race uncontrollably. It sounded just like the night before. It didn't sound right. She acted as though it was no big deal and I'd "won myself an ultrasound today." I lay there still, as the reality began to sink in. I prayed for a miracle. I prayed and prayed and prayed. The ultrasound showed my biggest fear. My beautiful baby girl, still and with no heart beat. The midwife turned to me and quietly said what I feared most. "Rebekah, I'm so sorry, but there is no heartbeat."
Dear God. Please, no. She said she would go get a professional sonographer to be sure. I remained laying down on the table as one person stayed with me in the room for a while. I wanted her to leave. I wanted to be alone so I could pray out loud. So I could cry out to God for a miracle. She asked me if I wanted to sit up. I said no. I wanted to stay there. She offered to go see what was taking so long and I asked her to please do that.

As I lay there alone in the room, I continued to ask the Lord for a miracle. "God, please restore our baby girl. If there is any way, let her heartbeat be strong. Please God, I know you are the God who heals. We need a miracle."
The next sonogram confirmed the worst news of my life. Our child. Our fifth baby el. Our precious baby girl's heart was no longer beating.

Moustapha had worried with me the night before. We both love all of our children so much. I needed him. I called him. Through the tears, I said his name "Moustapha." He cried out "No!" Without saying anything else, he knew.

This is all I can share about that for now. 

Wednesday morning, I delivered our baby girl and held her in my arms way too soon. She is beautiful. She brought our family so much joy in the weeks leading up to this day. Our family now feels a deep sadness and a huge hole in our hearts. 

But, our hope remains in Christ. We know that God loves us all and that our daughter is in God's arms. We are heartbroken. Please keep our entire family in your prayers.


Mary-Linda Elizabeth El-Hakam
We will love and cherish our time with you always. 
Love you forever. - Momma and Daddy

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Full ❤️ Heart

It's fair to say that my hands look "full" in this photo. 

I think if you asked me then, I would have told you that even my heart was full. 

But, what I didn't know, is that my arms and my heart have room for more. There is more love to give and more love to receive. 

I can't wait to have another Baby El in my arms for the next family beach trip. She's already loved so much before we ever lay eyes on her or hold her in our arms. 



Now we just wait, pray and *try to* get ready for life with a baby in the house again! 

Friday, August 11, 2017

What do you consider a family vacation?



What do you consider a family vacation? 



I often read about vacations being different than taking "trips" with kids. I personally love being on "vacation" with my kids. I especially love it when we have an extra *adult* family member with us to balance out the kid to adult ratio. This year, it was just me, dad and the 4 Els and for their ages (12,10,8 and 7) it was perfect. Next year, with baby in tow, I will definitely want another adult helper along with us to help keep the older kiddos occupied. But, this year, with these four kids, we were happy and chill. 



We like driving vacations. It's nice to pack up the SUV with everything you need and get to where you are wanting to land in one day. White sandy beaches and blue water? Yes, please! We've found ourselves in or near Destin, Florida four different summers. I highly recommend this vacation. Later in the summer you will find the best deals, but given our schedules gearing back up for school, we had to go a little earlier this year.

We also both lived in Southern California after college, so traveling back to California feels like home. It's probably my favorite vacation spot. 1. We found some great round trip ticket prices last summer. And, we tend to book a timeshare week with redweek.com and have found some really great places to stay that way. We love to have accommodations with full kitchens and separate bedrooms. This is a must with our big, growing family. 

We love beach days, Disneyland, pool time, playing cards, completing puzzles, watching movies, trying out restaurants with great YELP reviews and just being together. It's a break from my normal routine and for me, it's a wonderful "vacation!"































Monday, July 31, 2017

A Birthday Surprise for the Els

Turning forty was the icing on the cake...
But, the C-A-K-E (aka the best part of yesterday) was sharing with our four children whether or not they are getting a baby brother or baby sister in January.
We've never done a "gender reveal." I don't think they were super popular 7 plus years ago. And, definitely not 13 years ago. Plus, Dad and I like to know and the gender reveal part would be for our kids and not for us. 
Since they are older, we wanted to make it really fun for them. So, we ordered a ballon with confetti to reveal the sex of the baby. We incorporated this into my family birthday party so that many cousins, grandparents, aunt and uncles could enjoy and share in our excitement. We currently have 3 boys and 1 girl. The Els are over the moon to know who we are expecting!




Popped the balloon!



Hooray!


Already in LOVE


The Els finding out on El Momma's 40th birthday! 💗💗💗💗💗

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A case for a big age difference in kids

I grew up in a family that was mid-sized. Two parents and three kids. My oldest sibling, my brother, was thirteen when I was born. My sister was eight. I was a surprise. Not that my parents didn't want more children, they just didn't think it was possible given all the time that went by in between pregnancies.

We just shared via this video that we are expecting our 5th baby El in January. We are beyond thrilled. We spent a lot of time praying and hoping for this little baby. There will be 7 years between Leeland (our youngest) and the baby and almost 13 years between our oldest and youngest! Very similar age difference to my big brother and I.


My brother and I when I was in High School



I loved growing up with a brother who was thirteen years older. He gave me so much attention when I was little and it continued when he went to college. I missed him a ton when he graduated from high school. But, we stayed close. He saved me from many a near-crisis when I lived in Los Angeles. (Thank you, Michael!) Our relationship has only grown over the years and now we remain very close friends.

From the perspective of the older child(ren), I believe giving them this younger sibling is going to be an amazing growth opportunity. No, I am not expecting my children to mature overnight. But, I do believe this will help along a very natural progression in their maturity and development. None of my children were old enough to appreciate the miracle of life or really helping in the house when any of my babies were born. That is all going to be very different this time. They have no idea how much change is coming, but I believe they are going to be over the moon for this little one and we are all going to love having a new baby El in the house! 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

You meet me where I call

April 13, 2017

Two weeks ago, I was in Palm Springs with some of my best girlfriends in the world. People that I've known for 20+ years (one, I've known for 35 years!) and I felt so incredibly blessed. Blessed to be surrounded by true friends and blessed to know that my sweet husband had everything under control at home with our four precious children.

Life is unpredictable. I prayed over and over again that I would come home safely to my family. What I didn't know was that this Monday I would be involved in a major car accident. One that left me in complete shock, in immediate pain in my left arm, and alive. I am very much alive and grateful to have more time with my husband and babies.

Without meaning to, I was taking the everyday life for granted. Feeling as though some things, like getting to the gym before a prayer meeting, were just a given. That if I set out to do something, it will get done. That assurance is no longer with me. I was hit by a vehicle that I didn't see coming. That is both shocking and concerning on so many levels. I can tell you the make and color of both vehicles that were in front of me. I can still remember very clearly the view I had down the street, what I saw and what I didn't see. And, I felt so shocked to have been in an accident that I didn't see coming. 
My point? Don't take life for granted. Hug your babies. Spend time with your besties and your spouse and your little ones. Don't rush to the gym when you could have a slow cup of coffee and meet friends for prayer. Love your family. Slow down. Be careful. Life is precious. I want to be around a long time for this beautiful life.