One Year

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. 
Love you! 
Happy 1st birthday to our sweet Jimmie Josiah!

Be Still and Know His Peace

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. 
I’m thankful for these two beautiful souls. Thankful they are together. And, I’m sad that we are apart. 

Matthew 6:8 …for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

The Best part of 2019 was YOU

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. 

Baby Jimmie Josiah

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 💙💙”

For Mary-Linda’s birth story, click here (Mary-Linda was born sleeping in 2017)
For Leeland’s birth story, click here (Leeland was born in 2010)

For Trinity’s birth story, click here (Trinity was born in 2008)
For Bakri and Maddux’s birth story, click ….just kidding. I started blogging in 2008. Some day I will sit down and transfer their stories from their baby books. 

Our Miracle Baby. 🌈💙🙏🏼

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.

Happy Mother’s Day 2019 – the real story

Dear Friends,
What a year it has been. I’ve been fairly quiet on my blog, as there has been so much to process this last year.

Now, here we are…another Mother’s Day. The second one without our daughter, Mary-Linda and the first with our baby boy…who will be birthed in the next couple of weeks.

I love to share the realities in our lives. But, some things over the last year, I’m just not able to share. I will say that we have endured a lot of unexpected change. And, I found myself with more time for high risk doctors’ appointments, kids’ activities, building relationships, rest for me and baby and more time to volunteer. These were unexpected circumstances that I have looked at as blessings. But, I also found myself questioning who my friends and chosen family were. Things I thought I knew, left me spinning.

Two months ago, when I was 7 months pregnant, my dear daddy passed away, after a week in hospice care in the medical center of Houston. I spent every spare moment with him and my mom and I am very grateful God gave me the time to be able to do that. I quickly learned who my friends and chosen family are. We had a village of friends who stepped in, brought meals, prayed with us, picked up kids, kept kids, took kids to activities and even brought food to the hospital. So many loved ones came to my dad’s service and continued to bring gifts, food and flowers. These acts of kindness are beautiful ways to express our sorrow when our loved ones experience great loss. And, the loss of our dad (and Grandfather) is great.

This Mother’s Day wasn’t exactly what I would have planned out for myself, if you were asking me a year ago. But, you know what?! I’m most thankful that I have four beautiful, living children and a fifth living child who is moving and kicking constantly and nearly ready for his debut. I couldn’t be more in love with this little guy. The reality report: my older children are far from perfect. I started this day crying because 1. I’m hormonal and 2. my kids were not being kind to each other and they didn’t stop and think how their fighting was impacting their pregnant momma. (Don’t worry. I let them know and things did get better)

So, as I share these beautiful photos that my sweet little cousin took of us in between Houston rainstorms this week, I want you to know that we are not picture perfect. We are real. This momma-life is hard. Life is hard. But, we won’t give up and we won’t give in. I’m very thankful that the Lord gives us strength to get through the hard things and we come out the other side. I feel very close to the other side.

Happy Mother’s Day, friends. I hope you had a peaceful day and were shown the love you deserve.

love,

El Momma

Expecting our Rainbow baby

After over one year of trying and 12 cycles, we are pregnant! And, expecting our Rainbow Baby in May 2019! If you aren’t familiar with that term, check out this article from Parenting.com that explains where the term comes from. Basically, a “rainbow baby” is a baby after a miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal loss- the “rainbow” after the storm.
We found out that we were expecting on our oldest daughter’s tenth birthday. We were “trying” so, that was a day I could test early and I did.

We had a number of ultrasounds…and I took a few #bellybump pics

We officially “announced” at Christmas when we knew the gender and were in the 2nd trimester. We told the older 4 Els the day before Thanksgiving when we took photos for our Christmas cards. 

This journey has not been easy. After losing our daughter, Mary-Linda at nearly 18 weeks gestation, my head and my heart wanted to be pregnant again…quickly. But, the Lord had different timing planned. My head and my heart actually needed something very different than what I “thought” I wanted. We needed to wait. To wait on the Lord. To listen. To trust. To hope in His promise that He would never leave us or forsake us. To know that He is good and wants good things for us. 
So, we waited. We kept trying and the longer we waited, I treated my body more like I was pregnant. Prenatal Vitamins, folate, baby aspirin, lots of water, and a healthy diet. We met with a new possible OB/Gyn, a high risk doctor and fertility specialists. Our biggest concern was something happened to my body when I delivered Mary-Linda and that was causing us difficulty conceiving. Looking at the medical records after losing Mary-Linda, I learned that I had an anti-body that was detected in my blood in early pregnancy. I was never notified of this, even though the blood results were marked in red as “trouble.” We also learned that Mary-Linda had FMH (Fetal Maternal Hemorrhage). Apparently, this is common in Moms who experience a trauma or are in some type of accident. I did not experience any trauma. According to many articles I’ve read on FMH, it would not have been diagnosed, had we not known to request a KB blood test when I was in labor with Mary-Linda. The KB test (Kleihauer-Betke) looks for the amount of fetal hemoglobin in the mother’s bloodstream. This tells if the baby is anemic and amount of baby’s blood in the mom’s system. We knew someone whose newborn baby had this, had to have several blood transfusions and was in the NICU for the first weeks of the baby’s life. Thankfully, that baby recovered completely and is now a healthy teen. 
Many people don’t know to request this test, and therefore this diagnosis often gets missed. 
We had a first positive pregnancy test near the end of August, only to find out that we miscarried early on- often called a chemical pregnancy. It was a devastating time for my husband and I, as we were already dealing with so much. But, again, God’s timing was perfect. Part of me was just thankful I got pregnant again and I began to trust that we would soon have a healthy pregnancy. Just a couple of weeks later, we were pregnant. Praise God! 
Our doctors this time around, have been amazing. They know what to check. They work well together and their goal is the same as ours- for this sweet baby to be alive and in our arms in May. My high risk doc checks for the baby’s blood flow at each appointment- I love when he tells me “baby has no anemia!” My heart overflows. To know what we know now, we are so grateful. 
About this pregnancy- I just want to add- I have truly felt at peace during the majority of this pregnancy. Feeling the hand of God on my heart and on this sweet little baby boy. We can not wait to meet him, hold him and kiss his sweet little face. He is our miracle, prayed for little child. 
Baby Shower, April 2019
For this child I prayed, <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-7240A" data-link="(A)” style=”background-color: white; box-sizing: border-box; font-family: “Helvetica Neue”, Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; text-align: start; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>and the Lord has granted me my petition”
1 Samuel 1:27

Why we continue to remember and talk about our daughter in heaven

It’s hard to explain, but I’ll try to explain it the same way I did to my children at dinner tonight.

We remember and celebrate Mary-Linda’s milestones, because she’s our daughter. We talk about her, because she is ours. She was our gift for a short time on this earth, but she is still ours. She existed. She was hoped for, prayed for, and very loved. We will not forget her. And, now that we have another baby arriving soon, we thank God even more for Mary-Linda’s life and all that experience has taught us.

We celebrate so many of our living children’s milestones. We celebrate their birthdays, their half-birthdays, their hits on the baseball field, recital performances, cotillion dances, piano recitals, their lives here on earth. So, our Mary-Linda has two significant dates- her born-sleeping date and her due date.

We celebrate the first on August 16th- the day I delivered her and the day our family dream of holding her in our arms- came true. 
The latter we celebrate on January 21st- her due date. We know, if she had been born around the same gestation as her sister and brothers, she would be one year old now. 

So, to celebrate Mary-Linda, we made (and enjoyed!) our favorite family meal- lebanese grape leaves. Recipe here. 

 And, a gluten free brownie in honor of our little girl.

The butterfly plates remind me of my grandmother, Nannie Brock, who is also in heaven. I imagine that they are joyful to be together. 

This isn’t an easy road, but we trust in the Lord. 

Proverbs 3:3-6 
Let love and faithfulness never leave you
bind them around your neck
write them on the tablet of your heart
Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding
In all your ways submit to him
and he will make your paths straight

Happy birthday in heaven, dear baby girl, our Mary-Linda Elizabeth
We love you forever. 
love,
Momma, Daddy, Bakri, Maddux, Trinity and Leeland

Remembering Our Baby Girl this Christmas

As I sit in my living room, under the beautiful glow of our Christmas tree, it hits me like a giant wave. An overwhelming sense of loss. Sadness. For a moment, I see her face. Tiny. 17 weeks and 3 days old. Beautiful. 

Suddenly my mind moves forward to the age she should be now. I would have been full term pregnant on NYE 2017. Our daughter would be nearly a year old now. I would be nursing her to sleep or watching her play under the Christmas tree before putting her down to bed. 

I miss the baby I never held alive. I miss her sweet face. I miss all the wonderful memories we didn’t get to have with her this last year. Life has continued to move forward. This year has not been easy. I am more thankful than ever for our friends and family who continue to love us unconditionally and never forget our daughter. 
I miss my Mary-Linda. Happy Christmas in heaven, baby girl. Momma loves you so. 


Happy-ish Birthday to Me!


It’s my birthday week! Yay! 🎂 and boo 😒 !
I say that because…
1. I ❤️ birthdays so much. I love my family and their birthdays. And, I’ve always loved my birthday. Last year’s birthday was the best…multiple celebrations with forever friends and the most amazing family. My favorite part, sharing the news of expecting Mary-Linda and revealing her gender to our kids and the world on my birthday. It was THE BEST DAY ever…
2. I say “boo”😥 because less than three weeks later, my happy, perfect world would come crashing completely down when we discovered that Mary-Linda’s precious little heart had stopped beating in her tiny chest at just 4.5 months gestation. Some time in the weeks/days before that, she began to lose blood- for no reason. No explanation.We were told that it just happens sometimes. Sometimes there’s an accident or a blow to the mom that causes this. And sometimes it happens for no apparent reason. Which is what happened with us. It’s called Fetal Maternal Hemorrhage. She lost too much blood and her heart finally stopped.
Perhaps one day, I’ll be able to separate these times. But, this year, this time I’m thinking about how big we celebrated last year and how big we celebrated Mary-Linda’s life. I am beyond grateful for that. I would never change that.
So, for my birthday, I invite you to make difference in someone’s life. Be the joy. Be the light in their darkness. Be the hope of Jesus to a neighbor, to a friend, to a loved one.
I want to share with you a few organizations that serve families who are experiencing or have experienced the loss of an infant. These organizations have shown the love of God to our family during our grieving and journey of healing over this past year. If you feel led to give, please do and please let me know. I’d love to know how our daughter’s life is bringing hope, joy and love to others.
Bridget’s Cradles provided us with a beautiful hand crocheted cradle that was the perfect size for our little girl. Our older children were all able to hold their baby sister in her beautiful cradle. This fulfilled a promise we made to them when we told them we were expecting.
Molly Bears provided us with a “Mary-Linda” bear. Weighing the same as Mary-Linda did on her “born-sleeping” day, with her name and a cross stitched on the bear. We love holding her and thinking of our baby girl.
M.E.N.D. Greater Houston, TX (Mommies Enduring Neonatal Death) has given us support and care throughout this past year. We participated in the “Walk to Remember” in October, honoring many babies in the Houston area. And, the support group has been extremely helpful for me to think through tough situations before they happen.
We’ve also been loved on in the most amazing way by our church family, Apostles Houston. We are forever grateful for the way they stepped in to love us in the hospital and in the weeks and months after we lost Mary-Linda. 
It’s hard to know how to properly show thanks for all the beautiful love we’ve received. So, we will just say, “we love you and are very grateful for the way you have loved us and walked through this valley with us.”
thank you for your consideration and much love to you and yours
sincerely,
El Momma
A Psalm of David.
23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.