Happy birthday to Me (trigger warning)

Our lives and my birthday changed forever in 2017. In 2017, I was the happiest I had ever been in my 40 years on earth. I wasn’t the least bit upset to be turning forty. I was pregnant with our second daughter and fifth child. Life for us was in the highest of highs.

My 40th birthday, our first home Dec 2004-July 2019

The following month, at my 18 week appointment I learned that our daughter had unexpectedly suffered a fetal maternal hemorrhage and her heart had stopped beating. We would go on to deliver her and hold her and deeply grieve and be changed F O R E V E R.

I’ve heard people make comments and say “she should be over it.” “At least she has living children.” “She didn’t even know that baby.” And there are people who are so uncomfortable with me sharing about our walk through grief that they question my mental health. Do you really think that I share everything on social media? No. No, I don’t. But, by me sharing my heart and my experience, I have helped a lot of women who have lost their babies in pregnancy through miscarriage and stillbirth and others who have experienced early infant loss. And, by God’s Grace we have a safe space for all, no matter where you may be in your grief journey, your fertility or infertility journey or your mental health condition. This is and always will be a safe space for you. I am here to listen, to share and to be there for other mommas and hopeful mommas.

That brings me to this year. This year, I am turning 44. There is a different level of joy from my 40th birthday, as we have waded the depths of grief and celebrated on the highest mountain tops since that day. One of our greatest joys came in May of 2019, when God blessed us earth side with our son, Jimmie.

This year, at my birthday dinner, Jimmie was so much fun. He’s learning to keep his cup down when he is drinking from a straw. And in between sips and telling me how he’s supposed to hold his cup, he would remind me of why we were at dinner, sweetly saying “happy birthday, momma.”

44TH birthday dinner at The Gristmill

I cried. Our lives look so different than what we would have anticipated them looking like just four years ago. We’ve experienced the loss of our daughter, who would be 3 years old right now. We’ve experienced the joy of having our precious Jimmie (age 2). Expecting him, being together for his birth and being home together for much of his first year and second year of life. We are incredibly blessed and thankful. Our big Els wanted to know why I was crying and Moustapha said this “God didn’t have to give us Jimmie.”

That is so true. Jimmie doesn’t replace our baby who died. But, we know we would be in a very different place right now, if we were still waiting on baby Jimmie. Thankfully, God made a way where we did not see the way. It was not easy and we are incredibly thankful.

My birthday will always be a reminder that we are missing Mary-Linda and that we are blessed with our Jimmie, Leeland, Trinity, Maddux and Bakri. A reminder that we are not promised tomorrow and to be grateful for our blessings today.

July is Bereaved Parents Awareness month.

Honest Post

Today was too much.

💛Today was too much sun, too much sand, too much personality and maybe a little too much family time.

But, in the most important ways today was perfect- because we had each other in the most beautiful setting and for a moment it felt like life came full circle after the last time we were here in July of 2017 when it was the 6 of us and we were expecting Mary-Linda. 💗

I am amazed and in awe of where our lives have changed and been transformed since that time four years ago.

We are all squeezing this precious 🌈 baby Jimmie a little tighter tonight.

El Momma and our miracle baby Jimmie
Spring Break 2021
The Els, March 2021
Mr and Mrs El 17 years and counting

How I imagine You

El Momma, big Sis Trinity and baby Mary-Linda

It’s always been hard for me to imagine how my babies will look and who they will look like, when I am pregnant. It was the same when we were expecting our second daughter in the summer of 2017. I knew she would look like an El. But, would her eyes be hazel like mine and Bakri’s? Would her hair be curly like Maddux and Leeland? Would she have olive skin like Trinity and Leeland? Or would her eyes be blue and her hair be blonde like Maddux?

When she died at 18 weeks gestation, I held her tiny little body in my arms. I remember that day so vividly. I never ever wanted to let her go and yet, I knew that her little body would not keep. And, I could not hold her like this forever. As the days passed, I would imagine her. I would have day dreams of her in heaven. I could see her. I could touch her. She wasn’t a baby at all. In my mind she was a little girl. She was three.

She was the age she would be now, had she not had an undetected fetal maternal when I was 4.5 months pregnant with her. She would have a sweet nature, because, well the Els all have sweet natures as babies. 💗 She would have had a distinct way of speaking. They all do. Each one had their own special way. She is so loved. I wish I knew more of her. But, I know there is someday. And, we are one day closer to that day.

Mary-Linda’s expected due date in 2018

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

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


My First Tooth

I am 10 months and 1 week old. Today was a big day for me, because I cut my first tooth. Yippee! I am looking forward to all of the wonderful food I will soon be able to enjoy…after getting a few more teeth, of course. But, for now, I will enjoy my one bottom tooth and my momma will update with a new photo once it comes through a bit more! Until then, I will keep smiling and making everyone around me happy.

love,
Leeland

It’s still hard to believe how it flies

Time. Isn’t it the craziest thing? Sometimes it seems to move so slowly, when we’re waiting for a big event. But, most of the time, it flies by so quickly that it’s gone before we know it. It’s hard for me to believe that my little baby Bakri, will be six years old tomorrow. Six years!? That’s amazing. In six more years he’ll be 12! That’s seems so far away! But, I know, if history repeats itself, the next six years will fly by even faster than the last six. And, before I know it, my baby boy will be in high school. Happy birthday to our big six year old boy, Bakri. May we celebrate in ways that stay with you always and remind you constantly of how much you are enjoyed and loved.

A Special Wedding Celebration

Tonight, Moustapha and I and Leeland celebrated the wedding of some very special friends here in Houston. The bride and Leeland have a darling love  affair. I’m pretty sure the groom isn’t jealous! As soon as we arrived, she swept Leeland out of my arms and carried him around the reception introducing him to everyone. It was so cute and sweet. We are thankful to call you friends and we wish you a very wonderful life together. Congratulations, Andy and Lisa!

39 weeks and 6 days

Tomorrow is our “due date!” I can’t believe we’re this close to meeting our newest little family member.

Did you know that fewer than 5% of babies are born on their due date? So, the odds are, we are not having a baby tomorrow. But, who knows? I have a tendency to try and go against the odds at times.

I’m feeling really well currently. I still have contractions a lot, but nothing REALLY painful has started yet. Trinity was born 3 days after her due date. I took the week off from yoga this week, because I really didn’t want to have the baby until I could come home to my new bedroom from the hospital. The painters finished today. So, I think I am in the clear to deliver and go home after! If I haven’t had him by Monday, I’ll resume my regular exercise routine (yoga 2-3 times a week) and running after small children. So, maybe that will convince him to come out and see us!

Me, our 21 month old daughter Trinity and Baby El4 at 39 weeks, 4 days

39 weeks and counting

Well, things are moving along here. I’m still pregnant and feeling pretty good. I had a rough day on Friday night and Saturday. I had so many contractions and I just couldn’t sleep at all. The hardest part is wondering if it’s going to increase and I’m going to meet my sweet baby boy soon or if it’s just more of the same. So far, it’s just more of the same. My parents took the boys for the weekend. And, after having no sleep, it was so nice to be able to rest most of the day yesterday. The boys had fun too. Grandmother took them to the mall to ride the carousel, play on the indoor playground, and they rode the water-taxi. They were so excited to tell me about it. I’m happy that they can go together now, but I miss them terribly.

I have lots planned this week. And, we’ll see how that works out. I know God has His own plan, so we’ll see how mine holds up. I have youth band rehearsal one evening, worship band rehearsal another evening and I’m leading Sunday morning worship at Church on Sunday. I also have an appointment with the Midwives Practice and this Saturday is my due date. I can’t believe it is actually here. I was 3 days past with Trinity. Hopefully we won’t go much longer with this little guy. At least I hope we don’t go more than 41 weeks.

Maddux took this photo of me….I think it is actually artistic… 🙂