The Yellow Rose of Texas Birthday Tradition Continues…

Many years ago, the tradition began. The story has been told many times. It almost feels like a legendary tale at this point. And, so it goes. 
I was the baby of the block. My mother had many dear friends in our neighborhood- but, two families in particular, who were more like family than friends and who lived only a couple of houses down from us. These were the kind of friends that we would see every single day. My mom would be in their home when they arrived home from school having her coffee break and she, especially, was a sounding board and mentor for their daughters. My mom is still dear friends with the daughters in these families to this day- in fact, they were there with us at the hospital this year after my sister, Melinda unexpectedly suffered a stroke and passed away at 50 years old on Valentine’s Day. And, the families were intricately involved in my sister’s physical therapy as a child. (pull-hold-release)
So, all of the other kids on the block were a little older than me. Some, in high school when I was born. Some, in college. One, in particular, Ste-bo (nickname for Steven) was in college, I believe, when I was born. I remember, yes, remember being 3 years old and believing that I would grow up one day and marry Ste-bo. The tradition of the yellow roses began with Ste-bo. He passed away before I turned 4 years old, after an accident. My mom was there at the hospital. She was there when their momma would talk about heaven and how she wanted to know everything she could about heaven because Ste-bo now lived there. Their momma (affectionately called “Place” by my sister) drove my momma over railroad tracks when my due date had passed and my momma was still pregnant with me. Ste-bo was studying to be a doctor. His life was just getting started. It was a tragic loss for all of us. 
If my mom can locate it, I will add a picture of us. I think there is one somewhere with me wearing a yellow rose of Texas t-shirt. He called me the yellow rose of Texas and his momma continued giving me yellow roses on my birthday long after Ste-bo had passed away. My momma and daddy picked up the tradition at some point when I was in high school, I believe. There hasn’t been a year go by, whether I was in Texas, living in California, or on vacation that my momma didn’t find me with the yellow roses. 
It’s a pretty special tradition and has made for lasting memories and beautiful photos through the years. 
Love you, Momma. Thank you for continuing this tradition started by the Place family many years ago. 
https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1YmDo1ZrgilgzTVovdfcAaXSzlC9QE0u2
clockwise from top left: 1982, 1984 (??), 2016, 1998 (??)
https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=10jmFX3e6XGK6fqp77yYgRHrJ5pt3n-Sv
2017 with Moustapha and pregnant with Mary-Linda
https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1d9NPsufU9fpggq5rio05-hjx_T4aWLTK
2020
https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1u99slsPQ76QvpdP4nbm5KmnabEJ1PRwY
2020 with Baby Jimmie, 14 months

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

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. 

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. 

Heartbroken

Trigger 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 nearly 18 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 daughter. 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
 

“We later learned that Mary-Linda had an undetected fetal maternal hemorrhage that could have been treated had I been seeing a high risk doctor. Always check your own test results and advocate for yourself.”

El Momma, 2021

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!”


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! 💗💗💗💗💗

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! 

The baby of the family…finally some peace

He’s adorable, y’all. Like, the cutest, wanna squeeze him and hug him and delight in him all the time ADORABLE. He is five years old and still cuddles with his momma. Which is the absolute best.

He’s also a handful! He’s been getting into everything since he was a baby. And taking care of himself because he didn’t want to be forgotten. Being the youngest of four, he loves being babied and he loves being independent and in charge.  He’s fun. And stubborn. When I take him out and try to get him to sit quietly, it hardly ever works. His sister’s dance class? Nope. His sister’s gymnastics class? Nope. He does pay attention in his own activities. For example; baseball.  

But, if we just need to sit still and wait, it’s impossible. Did you see what I wrote about throwing out my back 3 weeks ago? That was this sweet boy. 
But, today there was peace. He’s reading and he’s quiet and he’s in love…with a book. 

Peace 

Happy Valentine’s Day – Old School Style

Four kids and only one room mom.
Room mom for one kid.
One classroom.
One.
That’s it.
And, that feels good.
It feels like enough.
I trust my room mom friends who take such good care of my other kids in their classrooms and I do my best with the one classroom I get to be mom in.
Valentines is one of my favorite “extra” holidays.
I love the colors.
Red. Pink.
I love the feelings of nostalgia that Valentine’s day brings.
When I was a kid, my mom used to make the biggest heart shaped valentine sugar cookies with pink icing.
She made them for my classroom.
She made them for kids in my grade who were no longer in my classroom.
She was known for these cookies.
She still makes them.
And, they are so good.
Because, they are good.  And, because she makes them with lots and lots of love.
I also remember really cute bags and boxes to put our class valentines in.
So, when we found out that we were going to have a classroom party for Valentine’s day…I knew I wanted the kids in Trinity’s first grade class to make Valentine Bags as their party craft.
The kids (pretty much) did everything for themselves.

They cut out hearts, glued on eyes, folded the accordion arms and legs. And, kept really busy and focused making their very own valentine bags.
And, I think, us parents, had a good time too.
Simple.
And kind of old school.
Just my style.
Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!
Love,
El Momma