Trigger warning: mention of loss. Five years ago, we were struggling with grief after our daughter was stillborn at 18 weeks. We were also desperately praying and hoping that we would have a healthy, earthside baby. In September of 2018, we found out we were pregnant with Jimmie. More about waiting for Jimmie here
These four years with Jimmie have been miraculous. The more we’ve learned about fertility and secondary infertility, Jimmie’s life becomes even more of a gift. The statistics that are widely shared related to fertility and women over 40 are quite discouraging. In spite of that, we delivered our baby Jimmie when I was 41 years and 10 months old.
Today, we celebrated this precious gift of life with a party at a park in our neighborhood.
We reserved a bounce house from Extreme Climbing and worked with the city to get a permit to have the bounce house in the park.
Jimmie had family and friends join from his preschool class and his BLL teeball team.
Jimmie loves iced donuts with sprinkles. He has called them “Happy Birthday Donuts” for a couple of years. We have this great specialty donut shop in Houston, River Oaks Donuts . I asked friends where to get donut letters so we could have donuts instead of cake. Everyone suggested River Oaks Donuts. I ordered HAPPY (small letters) 4 (large) JIMMIE (medium) and the decor was Astros, baseball and Spider-Man! They did a great job and Jimmie loved it!
We are so thankful for all of our children and especially thankful that God has given us these five earth-side. I hope they always know how loved and honored they are. Life is a gift. And, today we celebrate four years of JIMMIE! Cheers to many more!
I had no idea how difficult this journey would be when we decided we wanted to try for one more baby…at age 39. In my mind, none of the negative statistics had impacted our fertility journey before, so I just tuned out the noise. In some ways, I’m thankful for my innocence before secondary infertility, second trimester loss and more miscarriages. In other ways, I wish I could have prepared my heart for the unimaginable. But, now that we are here, let’s press on and talk about how it is possible to have a healthy baby and pregnancy at over forty. I’ve done it! Praise the Lord.
A little bit more about our fertility story and secondary infertility
We started TTC (trying to conceive) when our oldest four children were 6, 8, 10 and 12 years old. I was 39 and DH was 41. We were blessed to get pregnant right away. I can’t remember exactly how long we were trying. I just know that I was on a girls trip in April talking about TTC and how I had read about ways to sway for a girl or a boy. And we were trying for a girl. By early May, we were pregnant with a baby girl.
We gave very little thought to the idea that we were older or that we may struggle to conceive this time around. When we miscarried due to a fetal maternal hemorrhage at 18 weeks gestation, we were 40 and 42. The months flew by as we learned what had happened to our daughter. No, she didn’t have any chromosomal or genetic abnormalities due to our age. It wasn’t an “egg quality” issue and we knew that because we knew to ask for a KB test when I was in labor.
Any other scenario and surely my age, in particular, would have been blamed for the miscarriage in my second trimester. We were really fortunate to know what happened to her. Although, it’s heartbreaking that she had a condition that went undiagnosed by our midwives and that our midwives missed huge trouble markers on our blood work that should have sent me to a high risk doctor. It’s also comforting to know what happened to her. An unexplained miscarriage can be even more devastating, in my opinion.
Our success after 40
To recap: we have one healthy conception at 39. And, another healthy conception at 41. This one resulted in a live birth. (Baby Jimmie) As far as supplements, I started taking a prenatal with folate and not folic acid. I also took a baby aspirin throughout my cycle and continued until a couple of weeks before expected delivery. I increased my vitamin D, as well as magnesium.
In this article written by Tracy Slater, the focus is on Pregnancy over 45 and how it is very possible and has a higher success rate than many of us think. I, like many women trying to conceive over 45, have done a ton of research. In April, I ordered the book It Starts with the Egg: How the Science of Egg Quality Can Help You Get Pregnant Naturally, Prevent Miscarriage, and Improve Your Odds in IVF by Rebecca Fett. The title pretty much sums it up, but this book helped me realize the things I was doing that were helpful to my fertility and the things that I was doing that could be done better. Rebecca recommends supplements specific to your situation, whether you are trying naturally or trying via IUI Intrauterine Insemination or IVF In Vitro Fertilization. There are also different recommendations for where you are in your cycle. She also recommends starting most of the supplements three months prior to trying to conceive. This is because the dominant follicle that will mature to the egg that you will ovulate, is chosen three months prior.
I do believe that these lifestyle changes impacted my fertility in 2022 at age 45. After Jimmie, we began TTC again, but I did not have my cycle back for nearly a year and a half. We started FAM and after changing supplements recommended by It Starts with the Egg, we were pregnant within 3 months. On July 22, 2022, we found out we were pregnant at 44 (me) and 47 (him) years old! We were over the moon. Jimmie had just turned three two months earlier. We had blood work to confirm that HCG- the pregnancy hormone -was rising appropriately. Everything was good. Unfortunately, we miscarried at home at 8 weeks and 4 days on August 29, 2022. I had a routine ultrasound the week prior that confirmed there was no growth after six weeks and no heartbeat.
This experience was heartbreaking. We believed that our miracle was on his or her way. We believed that God would see us through this pregnancy. Of course, when it all fell apart, we wondered what went wrong? But, since we don’t have any clear answers with that, we decided to focus on what went right:
First, we got pregnant at our more advanced ages. That’s so amazing to me! We were just blown away that God created another El-Hakam baby after we had waited and prayed and tried for so long. Second, conception and implantation happened! We have no idea what happens after we do our part when TTC naturally. This time, we know that the egg made it down the Fallopian tube for conception and back up for implantation.
In October, we fell pregnant again. This time, I tested positive at 14 dpo (days past ovulation) and tested negative at 16 dpo. That’s also when AF (aunt flow aka menstrual cycle) began. This is often referred to as a chemical pregnancy. The embryo implants and HCG begins to rise and then something goes wrong. Likely the embryo had issues making them incompatible with life.
Again, I felt hopeful because we fell pregnant two cycles in a row. This was after two years of TTC with no success. Our lifestyle changes worked. I recently found this article written by a momma who just had her second child at 46! I was happily surprised to read about so many successful pregnancies and births by women in their forties. I do believe that our fertility outlook and chance of having a baby in our forties is not as bleak as the general medical community tells us.
Things I did to help improve my fertility over 40
1. Cutting out anything that is known for causing inflammation. There’s an exhausting list of things. And, we can’t cut every single one of them from our diets. However, even doing better, is helpful, in my experience. I am gluten free, so I already do not consume any gluten or wheat products. I’ve also cut out caffeine, drinking only the best decaf coffee from Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans. Reduced processed sugar, and increased fruit. These changes have also helped me feel a lot better.
2. Doing my best to remove items that are known to be unhealthy and can harm fertility. For me this means cutting out plastics, not drinking from plastic water bottles, not eating microwaved food, drinking filtered water and being mindful of the products we use in our home. I changed cleaning products, detergents, shampoos, soaps, and more to do my best to remove products that have known toxins.
3. Drinking drinks warm or at room temperature and avoiding ice cold beverages and cold treats. Apparently, these can be quite shocking to the uterus. We want to keep the womb warm and inviting, so avoiding ice cold drinks is critical.
4. Diet and supplements. I love the Mediterranean diet. I eat eggs in the morning and enjoy salad (not super cold) with lots of berries and leafy greens. I eat lots of nuts, hummus, lebne, fruit, fish, lamb and beef once a week. I also cut out soda. I’ve never been a huge soda drinker and already refuse to drink diet drinks (aspartame is terrible for our bodies and fertility). However, I would allow myself a maximum of one Coke a day- usually on ice. I love the bubbles in Coke. However, it’s probably not the best for fertility, so I gave up Coke. It was difficult for about three days, and then I was fine. There’s a lot of information out there about which supplements to take and when to take them. I take a prenatal with folate, vitamin D, magnesium and vitamin C. There are other recommendations depending on if you are doing IVF, IUI or a natural cycle. I have another post that will go into specifics and brands I use. Bird & Be goes into more detail here.
5. FAM: Fertility Activation Method. This has truly changed my fertility life. I did not get pregnant for two years and then conceived at 44 and 45 years old. I continue to focus on the acupressure massages at least two times a day. If you are interested, please follow the links above or click here.
To conclude, I’ve found great comfort and peace in being able to make life changes that can positively impact my fertility. I know it’s not as hopeless as some say, because my experience tells me otherwise. If you really want to carry a child, don’t give up. Pray. Ask God for guidance. I do believe that we can trust the Lord AND be proactive in our healthcare and fertility journeys. In fact, I think for many of us struggling with infertility, it’s essential that we take an active role in knowing our bodies and fertility challenges.
Wishing those of you who are in this journey all the baby dust. Please reach out, share our story and comment. We would love to support you in your fertility.
At ELMOMMA.com, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on this past year. First, we would like to thank you for being here. You being here means a lot to us and helps us support our growing family. Since founding ELMOMMA.com in 2008, we have all grown and changed so much. We had 27,000 views on the blog this month, with this post topping them all. We shared a video of Jimmie watching Momma dance that topped 100k views on Instagram. We published beautiful gift guides focused on our brand and viewers.
Personally, we have experienced a lot of change this year. In July, Rebekah went back to work full-time after not working full-time outside of the home for nearly 4 years. In July, we also learned that we were expecting what we believed to be our last Baby El. All of the Els were over the moon excited about the baby. Sadly, we miscarried at home at 8 weeks and 4 days on August 29 after finding the baby had no heartbeat the week prior.
Rebekah’s new job has been a wonderful blessing. She is now employed at the largest Episcopal Church in North America, where she plans the contemporary worship services each week. She even gets to lead worship and sing with one of her favorite CCM artists from growing up-Wayne Watson. If you know, you know this is pretty awesome.
Bakri is 17 and applying to attend Universities majoring in Music Composition. The pandemic opened up a creative side of Bakri. He is an incredibly talented composer. We still can’t believe that college is right around the corner. He is planning to minor in piano performance.
Maddux will turn 16 this week. He has his drivers permit and will be ready for his official license in two months. We are very excited for this development. Bakri attends school downtown and hasn’t shown interest in learning to drive just yet. We are looking forward to Maddux driving the other Els around safely!
Trinity is also busy applying for schools-HIGH SCHOOLS! We don’t know how this is going to work out, so we are casting the net nice and wide and looking for the right fit. She hopes to study theatre in high school and all of the schools we are considering have top theatre programs.
Leeland is in 7th grade and seems to be really coming into his own. He has participated in football and cross country this year. He plans to tryout for the middle school baseball team after the winter break. He’s also joining a new select baseball team.
Jimmie went to preschool for the first time this November. Check out our post about the first week here. He is loving school. We are very proud of how well he has transitioned. He’s singing songs he is learning at school and he’s already made so many friends.
Moustapha and me are doing well. It’s definitely a stressful time with all of the changes. I will have some time off at the end of this year and the beginning of the new year, so I’m starting to dream and plan that. Would love your suggestions on where we should travel to. We will most likely drive, because there are 7 of us and plane trips are expensive and we need a vehicle most places we would travel to. We like the idea of taking the Els to the mountains, but neither of us have been skiing with kids, so we don’t really know what to expect or how to manage that.
As we close this update post, let me remind you of a few important philosophies we hold tight to. Take the vacation. Dream the dream. Follow your heart. Be in the photo. Life is too short to stop now. Just keep going.
When they say the years fly by, they aren’t kidding. Hard to believe this young man is now in 7th grade. We are extremely proud of you, Leeland. We are proud of the way you try new things. We are proud of how you keep going, even when experiencing adversity. We love you and have enjoyed watching you grow as a baseball player and as a person. We can’t wait to see what God has in store for your life.
Congratulations on completing 8 years of Little League play!
As is tradition in the Episcopal church, most families baptize their children when they are still babies. The sacrament of holy baptism is considered “full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body, the Church.” Furthermore, The Book of Common Prayer contains the liturgy for a baptismal service, and stipulates when and how an infant should receive this sacrament.
Significantly, when we choose to have our child baptized, we are demonstrating our intention to adhere to the Baptismal Covenant and raise our child as an active participant of our local church. We baptized our older children in the Presbyterian church when they were each less than one year old. (Leeland’s baptism and Trinity’s baptism)
Delayed because of Co¥!d
Jimmie was 9 months old when the pandemic began. We were in between churches at the time. I served at an Anglican Church as the worship pastor up until we were expecting baby Jimmie.
At the time of Jimmie’s birth, we were basically without a church home. We went back to our church where we attended from 2008-2014 and where I had previously been employed as a worship leader. Our church family and pastor were welcoming, but it was strange and we didn’t feel like we belonged anymore. So, when the time came to baptize Jimmie, we talked with our pastor (at the time) about it and began to look for a date.
Our new (post pandemic) church home
Once the pandemic hit, attending church moved completely away from in person and exclusively to online. Fast forward to early 2021 and I was hired by The Church of St John the Divine as a worship leader and keys player for the contemporary worship band. We officially joined the church after attending for seven months in November.
We wanted to baptize Jimmie before he turned three. Moustapha and I are eternally grateful for our church community at The Church of St John the Divine, as we commit to fully support Jimmie’s walk with Christ.
Jimmie gets baptized
Jimmie was baptized during the Children’s 915am service which is called Awesome Worship. He was so nervous. This was a completely different experience compared to our other babies who were all much younger. Jimmie knew what was coming and he had some anxiety over it. We talked him through it and showed him videos, but he was still anxious.
Okay parents. How many of you get a little frustrated with the whole Elf on the Shelf craze at Christmas time? Me too! And, with a toddler at home, I wanted to do something extra special. Last year, I decided to get help with our elf on the shelf and I bought a kit from an account I found on Instagram. (www.Instagram.com/craftyholidayhelper) CraftyHolidayHelper, Jaime has a small business focused on holiday crafts for families. I am so thankful to have found Jaime! Her craft kits are amazing!
I love having holiday parties for our littles. Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Easter and Fourth of July are holidays we don’t miss celebrating! In addition to adding Mardi Gras, we also added St Patrick’s Day with a party box and scavenger hunt from CraftyHolidayHelper to kick us off!
Jimmie is in awe of everything. He loves the rainbow centerpiece and all of the tiny details. My older kids said it’s not a party if other people don’t come. I disagree! I think Jimmie does too. It’s a party if you say it’s a party! Happy St Patrick’s Day, everyone!
El Momma, Rebekahmemusic and CraftyHolidayHelper collaborated on this post. Thank you for your support!
It’s February, which means it’s the month of love, at least around here. We love to celebrate Valentine’s Day. This year, we took it a step further and transformed our Christmas tree into a Valentine’s Tree.
When the Els were little, we would host parties and decorate cookies and eat pizza or some other yummy dish. As they’ve gotten older, we often have conflicting activities on Valentine’s Day. So, I like to make the whole month about love with a focus on our love for family and each other.
While working on our Valentine’s Day gift guide, I wanted to get into the spirit early with these adorable Valentine’s Day themed tops. You can shop these looks at this commissionable link.
This is our fifth Christmas without our daughter, Mary-Linda. This reality shocks my system. I can’t believe it. Five Christmases. How? We actually never had a Christmas with her alive on earth. We were pregnant with her in April of 2017, she passed in Mid August and was due to be born at the end of December, beginning of January 2018.
As a grieving person, I’ve learned that we can be both- we can be thankful for what and who we have in our lives and grieve those who are no longer with us. That’s okay. And, as far as I know, it’s normal. The happy and joy-filled times come a little easier for me now. But, I’m still sad. I’m happy and I’m sad. I’m thankful for all I have and devastated that I don’t have two daughters on earth.
I am also very aware that there are people who long to be mothers and don’t have any living children with them. I promise you, I do not take my living children for granted. But, just as each person has unique characteristics and DNA, so do our children. Our living children are not replacement children for our baby in heaven.
Our living children are not replacement children for our baby in heaven.
El Momma Rebekah Maddux El-Hakam
Years ago, in the space between losing Mary-Linda and expecting Jimmie, I would attend a support group with a non profit org called MEND. There I met mothers who had also experienced the loss of their babies in pregnancy, through stillbirth or in the first year of life. These women became dear friends who I love very much. One thing that was always said before the start of each meeting was that we don’t compare our losses. We look at every loss as devastating for that precious momma and daddy. And each baby matters, whether or not they were an early loss or late term loss. They matter. That has impacted me so much as we have faced more grief in the following years.
Our grief is unique to our story and our experiences. We can share our grief and our burdens with others without comparing our grief.
El Momma Rebekah Maddux El-Hakam
The space between is different for me now. I am constantly in the space between celebrating the wins and accomplishments of my living children and wishing Mary-Linda was here sharing a room with Trinity and loving on Baby Jimmie. I am also in the space between the struggles with raising three teenagers and a tween and trying not to compare them to a daughter in heaven, who can do no wrong.
And then there come the holidays in the middle of the crazy of the last several years. As author, Ashley LeMieux stated last week, I find myself using the word AND a lot. For example, I am incredible grateful to spend the holidays with my husband and five living children AND I’m deeply saddened and heartbroken to have our fifth Christmas without Mary-Linda on earth!
I honestly don’t know any other way to be. I believe it’s acceptable and should be encouraged that we feel all of our feelings. It’s valid to be happy AND sad. Angry AND grateful. Depressed AND hopeful.
As a grieving mother AND a celebrating mother, I wanted to share with you that it’s okay. I am comforted knowing that the Lord meets me exactly where I am and gives me comfort and strength that is not my own. I pray you find comfort and peace this year, friends. Time just seems to move faster and faster. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
When we started out on this grief journey, it was unexpected, as grief and pain often are. We were, in many ways, unprepared. You know how people say “I can’t imagine” what you are going through? What they mean is they don’t have any life experiences that relate directly to what you are going through. Because, of course we can imagine. We don’t want to imagine.
But, today I want to focus on how we unknowingly prepared for this and what I believe we did that has helped us as we process and heal.
Number 1- we prayed and planned for our baby girl. We heard God very clearly and we knew it was the right decision for our family to try for one more baby. We continued to pray and seek the Lord throughout our pregnancy and loss.
In Matthew 6:33-34 the Bible says “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
We also cling to the scriptures and knowledge that God is near to us. Psalm 34 says the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Number 2- we celebrated every milestone. We had never done a gender reveal for our older babies, but wanted to do a gender reveal this time for our four older kids. It was absolutely the right decision for our family. The moment we learned, as a family that our baby was a girl will be a memory we all can take with us always. We don’t have a lot of memories with Mary-Linda, so this one stands out as one of the most joyful moments of our time together as a family.
Number 3- we created memories. Did we know that our time with her was going to be short? No. We had no idea. But, we enjoyed the time when we were expecting her. We went on vacation, celebrated birthdays, spent time with family and friends and soaked up those precious moments.
Grief is not easy, nor is there a formula to move through it. My advice for you whether you are grieving or not, is to live your life to the fullest. Love on your family and friends a little extra. We can all use a little more love.
“You will rarely regret celebrating life too much, but will likely regret celebrating life too little.”
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.
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.”
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.