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. 


Mothering through the Unexpected and the Tragic

The most difficult year of mothering yet.




This time last year, Moustapha and I just found out we were expecting. It was too early to have an ultrasound and to know if everything was going okay. But we knew we were pregnant. We’d been trying for a few months and tbh we were praying for a little girl. At our 9 week appointment, we got to see our little gummy bear, a strong heartbeat and all signs that he or she was doing great and growing as expected. 


At 10 weeks, I could listen to the baby’s heartbeat at home. I did this most evenings. We had some blood work done around 10 weeks and got the results at our 13 week ultrasound. 


We were told that our baby was a girl and she was growing perfectly. I loved that ultrasound so much. Our baby girl was dancing! Putting her hands to her mouth and gave me all the feels of a happy little baby! 


We told the Els around this time but waited to tell them our baby’s sex until my 40th birthday. The kids were so excited to know either way and delighted to learn she was a she. 💗💗 


After this, we treated the next three weeks as normal. We enjoyed family time and my baby bump continued to grow. 


At just over 17 weeks, I couldn’t find her heartbeat at home. I was headed for my regular appointment the next morning and I didn’t let myself believe that she could be gone. But, the next day, my worst nightmare was confirmed. Our baby girl had passed, her heart had stopped beating. I now had to mother all of my children through a situation I never imagined for any of us. I had made promises to them- promises that they would hold their sister. Promises that we would be a family of seven. Promises of a life together. 


This was not what I promised. But, I leaned on God and kept going. Should we let the Els see Mary-Linda? Hold her? We decided to let them decide. We had photos and when the Els arrived to the hospital the day Mary-Linda was born sleeping, we let the Els look at the photos first. We gave them the option to look and then if they wanted to see her after that, they could. And, if they wanted to hold her after that, they could. One by one, they made the decision. And we kept the promise that they would all be able to hold their sister. 



It doesn’t stop there. I don’t get to mother Mary-Linda here on earth, the way I want to. But, losing her has changed the way I mother my other children. I don’t know if I’m doing it right. Is there even a right way to move through this? But, I haven’t stopped. I’m trying to love my children through it. I can’t say I’m looking forward to Mother’s Day this year. I can say I thank God for every single one of the precious souls who made me a mother. 


Please know that I’m thinking of and praying for all of the mothers out there who’ve lost, who’ve longed for a baby on earth, who have loved ones in heaven. I’m thinking of you. 


Much love,

El Momma

As Mother’s Day approaches, consider the heartbroken, the bereaved Mother, the woman who longs to be a Mother

It’s an innocent question.

Not meant to do anything other than start up or continue a conversation.

And, it’s a question we get a lot.

“How many kids do you have?”
“Oh, you just have one girl?”
“Just the one girl, huh?”
“Wow, all boys?”
“3 boys and one girl?”

A while ago, Trinity was standing with me at a checkout counter. The clerk noticed a couple of Trinity’s brothers and said “oh, you’re the only girl?!”
Trinity glanced toward me to see what I would say, if anything. I smiled and nodded to let her know that she could answer this question how she felt comfortable.
She answered quietly “yes.”

Recently, Leeland was a guest at a birthday party. I overheard another mom talking to him, sweetly asking about his siblings. How old is your brother? Oh, you have two brothers? How old is your sister? So, you’re the baby?
That’s when he looked over to me for approval. How should he answer this? He’s NOT the Baby of our family. Mary-Linda is the baby and she’s in heaven and that’s not something that we feel we need to tell everyone in every situation.

So, I gave him the same look I gave Trinity. The “whatever you feel comfortable sharing is okay” look.
He answered her sweetly by nodding “yes” he is the baby.

One morning a few weeks ago, I was at a breakfast meeting. I noticed another group of moms meeting. And one baby in a carrier. I don’t know how old the baby was, but I thought for a second, that could have been me, if Mary-Linda was still with me…the person we were meeting with started the conversation by asking us all how many kids we have.

One by one we answered. I felt the tension well up inside me. I said four. In this instance I had just met the woman and may have more encounters with her in the future. I just didn’t feel like sharing. 

Later that same morning, I was in a totally different setting and was asked how many kids I have by someone who I have just started getting to know over the last couple of months. So, this time I mentioned losing Mary-Linda in August. I said “We have four living children and well, you may have heard, but we lost our baby daughter in August- when I was 4.5 months pregnant.” The conversation continued. I cried. She cried. It was sweet and tender and appropriate for where our relationship is headed, as we become better friends. Mary-Linda is not a secret. She’s our daughter, who just happens to be in heaven. 
Please don’t misconstrue this post to mean we shouldn’t ask people about their kids. It’s just something to keep in mind, as you meet people and get to know others. There are so many things we don’t know about other’s lives. 
As a dear friend of mine often says “everybody has stuff.” It’s true. We can’t walk around on egg shells, worried that we might uncover their “stuff” and know them beyond the surface level. 
Would that be so bad? Of course not. But, I think it’s important to think about this as we approach Mother’s Day. This can be a very tough time for many. Those who long to have living children, those who are mothers to children in heaven, those who have lost their mothers, those who have found other ways to mother those they love. This can be a very painful day for many different reasons.

I meet with a loss support group once a month, organized by MEND- Mother’s Enduring Neonatal Death. MEND shared these 5 suggestions today on their facebook page. I would add- don’t assume that since you know someone a little that you know everything important there is to know about them. And most importantly, communicate. Talk. Ask your loved one what their boundaries are and respect them. For me personally, I want to talk about and think about my baby girl, Mary-Linda on Mother’s day and every day. So, if you happen to see me…you will make me smile to let me know that you have not forgotten our little angel girl. Our sweet Magnolia flower in heaven. Mary-Linda Elizabeth.

Happy Mother’s Day, friends. Sending much love and prayers for you all. May grace and peace be yours this May.

xo,
El Momma

Always Your Mother

Mother’s Day 2018

From before the moment I knew
you were mine
you were loved
adored
perfect and tiny
beautiful little dancer
oh how you danced
fluttered like a butterfly
strong like no other
you were taken from us in a moment
in an instant
silence
without warning
you were gone
and yet, you linger still
the love you shared with us all
your family
your siblings, your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins
we all miss you so
and thank God for you
your little life
goes on and on
Now, you are in the arms of Jesus
Dancing
Singing
Praising
And, I’m here, joining you from my place on earth
I hope you hear me when I sing with you
I hope you know me and know how much I love you
Do you know your mother?
I long for the day I can hold you
to see your beautiful eyes open
our beautiful Magnolia flower in heaven
Our Mary-Linda Elizabeth
gone too soon


LOVE NEVER FAILS

Our year was full of JOY as we anticipated the arrival of our daughter, Mary-Linda Elizabeth (expected in January 2018)

and as we were able to celebrate our favorite team, the Houston Astros, winning their first World Series.

Moustapha even became the Most Famous Fan in the process. (87 MILLION views on his GIF & an awesome acting performance on the MLB Network!)

However, in mid-August, at 4.5 months gestation, our Mary-Linda went to be with Jesus.

We are deeply saddened that she is no longer here with us on earth. We have great hope that we will be reunited with her one day.

And, we thank God for the joy her life brought to our family. Thank you to each of you who have expressed your sympathies. We do not walk this road alone. May the joy and peace of Christ Jesus be with you and yours this Christmas and always. Wishing you hope and peace in 2018.

HOPE REMAINS

Heartbroken

18 
Warning. This post discusses loss. 


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


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

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

We are devastated. Completely devastated.

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

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

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

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

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

This is all I can share about that for now. 

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

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

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