Getting pregnant wasn’t easy like you would think it should be. For my husband and I it took two years of trying. One full year of tracking my ovulation cycle. A week before I was going to begin different fertility treatment options and testing it happened. A test came back positive. At last sweet Angel Ellie was conceived, breaking the boy’s only curse in my husband’s family, with a due date of January 18th 2022.
My pregnancy with Angel Ellie was my first which meant a lot of new symptoms and experiences. Everything seemed like it was going right except for one thing. On December 27th 2021 I went into the University of Iowa, which is thought of as the best hospital in Iowa, with full contractions. I was taken to the labor and delivery area where a doctor and midwives performed tests on me. They confirmed I was having contractions but said I wasn’t dilated and my water didn’t break (which I tried to explain doesn’t occur in my family). They sent me home with muscle relaxers to “stop the pain”. The next day, the 28th, I was still feeling contractions so I returned to the University of Iowa where they performed a biophysical-profile. While performing the test I noticed the two ladies looking at it looked concerned. I asked what was wrong and they said we were trying to catch Ellie’s heart beating for a straight thirty seconds. At 22 minutes into the test she finally did. They gave me a perfect score and told me I needed to continue to take muscle relaxants. That didn’t seem right to me. I tried to tell them I was concerned, but they said nope you got a perfect score. I walked out thinking, they must be right, this is my first pregnancy what do I know? Looking back obviously they weren’t and they caused my daughter’s life to be taken too soon. At that point in my life I trusted the medical community to know and do what was best. I was naive.
The following Tuesday I went in for an iron infusion. I was told I had to have the infusion if I was going to deliver with them. During the process my stomach was feeling a little sour which I expressed. They responded that ‘it’s normal to feel this way because of the iron going inside.”
Later in the week on Thursday morning I started calling and complaining I wasn’t feeling good. Their advice was to take a warm bath and a nap. I did. I listened. They know best I thought. I woke up and immediately noticed a greenish brown goo was in my underwear. I was scared by this point as I didn’t feel right and it seemed no one was listening. I called the University of Iowa again and they said everything was fine, but if I felt like I should come in, I should. Their tone and what they said made me feel like I was the one in the wrong, as if I was just over exaggerating. It was all in my head and I was stupid for calling.
I told them I was coming in. I was forced to wait in a small waiting room for fifteen minutes before I was finally put into a room. They tried to examine my baby and I with a heart monitor. They were having trouble finding a heart beat so they used an ultrasound machine and left the room with a promise to return. A few nurses came in to check the machine. Then more came in to check it with a doctor. At this point my husband who was with me and I knew something wasn’t right. Then we heard those dreaded words.
This is the point with where most stories end. But the hospital had other plans. At that point I was asking why we weren’t rushing me into an emergency c-section. Why was nothing being done? No one would give me an answer. Eventually, after much arguing I was told a c-section wasn’t their procedure and they wouldn’t be rushing us in for one. I was told I would have to deliver naturally to carve the pathway for my next child. So, I requested a new team. All but one nurse left the room without explanation of when the new team would arrive. Thankfully, one African American Christian Nurse chose to stay with me for 10 minutes, as my husband was making calls, and bravely asked if I wanted her to pray over us. She did and we prayed together. I would find out later there was a shift switch which meant after she left we were left alone for a little over an hour waiting on a new team.
Around six o’clock our new medical team arrived in the room shortly before my family would. They moved us into a labor room instead of the triage room I had been in. At this point the medical team still didn’t know how long Ellie’s heart had not been beating for but still refused a c-section. Due to my small size I was afraid my sweet Ellie would be stuck in me if I was to deliver vaginally. Between 6 p.m. until 1 a.m. the next morning, my family and I would have to argue for a c-section. The irony in that long battle was that these were the very women doctors who argue for my body my choice decisions for patients. But when I knew what was best for my body they refused. After hours and hours of arguing and agreeing to sign any liability waivers if needed they finally felt her head and agreed to a c-section. Afterwards, I would find out if we hadn’t proceeded with the c-section Angel Ellie would have come out in pieces which is a trauma I didn’t need. On January 7th at 1:48 a.m. Ellie Mae Ann DeWolf arrived sleeping in this world.
My husband and I would exit the hospital with no baby, but a box instead. After an autopsy was performed we found out she had been gone 12-48 hours before she was delivered and they listed her death as “no known cause”. It’s obvious that if the hospital’s actions had been performed differently life would be different. When you put all the pieces together you realize the cause isn’t unknown, it was the University of Iowa’s negligence.
The morning of her delivery we spent time with her taking photos to remember her by. I really wish we would have spent more time with her and gotten more photos but I was in shock. I wish there had been a photographer at the hospital but we had to use our own phones which weren’t the best quality. We had been promised molds of her hands and feet but they were never done. We only received hand and foot prints along with a certificate of stillbirth. Luckily, throughout this process we had good support from our family, church family, and friends from near and far. Nevertheless, everything has felt like a rollercoaster of emotions.
Just like the account of Noah in the Old Testament of God keeping his promise about the flood stopping and rainbows appearing we knew God would keep his promise to never leave us or forsake us. He would work all things for good because we love him and trust in him. If it was his purpose for our lives to be parents it would happen even if we emotionally didn’t feel that was possible again.
We were released at 4 weeks postpartum to begin trying to conceive. We knew that this was earlier than normal however with how long it took to get pregnant with our sweet angel they said we could go ahead because they didn’t know how long it could take again. We conceived in July of the same year. However, by growth ultrasound it was August 15th. Our growth ultrasound never lined up with the actual facts. In the end, the hospital we switched my ob care to ultimately listened. With my growth ultrasound being off and us wanting to make sure we brought a baby home and learning to advocate as that was the number one lesson we learned from our experience with losing our daughter was to advocate. Advocating for myself hasn’t been easy. We ended up finding a fantastic doctor in Des Moines, two hours away from our home each way.
It took a while to find doctors we could trust and who would listen to us. Through this process of figuring out my next babies timeline we have been accused of crazy stuff like me being raped and of my husband sticking sperm inside me from the mouth of a doctor.
Finally, we got in with my regular OB at OBGYN Associates to where we would deliver at MercyOne as well as having my MFM doctor at UnityPoint through Dr. Oscar. Both worked together and I was seen three times a week, twice with my OB and once with MFM. My MFM doctor put a plan into action that I would be able to be put into the hospital at 36 weeks to be observed for the full week and be delivered on the 37th week by growth ultrasound.
William had other plans and was going to be delivered even earlier, that Sunday before the Friday that I would be put into the hospital. That day was for sure a crazy one, having me ride two ambulances one by 9-1-1 up to Mahaska hospital and then Mahaska was able to transport me the rest of the way to Des Moines. I hadn’t dilated nor water didn’t break, but strong contractions for labor 4 minutes apart upon arriving at Mahaska and one minute apart upon leaving Mahaska. Arriving at Des Moines the contractions had never stopped. At that point they sent me to get ready for the c-section that was about to occur and prepped my supports. My husband and my mom were prepared for when the baby was born. My mom could be with me while my husband left my side to be with baby William.
William Henry Bennet Lee DeWolf arrived April 2nd at 35 weeks and 2 days. My first words when they said are you ready to meet your son. Was, “He’s already out?” After two weeks and two days in the NICU we got to go home. He is now a 4 month old chubby rainbow baby boy, at the time of writing this.
From my experience, “advocate!” If you feel like something is off, make your voice known. There’s no time machine like I wish there was so I can go forward and try to help where I can. William will know of Ellie, that he has an amazing big sister in Heaven above. We have an elephant with her name and another smaller elephant that William gets to hold onto.
Maternity photos taken by Cassie Woodward Photography.
Newborn hospital photos taken by Diana Rinderknecht Photography.
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