Daryl and Beth Hartzler were ready to start a family. It was time. They had been married for three years, they both had stable jobs and purchased a home. They were ready for the baby in the baby carriage.
They found out Beth was pregnant in April of 2017. They started to prepare for their new arrival and found out they were getting two for one. They would be having identical twin girls. They were due in January.
“It was scary enough to be a first-time mother, but now trying to comprehend that I would be a mother of two and that we would need two of everything was a bit overwhelming,” Beth recalled.
Daryl said he joked to Beth at the first doctor’s visit where they heard the heartbeat that there were “16 in there.”
“That joke wasn’t funny anymore when they said we were having twins,” he said.
As the couple tried to wrap their heads around being parents to two, Beth had complications. One of the girls was not growing. They suspected mitral stenosis, which is an abnormal heart valve that blocks blood flow into the main pumping chamber of the heart. The tests concluded that the girls were suffering from twin to twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS). This is a disease of the placenta that affects identical twins. The common (or shared) placenta does not distribute blood flow and nutrients evenly to both, causing one twin to lack nutrients needed for growth.
“All of the tests took a couple of days to complete and get the results. It was the longest 36 hours of our lives,” Beth said.
Beth ended up being admitted to Riverside on Oct. 17. This would be her home until the twins were born. The goal was to keep her activity very limited and to keep her pregnant as long as possible.
They settled on names so that “friends and family could pray with purpose and intentionally.” Their names would be Autumn Rachel and River Kimberly. Autumn was the one most affected by TTTS and her life was at a “touch and go” status the entire time.
On Nov. 15, their worst fear came true. Autumn’s heart stopped beating. A decision was quickly made by the medical team to take the girls. They knew that they could do more for them now out of the womb rather than in.
“Although it was stressful and we knew the outcome may only result in one child, it felt good to be moving forward, dealing with the issues, and getting some answers,” Beth said. “It was a roller coaster. We did lots of praying.”
Finally, on Nov. 16, Beth and Daryl breathed a sigh of relief hearing two babies crying as the birth of their baby girls was complete. But the worry was not over. The babies were eight weeks premature so they were both small. River weighed 3 pounds, 14 ounces, and Autumn only weighed 2 pounds, 8 ounces. They were weak and tiny.
“The first few days were very long. I remember the day the girls were born I was up for about 30 hours straight. I was really nervous about having the girls for the first time without Beth there,” Daryl said. “She was stuck at Riverside and I followed the girls to Nationwide, but the first time I held them was one of the most magical moments of my life.”
As the girls fought for their lives and Beth and Daryl tried to cope with it all, they were finally able to bring River home on Dec. 26. Autumn was not released until Feb.13.
Coming home was very scary for the couple but they were thankful to have help from Help Me Grow (HMG) and Early Intervention services from Marion County Board of Developmental Disabilities (MCBDD). The two organizations work in tandem for children in Marion County ages birth to 3 who have early developmental challenges.
Beth said the organizations were a Godsend in those first few months.
“We had no idea of these local resources until we needed them. They treated us like family and gave us great advice and support to help get the girls caught up,” Beth said of HMG and MCBDD.
The girls turned a year old this past November. River is completely caught up and Autumn will likely not need Early Intervention services for much longer. The weight of worry has faded and the joy of being parents to twins is now the atmosphere in the Hartzler’s home.
Daryl and Beth agree that the saying “it takes a village” has more truth than most people will ever realize.