"I feel like I'm just that person that has to hold everything together," said the mother.
The happiness of a Massachusetts mother who gave birth to rare quadruplets—two pairs of identical twins—in July, was fleeting. When one twin passed away seven months later in February this year without ever leaving the hospital, she had to say an agonizing goodbye.
She is staying strong for her other kids now. "If I am to break down and not be able to do anything, my babies will suffer," Ashley Ness told PEOPLE. "I feel like I'm just that person that has to hold everything together." She added, "I have to take care of myself so I can take care of them. And they definitely are keeping me strong."
Ness, a 36-year-old part-time hair stylist, has Val Bettencourt, a 48-year-old small-engine technician, as her partner and supporter. Daughter Chanel, age 9, and sons Isaiah, age 11, and Zayden, age 8, also reside in the couple's three-bedroom home in Taunton, Massachusetts.
Dr. Ahmet Baschat, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Fetal Therapy stated that her special pregnancy was a "1 in 10 million" occurrence. When two eggs are fertilized at the same moment, each fertilized egg divides again, resulting in two sets of identical twins.
On July 28, a cesarean section was performed to birth Chesley, Chatham, Chance, and Cheston, who were all born roughly 12 weeks early. In October, everyone but Chesley received separate discharges. Chesley dealt with obstacles that the others did not, and she passed away on February 22 while being held by her mother in the hospital, never recovering from the setback of incompletely developed lungs.
According to Bettencourt, Ness "was that little girl's voice" throughout the months Chesley spent in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Mass General for Children in Boston. Chesley was born at 1 lb. 7 oz., the smallest of the four premature infants. "When I'm around, she's tough," he said of Ness. "But I feel for her the most. I don't know what happens with her when doors are closed." Ness shared that "I don't allow anyone to see that."
Ness "was one of the most dedicated, open-minded, attentive mothers we have seen," according to NICU medical director Dr. Rodica Turcu. "The fact is there was no day since the babies were born when Ashley wasn't here. It meant the world for all four."
Ness wants to use her sadness to help other parents who are having to make difficult choices concerning their child's care. She "will be a great advocate," Dr. Turcu shares, "because she understands."
The family also had a GoFundMe to bury their fourth and also continue some home expansions in order to give the three kids their own bedroom. "Honestly, I speak about Chesley every day," she said. "All three of the babies, they'll look up at the ceiling, always in my bedroom, and they're always talking, talking, talking."
"I always say to them, 'Are you talking to that sweet angel baby right now?'" she said. "And they start laughing."
Cover Image Source: GoFundMe