I Don't Know How You Do It

Surprise! It's Quadruplets: Navigating Grief and Gratitude, with Ashley Ness

November 07, 2023 Jessica Fein Season 1 Episode 43
I Don't Know How You Do It
Surprise! It's Quadruplets: Navigating Grief and Gratitude, with Ashley Ness
Show Notes Transcript

It's one thing to find out you're pregnant when you aren't expecting it. It's another thing altogether to find out you're having quadruplets.

Ashley Ness is a true inspiration when it comes to handling the challenges of motherhood. During the pandemic, Ashley received the unexpected news that she was pregnant with quadruplets - a one in 10 million occurrence. With three children already at home, Ashley's life took a dramatic turn.  Ashley's journey includes spending seven months in the NICU with one of her babies, Chesley May, who sadly passed away. Her strength and unwavering dedication to her children is truly remarkable. Join us as we delve into Ashley's story and learn valuable lessons about resilience, balancing work and family, and finding the confidence to handle more than we ever thought possible. You'll also hear directly from the unexpected hero who helps Ashley take care of her brood.

Making tough decisions for a medically complex child
Parents of medically complex children often face hard decisions, something Ashley experienced with her daughter Chesley May. These decisions can include seeking aggressive medical interventions or prioritizing the child's quality of life. Listening to what their child communicates physically and emotionally plays a crucial role, even when the message leads to heart-wrenchingly tough decisions.

Get ready to be inspired by Ashley's incredible journey on this episode of "I Don't Know How You Do It."

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Music credit: Limitless by Bells


Jessica Fein: Welcome. I'm Jessica Fein, and this is the “I Don’t Know How You Do it” podcast, where we talk to people whose lives seem unimaginable from the outside and dive into how they're able to do things that look undoable.

I'm so glad you're joining me on this journey. And I hope you enjoy the conversation. 

Welcome back to the show. Before we get into today's episode, I want to let you know that my memoir, Breath Taking, is available for pre order now at Amazon, bookshop.org, Barnes & Noble, wherever you like to get your books.

And it turns out, I'm learning so much about the publishing and bookselling process, it turns out that pre orders are actually really important. So consider ordering it now and then it will just arrive on your doorstep as [00:01:00] soon as it comes out this spring. Thank you in advance. And now onto the show. 

My guest today, Ashley Ness has quite the I don't know how you do it story.

During the pandemic, Ashley found out she was pregnant with quadruplets. She was carrying two sets of identical twins, which is a one in 10 million occurrence. Ashley and her partner already had three kids at home and thought they were done with the family building phase. As you can imagine, everything in Ashley's life was turned upside down.

Ashley and I talked about what it's like to go from a busy home to a crazy busy home, the unexpected hero who helps take care of her brood, and why she thinks continuing to work outside of the home is so important. We also talk a lot about Ashley's journey with one of the quadruplets, Chesley May, who lived to just seven months.

Ashley spent every day of those seven months in the intensive care unit with Chesley, bringing her other three babies with her. It is my [00:02:00] honor to introduce you to Ashley Ness.

Welcome Ashley. How are you today? 

Ashley Ness: Good. Yourself? 

Jessica Fein: Good. I'm so glad to have you here and what a remarkable story you have. Let's start during the pandemic. We're going back. At that point, you and your partner had how many kids? 

Ashley Ness: He had three and I had one. 

Jessica Fein: And how many were living with you?

Ashley Ness: The three. So his two youngest and mine.

Jessica Fein:So let us get the picture a little bit. How old were those kids? 

Ashley Ness: 10, 8, and 7. 

Jessica Fein:And the last thing on your mind was adding to your family, right? 

Ashley Ness: We literally just decided we're not having any. He has three healthy children. I have one healthy child. We were good. 

Jessica Fein: You were good. So then what happened? 

Ashley Ness: Then, I was trying to renew my birth control, and I kept calling the office, you can't be seen, you gotta have a new doctor, and I'm like, okay, you can't just call a script in for me, they're like, no, and I was like, alright, [00:03:00] well, it's, whatever.

So, I finally get in, and we go through the whole appointment, and then she's like, Alright, she's like, yep, you're all set. She's like, actually, she's like, Ashley, you know, we're gonna take a pregnancy test. 

Jessica Fein: Wait a second, so this was an appointment to get birth control when she was like, We have to take a pregnancy test.

Ashley Ness: Yes. She's like, I just want to make sure and I was like, okay, well, that's gonna be funny. That's a joke. And she's like, I know, but I have to. I'm like, okay. So I'm sitting in the office, 15, 20 minutes goes by, she's still not in the room. I'm like, what's going on? So then she comes into the room and she was, honey, you’re pregnant. And I said, you're funny. She's like, no. She's like, I took three tests. And she's like, here they are. And I was like, Oh, she's like, I didn't believe it myself. And I was like, okay, so we're having a baby. We're having a baby.

Jessica Fein: So you go home and you're like, we're having a baby. There I was trying to get my birth control and that's not exactly what I was expecting. How far along were you when you found out that you were having not one or [00:04:00] two or even three, but four babies? And by the way, how does a technician even break that news?

Ashley Ness: That was a fun visit because clearly during COVID, so by myself once again. So I was six weeks pregnant.

So I go in and I was like spotting a little bit. So I honestly thought I was going to go in and she was going to say, I'm sorry, but you're miscarrying. Because that has happened in the past with me. She's doing the scan and I'm watching it and looking. I'm like, oh, I see a heartbeat. I'm like, okay, so the baby's fine.

And then. She writes gestational sac A and B, and I'm like, I'm having twins. She was, Oh, I don't know. So she starts the scan again. And then she's like, I got to step out for a minute. I'll be right back. 

Jessica Fein: Oh, that's never good. 

Ashley Ness: I'm sitting there by myself now in a state of panic. Cause I'm like, all right, I saw the heartbeat, but what's going on?

She literally just left me. It felt like an hour, but she was probably gone for maybe 20 minutes. She comes back. She starts the scan back up. She's like, you didn't tell anybody yet, did you? And I was like, no. [00:05:00] She's like, all right, good. So then she starts and she's like, um, honey, she was, you're having four babies.

Jessica Fein: Oh my God. 

Ashley Ness: She's like, I literally stepped out of the room to Google it to see if this is even possible. 

Jessica Fein: Oh my goodness. 

Ashley Ness: Actually, I've never seen this in my life. 

Jessica Fein: And it was two sets of identical twins. That, I believe, is a 1 in 10 million chance. Is that right? It is. Okay, 1 in 10 million, the technician is Googling it, what is going through your head?

Ashley Ness: I was crying, I was so scared, I'm like, oh my god, how do I do this? I live in this tiny 3 bedroom home, the boys share a room already, Chanel's room is tiny, she can't fit any babies in there, my room is small, I'm like, oh, they'll be with me till they're 10, like, I don't know what I'm gonna do. I just kind of accepted it, but was still very scared.

And then they had me go to an MFM doctor, and that's when everything really set in. 

Jessica Fein: What's an MFM doctor? 

Ashley Ness: Maternal Fetal Medicine. [00:06:00] 

Jessica Fein: Okay, and so before you go to the MFM doctor, presumably you tell your partner. 

Ashley Ness: Oh yeah. 

Jessica Fein: What did you say? 

Ashley Ness: So he kept calling me and he's like, is everything okay? And I was like, yeah, let me call you back.

So then when I was walking out of the office, I called him and he's like, so what's going on? I'm like, well, are you sitting down? And he's like, what? Just tell me. I'm like, I just want you to sit down, please. And he's like, we're having twins. I go, Nope, we're having quads. And then he hung up on me. Yeah. He was not very happy with me.

Jessica Fein: Oh my goodness. Okay. So then what? 

Ashley Ness: So then I came home and I was like, Oh my God, like, what am I going to do? I'm like crying the whole way home. I'm like, he's clearly not happy. I get it. Cause we literally just made that decision that we weren't having any more kids, and then 

Jessica Fein: Okay, but hold on, he played a role here.It was not you going off and doing this independently. 

Ashley Ness: Nope. So I was like, oh no. What do I do? I'm scared. Everything is just going through my mind. So I came home, he was in the garage, and I just sat in the house and I [00:07:00] was just like, okay, I gotta process this myself, let alone having to process it with somebody else.

So I was like, just looking at the ultrasound pictures and I'm like, wow, this is real life. I'm having four babies. 

Jessica Fein: Even hearing you say it. And by the way, PS, let's remind everybody who's listening, you already had three at home. Yes. So you're going from three to seven. 

Ashley Ness: And I was like, oh man, this is a lot.

And like our kids were at the age that they're more independent, you know? So to have to start all over again, I'm like, whoa, this is a big change. 

Jessica Fein: How'd you get him from tinkering in the garage and being angry to getting on board with this? 

Ashley Ness: Cause it was happening. He came in afterwards, he needed to just adjust to it himself.

So then when he came in, he's like, so what's going on? And I was like, we're having four babies. Here you go. And I showed him the ultrasound. He's like, Oh my God, are you serious? I'm like, yeah, I'm serious.

Jessica Fein: One of your babies, Chesley May, [00:08:00] spent her whole life in the NICU. Can you tell us about her?

Ashley Ness: She was my smallest of all four of them. She was one pound, seven ounces. 

Jessica Fein: And she lived in the NICU for just about seven months. 

Ashley Ness: Yeah, so it was a week shy of seven months. 

Jessica Fein: During that time, for seven months, you went to the NICU to be with your daughter every single day.

And you brought the other three babies with you. 

Ashley Ness: Yep. As soon as they came home in October, I did. 

Jessica Fein: So day after day, you went to spend the day in the NICU bringing three newborns with you. Please paint that picture for us, because I can't even envision what that looks like or how you do that. 

Ashley Ness: It was a lot, a lot of work between packing all their bottles, and I was nursing, so I was pumping for all of them.

So between bringing milk from home to bring it to Chesley, I was obviously bringing milk for them too, and pumping while I'm there, leaving it for Chesley, because it's very important for her. I [00:09:00] would have my little Wonderfold wagon. I had my little Dockatots inside the wagon. I put the three in there so that I would take the babies out of the car seats.

Bundle them up, put them inside the wagon, and then walk myself into the hospital every single day. 

Jessica Fein: First of all, you must have been like the rock star there, and everybody knew you. 

Ashley Ness: Oh they all knew. They're like, oh, here she comes. I did have a lot of people that would stop me, like, do you have puppies in there?

I'm like, nope, they're not puppies. They're babies. 

Jessica Fein: How do you bring three babies into the NICU? I mean, was that even allowed? Like how does that work?

Ashley Ness: So they did allow siblings. And I told them, I'm like, listen, it's very important to me to have my babies together because they needed that bonding time.

They're twins and, well, they're quadruplets, but they each have their own identical twin. So I'm like, I can't separate them. Like, I wanted them together. And it was hard as is because, Chatham, Chance, and Cheston were all in a room together and Ms. Chesley May was always by herself. That was hard on me because I always wanted to have the girls together, but [00:10:00] unfortunately it didn't work out that way.

Jessica Fein: At almost seven months, you had to say goodbye. You told me that that was one of the bravest things that you could have done, and that you made that decision for her and for the family. Do you want to share a 

little bit about that?

Ashley Ness: I do. It was hard. She suffered the most out of all of them. So Chatham and Chance and Cheston, all on day three of life, they ended up having perforations in their stomachs, and they had to go in for emergency surgery that day. 

Jessica Fein: All three of them? 

Ashley Ness: All three of them. So it was day three after birth. So I was faced with that right off the bat after having them. And to be 100 percent honest, I thought that when they called me down from my room to go down to the NICU, I thought they were telling me that I lost three of my babies.

And I was sitting there waiting for the doctor to come in. Then they finally came in and they told me what had happened that the NG tube, they think, or they believe, is what punctured their stomach. 

Jessica Fein: And for people who don't know, that's the feeding tube that they had. But why would it have happened to all three of them?

Ashley Ness: [00:11:00] That's what we're trying to figure out. Still, no one really has an answer on it. Even the doctors are like, this is a one in a million chance of this happening. We don't know how it happened simultaneously to three of the four of your babies. 

Jessica Fein: Well, so that's a one in a million, and it happened three times.

Meanwhile, you're having two sets of identical twins, which is a one in ten million. So I don't know. I hope when it's lightning outside, you are like huddled inside. Because the odds, my friend, for you are wacky. 

Ashley Ness: Yes, that they are. So I overcame that battle and I was like, good, finally, we can just be at rest right now.

And then everything was a smooth sailing, you know, there was a little hiccups here and there to be expected than NICU, especially with premature multiples. And then it wasn't until December 28th when three of them, so they all had stage two of ROP, all four of my babies. 


Jessica Fein: I'm sorry, what's ROP? 

Ashley Ness: It's retinopathy of prematurity.

Jessica Fein: Okay, so what does that mean? 

Ashley Ness: The blood vessels don't stop [00:12:00] growing, I believe, so they had to laser them to stop it. It was on December 28th I had to have that done for Chance, Cheston, and Chatham, and then Chesley May went in for her tracheostomy on that day. All four of my babies were having surgery on one day.

Oh my God. And we did the tracheostomy because she did have severe chronic lung disease, and we tried every avenue to stay away from it, but that was the best choice for her and to help her. They warned me, and they said, you know, Ashley, just because we do this tracheostomy, she's not going to miraculously be better that day.

And she's like, it can get worse before it gets better. And I want you to prepare yourself for that, which I appreciated so much. So I did prepare myself, but she was doing really well. And then every other day she was getting sedated because she was trying to breathe on her own and she wasn't letting the vent work for her.

Then she'd have her great days and she was awake and then. You know, she'd have another hiccup and then we had to sedate her [00:13:00] again. There was just so much of that back and forth and up and down with her. And then she was having seizure like activity. So she was tested and it wasn't catching anything. So then they just deemed it as all the medication that she was on was causing these seizure like activity.

So I was dealing with all of that. And then towards the end, there was another child in there and kind of very similar situation with Chesley. And I always said, if my baby ever gets to that point, I need to know 100 percent because I don't want my baby to go through what that poor little baby goes through.

They were like, Ashley, don't worry. She's going to be fine. She's a fighter. And she did. She fought so hard, so hard. I was so proud of her. So at the beginning of February, she ended up spiking fevers. She was sweating all the time, getting sick. No one knew what was going on. They tested her for multiple, multiple viruses.

Everything came back negative and I finally said, listen, she has meningitis. I know she does. Can we test her for that? But it's like, I didn't [00:14:00] really want to because I didn't want to do the lumbar tab. Like there were so many different things. I'm like, I need to, I need to know. Cause this is the last thing that we haven't tested for.

And I know it's going to be positive. So they finally did it. And it was negative. And I'm like, Oh, great. So what is going on with my poor baby? And then February 22nd, when I went in that morning, it was a normal visit. I had my niece with me because she wanted to meet her. We literally walked into her room and four minutes after being there, she coded.

And I've never ever seen that before. She's had her moments and stuff, but never. To that extreme being there and seeing everything. I didn't want to keep going against what I felt like her body was telling me, but I did allow them to bag her the little breathing mask, like you're putting over her face and like doing the manual breaths for her.

But I thought it was because she was fighting against the vent. I didn't know that in all actuality, that is helping bring her back as well. Being there that day and [00:15:00] watching what they had to do to get her back. Was the worst thing any parent has to say. And just to see your baby suffer, it was a lot.

Nurses, they were so calm. They did amazing. Like, just they comforted me. They were awesome with Chesley. I had all the nurses come in and they took Chance, Chatham, and Cheston away, so that way they were out of the room. They just did an amazing job and then she came to and I was just sitting there and I was talking to the respiratory therapist and I just looked at her and I go, she's not going to make it and she goes, honey, she's tired and she's like, she has fought so hard and I just looked at her and I just like cried.

I watched her suffer. I saw her little face and like, I can't do that to her. And they were like, Ashley, I will not just use this right now. Like, you have to really think long and hard on what you want to do. And I was like, okay, I will. And I just like sat there and I just like held Chesley and this is like [00:16:00] 15 minutes.

And then she coded again, they went through the whole process again. And once again, I was, I was by her side holding her little hand and it took a lot longer to get her back that time. And I just looked at them and I said, you can't do this anymore. It's just getting worse and worse, and I'm like, she's telling me, she's like, literally saying, like, Mom, I can't do it anymore.

So, I couldn't see that little girl suffer much longer. And I sat down, I was like, I was ready for whatever was thrown my way with her, like, I didn't care that she was medically complex, I didn't care about any of that. That was my baby, I loved her as long as that's what she wanted, and that was the life she chose.

I would do anything for her, but I also had to be her mom and her advocate and really step out of the picture and not think of anyone else but herself. Would she want to not be able to run around and play with her siblings? Would that be her life for her? Was that fear that I'm going to have to sit here and be with her all the time and like her siblings aren't going to have me and that her siblings are going to [00:17:00] hurt for Her all the time and there were just like so many things that were going through my mind at that moment and I was just like, I can't do this for her.

If she pulls through, she's pulling through on her own because she truly wants to be here and it's the hardest thing a parent has to do and I feel like a lot of parents don't do it. And I can understand it, believe me, a hundred percent, because I didn't want to do it. But I also had to really put myself in her shoes and really listen to what she was telling me.

Jessica Fein: Thank you for sharing that. And you know that I so personally relate. One of the doctors I will never forget in my daughter's care said to me one night while we were waiting for some tests to come back and she was suffering. And the doctor said to me, She's going to tell you what she needs. And I remember at the time being like, what do you mean she's going to tell me she can't talk now?

And she's the, you know, all this stuff. And she said, you just listen and she'll tell you. And that always, [00:18:00] always stuck with me because they do. They tell us. 

Ashley Ness: A hundred percent. They do. 

Jessica Fein: All right. So now we're going to fast forward. You've got a lot of kids at home and P. S. You also work. 

Ashley Ness: I do. 

Jessica Fein: Logistically, how do you make that work?

Ashley Ness: So I'm not gonna lie, I really did not want to go back to work at all. I wanted to be a stay at home mom, but unfortunately bills don't stop coming. Listen, 

Jessica Fein: Listen, if it's a one in 10 million chance, I think bills should stop coming. There should be somebody out there who says it's one in 10 million, we can cover the bills.

Ashley Ness: I agree with you 100 percent on that one, but I am very fortunate. Because I have my dad that actually watches my babies two days a week for me on his days off from work. So, yep, he has two days off a week and he watches my children for me. 

Jessica Fein: Hold up. Your dad watches three babies for you two days a week.[00:19:00] 

Ashley Ness: Yes. 

Jessica Fein: May I ask, and it's okay if the answer is no, how old is your dad?

Ashley Ness: Hey dad, can I tell him your age? He's 72 years old. 

Jessica Fein: Okay. Okay. So dad's there. So hello. Can we please talk to dad for a minute? We need to meet this hero.

Ashley Ness: Hello, dad.

Jessica Fein: Dad's coming on, guys. How are you? Presumably, you have a name other than dad.

John: I'm John. 

Jessica Fein: Hi. So nice to meet you. And oh my God, you are a total hero. What made you volunteer for this job? 

John: I love my grandchildren. 

Jessica Fein: Okay. There you go. That's what it boils down to. I have to ask, were you very involved when you had little kids of your own, or is this whole taking care of babies thing new to you?

John: Yeah. It was tough raising my own kids, because I had to work and all that, and when they grew up and they had their own kids, and I started babysitting the first grandchild and the second, and it just keeps on coming.

Jessica Fein: [00:20:00] It kept on coming. They were like, we got a built in babysitter here. 

John: I enjoy it very much.

Jessica Fein: It's amazing. And you do this solo, right? 

John: Yes. 

Jessica Fein: Okay. How do you take care of three babies solo? Like, literally, how do you do that? 

John: It's getting a little bit tougher now. Um, cause they starting to crawl and they go all over the place. But she's bringing them up right, saying no, thank you. And they listen.

That's all I have to say is no, thank you. And they just stop. They're very good. And she's an amazing mother.

John: mother. 

Jessica Fein: Do you go to them? Do they come to you? How does it work? Uh, she 

John: Uh, she brings them over at eight o'clock in the morning. She works until about six o'clock, six thirty. And I have them the whole day. 

Jessica Fein: Oh my goodness.

So you have to set up your home for three little ones. 

John: Yes. 

Jessica Fein: Oh my gosh. Okay. You're amazing. Thank you. It's incredible. Incredible what you're doing. [00:21:00] Is this ever what you imagined life at this age would look like for you? 

John: No. But whenever she told me she was pregnant with four babies, I was shocked and I couldn't believe it.

But I was also so happy I'm going to have little babies around again.

Jessica Fein: Amazing. Thank you so much for sharing that with us. And I think that is just totally incredible. So hats off to you and to the whole family for having each other. That's incredible. So, Ashley, I'm wondering, do you ever look back at your life, pre the babies, this round of babies, and think, like, God, I was stressed then, or I thought it was hard then?

Ashley Ness: Yes So many times.

Jessica Fein: Right? What would you even say to you?

Ashley Ness: I don't even know, to be honest with you. Like, I still, I'm still trying to figure out myself, like, how I even do this. 

Jessica Fein: Yes, well, figure it out because we all want to know. 

Ashley Ness: Sometimes I'm like, did I sleep last night? Did I change stuff? Did I feed them?

Jessica Fein: I hadn’t even thought about that. At the very beginning, with those brand new babies, you're not getting sleep, right? I mean, you're sleeping for like two hours here or two hours there, but if you have three, even if they're on the same schedule, like, I'm just trying to figure that out.

You must have gone for like a year without sleeping. 

Ashley Ness: Yes, and it was so different because when I had my daughter, she literally came home from the hospital sleeping through the night. So the older one, Chanel, was such a great sleeper. These babies are going to be amazing.

No, definitely not. 

Jessica Fein: Wow. And you're a hairdresser, right?

Ashley Ness: I am. 

Jessica Fein: So you would go in. I mean, if the person cutting my hair hadn't slept in, you know, a year, I might be a little nervous. Do they know what you're dealing with on the home front?

Ashley Ness: They do. I love my clients. 

Jessica Fein: Do you ever get alone time?

Ashley Ness: Well, actually, when they're sleeping.

But not really, because then it's like I spend that time with the older kids. Right. 

Jessica Fein: Oh my gosh. Okay, do the older kids help out with the little ones?

Ashley Ness: My daughter is extremely helpful. His middle child, so the oldest that's in our house, he's actually getting really good with them and he's actually more engaging more with them, but he's a boy.

Jessica Fein: Well, excuse me, but your dad's a boy and he's got three babies now. So 

Ashley Ness: it is so difficult. Chanel's has always been so motherly, like always had baby dolls, like literally the Christmas that I found out I was pregnant. I bought her a silicone baby doll because she wanted a real life baby. So I purchased that for her, which was crazy money, and then I found out I was pregnant.

I'm like, Oh, I've got to save money on that. Man. I'm like, Can I, can I sell him Chanel? I need money for the baby. 

Jessica Fein: So what advice do you give, if anybody was ever courageous enough to come to you and say, I'm tired, I feel overwhelmed, which probably if they're smart, they would never say to you, 

Ashley Ness: you'd be surprised.

Jessica Fein: So what do you say? 

Ashley Ness: Honestly, I let [00:24:00] them vent and then they're like, Oh my God, I shouldn't be saying this to you. And I'm like, it's okay. At the end of the day, everyone has their own struggles and feel overwhelmed with whatever they have going on in their life. And everyone can handle things very differently.

I do believe that I was handpicked for this journey. Because I do have patients, well it depends on certain things. When you're older and you know right from wrong, I don't have patients. But when you're an infant and you don't know right from wrong, I have a lot of patients for you. I don't really judge anybody.

But sometimes I'm just like, you're complaining you have one child to get dressed. To put in the car, I go, okay. I'm like, I know it's so crazy. They'll tell me their story. Like, you know what? Yeah. Like I have to make sure I have six kids ready by seven o'clock in the morning to get three on the bus and bring three to my father.

It's crazy. I understand your struggle. And then that's when they're like, Oh, I didn't even think of that.

Jessica Fein: That ends the conversation. What time do you have to get up to get them all ready by that time? 

Ashley Ness: I get up at five. So I [00:25:00] can get myself ready, and then his boys will wake themselves up, and then I get Chanel up because she's a lazy bones.

And then once she's like all settled, I'm settled, then I wake the babies up. 

Jessica Fein: What advice do you give to other working mothers, especially those with multiples, but really working mothers of any number of kids have challenges getting everything done and finding that balance between their careers and their family life.

What advice do you have? 

Ashley Ness: Just do it, you'll figure it out, like, it was hard because I felt guilty going back to work. But I also need to show them what life is like and you have to work. I just feel it's very important for parents to be able to still have their time away from their children. So it's not just like, Oh, I'm the quads mom.

I'm actually Ashley, I feel like you need to separate yourself as a parent still from your child or children. 

Jessica Fein: What would you say, having all of these kids, but particularly having all the babies, what are the most important lessons that you've learned from them? 

Ashley Ness: Oh, [00:26:00] life is too short and don't take things for granted.

And like I used to stress over like the littlest, pettiest things with Chesley. She definitely taught me. She opened my eyes a lot to just so many different things. It's like you really don't know what's going to happen. Here you are thinking everything is going great. You have all these healthy little babies.

But it's like just that one day, like anything could change in one day. 

Jessica Fein: How has that changed the way that you live? 

Ashley Ness: Well, I still am a little scary Mary, but I definitely don't like before I want to do things like, Oh, I can't do this. I can't afford this. And I'm like, no, I'm not. I'm done with that. At the end of the day, I'm doing what I have to do.

I want to make those memories with my children. I don't want to not do it because, you know, if I go there, then I can't do this. Like, I'm just done with that because I may not have another day to do what we wanted to do. 

Jessica Fein: So I imagine that you can not even go out in public without somebody stopping you and saying, I don't know how you do it.

Ashley Ness: I honestly, not going to lie to you. I [00:27:00] plan at least an extra hour and a half. When I go anywhere. And then the thing is like, everyone's like, oh, you have triplets. I'm like, no, I have quads. And they're like, what? I'm like, I had quadruplets. Well, where's the fourth one? And that's like how they say it. And well, I go, unfortunately, she passed away.

Oh my god, I'm so sorry. I'm like, thank you. I'm like, but I want to talk about her. If I didn't, I wouldn't correct you. I would say yes, they're triplets. Right. But I enjoy talking about her. And I can't tell you how many people I've met just talking about my story. I have helped, and that has made me feel good about myself.

I met someone actually when we were on vacation. She has a child that was perfectly healthy, ended up getting a virus, and started having seizures, and now is medically complex because of everything. And she's like, I don't have anybody that can relate to me. And then I hate when someone's like, I know what you mean.

Nope. You don't. Unless you have been through some traumatic thing with a child, you don't know. So I [00:28:00] actually gave her my number and I told her, I said, please reach out to me whenever you want. I go, cause I'm here for you because I know what it feels like to not have someone to relate to or that, you know, can just listen to me cry and I can explain what's going on.

And that's what I want to do. I just feel like everything with Chesley happened for a reason and the person I am, I. Talk to everybody. So I really don't care. That doesn't bother me. So it's like, at least I can have a way to help others deal with what they're going through. You think that's 

Jessica Fein: You think that's part of the reason that as you put it, you were handpicked for this?

Ashley Ness: I do. I strongly believe in it. 

Jessica Fein: I know that you feel it's important to share your story so you can help other people. So what are some of the ways that you share it?

Ashley Ness: My story's out there through People Magazine. They put it out there. Our local newspaper put it out there. I have the C Squad, which is on Instagram, so it out there as well.

I'm trying to figure out a way. To really get myself out there so I can help people. The NICU actually, I told them that they're more than welcome to give anyone my number to [00:29:00] contact me if they feel comfortable, because there was actually a couple of mothers that their child ended up having, like, had a tracheostomy as well, and I reached out to them because they said that here's so and so, and here's their number if you want to contact them so you can kind of get the feel of everything, here you go.

And I still talk to one of the mothers pretty much every week. 

Jessica Fein: That's amazing. And when my daughter had her tracheostomy, I didn't know anybody, and I wish that there had been a mother who had said, let this person call me. 

Ashley Ness: Yeah, it is a lot. You don't understand it. You don't know. You think it's like this crazy thing and you're like, Oh my God, like, what am I going to do?

How am I going to deal with this? And then it's like, no, once you know how to take care of it, you just do it because it's for your child. 

Jessica Fein: Well, that's the answer for a lot of it, right? You just do it. What was the response to your feature in People magazine? What did your friends and family say?

Ashley Ness: Oh my God, I can't believe you're out there like that.

I'm like, thank you. Sorry. So Chanel thinks we're famous. She's like, Oh my God, we're famous, mama. Like, well, we're not famous, but that's okay, honey. 

Jessica Fein: People Magazine, that's a little famous. Well, your family is amazing. And all of these [00:30:00] glorious babies and children who get to be raised by you. It's a pretty amazing family.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. 

Ashley Ness: Thank you. 

Jessica Fein: My main takeaway from my conversation with Ashley is this. We can do so much more than we think we're capable of. Ashley didn't know how she was going to welcome quadruplets into her family. She didn't know how she'd make the excruciating decisions she faced with Chesley May.

She didn't know how she'd keep working with all those babies at home. And she didn't know how she'd be able to share her story to help other moms on their journeys. And she's done it all with grit and grace and quite a bit of humor, too. Thanks so much for listening to the show. For more insights from my podcast guests, book recommendations, and joy spotting, sign up for my newsletter at Jessicafeinstories.com.

Have a great day. Talk to you next time.