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Featured This Week; Amy Abbey

By Beverly Fortune 06/22/2006 3:02 pm

A few months ago I received an e-mail from Eric Abbey of Oceanside, nominating his wife, Amy, to be a "Fortune 52" honoree. After I read his letter, I felt that I couldn't write about Amy. Her story was too close to me emotionally. I did, however, come to
realize I needed to meet with her, and since then, every week as I've written about someone else, her story has always been in the back of my mind. So, Amy's story is overdue.

Amy was five months pregnant with her first child when she went into early labor. Her baby, a boy they named Solomon, was stillborn. The ensuing grief, coupled with the reactions from her friends, family and even her husband, spiraled Amy into a world where no woman wants to go. Unfortunately, I can completely empathize with Amy.

I lost my first child, a little girl named Allison Mary, who was born at full term. Allison died three hours later... or did she live for three hours? It's the ensuing physical and emotional turmoil that women who have lost their first babies must deal with. There are so many questions. Am I a mother or was I a mother? Am I a bad person? Did I do something wrong? Why did this happen to me? Will I ever be able to have another child? Every woman copes with this kind of loss differently. My husband and I chose to go to genetic counseling and have another baby as soon as possible. We were very lucky and were blessed with a beautiful, healthy daughter, Jaclyn, 14 months later. Amy, however, wasn't as lucky. She suffered another loss after Solomon died, an inconceivably painful double blow, one that reaches the limits of grief a woman can experience. Then, on her third try, Amy was blessed with a beautiful baby girl they also named Alison.

I went about my life raising Jackie and her brother, Joseph, who was born 20 months later. I chose to keep the memory of Allison in a special place, where she is a beautiful angel who is with me all the time. It has worked for me.

Amy chose a different path. She chose to confront her heartache after months of depression and suffering. Tired of hearing, "You can have another baby," or, "When you get pregnant again, you'll forget all about this," Amy started writing a journal when she came home from the hospital without Solomon. After her second loss, she started an outline for a book. As past president of the Greater New York Society for Public Health Education, Amy was no stranger to the ins and outs of the health field. She began reaching out to other women who had lost babies, gathering their stories, which culminated in her newly published book, Journeys: Stories of Pregnancy After Loss. It took Amy two years to complete the book, and though each woman's story is different, all share the same heart-stopping grief in the loss of their babies and their subsequent successful pregnancies.

In addition to being a published author, Amy is now the proud mother of three healthy children, Alison, Adam and stepson Alex. She has created a beautiful life for her family, and is now the Conference Promotion Chair for Aspiring Community and Public Health Leaders at Kingsborough Community College to be held this July, a member of the Nassau Suffolk region Ryan White CARE Act HIV/AIDS Network Steering Committee, and was just elected co-president of the Oceanside School District Kindergarten Center PTA.

For her book, Amy chose a quote from author Peter Hoeg's Smilla's Sense of Snow : "I'm standing on a foundation and have no farther to fall." And, while it may feel like you cannot get lower, life gets better. I am proof. So is Amy, and countless other women.  

If you know a super woman who deserves good Fortune—and a profile—e-mail your nominations to Beverly at bfortune@longislandpress.com.

Long Island Press Link

Oceanside Herald©

Oceanside mom compiles stories for book on life after loss
by Joe Kellard 03/30/2006

When Alison Abbey was born Aug. 14, 2001, her mother, Amy, was reborn after 16 months of a self-described "nightmare." 

Alison represented Amy and Eric Abbey's third try to have a child together, after the first pregnancy ended in a stillbirth and the second a miscarriage. Amy relays those hellish months in a new book of anecdotes she complied entitled "Journeys: Stories of Pregnancy After Loss." The book reads like 11 different journals of individuals retelling their experiences losing their expected child. They include stories of first-trimester miscarriage, second-trimester delivery and full-term stillbirths, and each story contains a segment on getting through the next pregnancy.

After Solomon was born still at five months, Amy suffered both physically and psychologically, and her tale offers insights into an array of emotions, from anxieties to depression she either battled or succumbed to after her losses and through her third pregnancy. She reveals having feelings of failure at womanhood, letting down her stepson, Alex, after he anticipated being a big brother, and being convinced that her third pregnancy would also end tragically.
"I started to wonder what I'd done to deserve all this," Amy writes after noting that her miscarriage was due to a blighted ovum.

While Amy also reveals in her chapter, called "Solomon's Flower," a fleeting flirtation with a thought of suicide, the ultimate in underscoring her depressive state, she also includes positive steps she took to cope better. "Even though my child hadn't lived, I still had given birth," Amy writes.

Alas, when carrying Alison, superstitious anxieties got the best of Amy. "I was bursting out of Eric's XL shirts that I wore longer than I should have because I was convinced if I did anything different, like ware maternity clothes, I would lose the baby," she writes. In the weeks before her due date hit, right up to delivery time, Amy became increasingly convinced she'd lose the baby.

Providing the only husband's perspective, Eric Abbey contributes his own story to Amy's book. His chapter, "The Decision," centers around a particular life-changing choice, and how he is sometimes reminded of this in the subtlest of ways.

"For the rest of our lives I will have the guilt of convincing Amy to not hold the twenty week fetus," Eric wrote. "I thought I would be sick at the sight of it. I looked for second and third opinions that day. Had I made the right decision? ... I get often from Amy that tone in her voice telling me I let her down by the decision."  

Eric tells how pregnancy loss can be different for the man, and that while he took it hard, he had personally suffered the deaths of loved ones earlier in life and thus seemed better able to cope. "Where did my wife go?," Eric asks about Amy¹s fragile emotional state. "I understood, after the loss, that she would grieve eighteen months, and that would have been OK but after we got pregnant again it was the worrying that went on. The daily 'what if?' Well, this time it worked out better and Alison was born."

Another distinct part of Eric's tale is that he recounts the birth of their last child, Adam, and how this was different. "The biggest reason is Amy didn't have time to worry as much because she was taking care of Alison," he writes.

And what is distinct about "Journeys: Stories of Pregnancy After Loss" from the many pregnancy loss books available?
"My books is set apart because it is only a collection of stories by parents and about what happened when we lost our child and the steps we took all the way through to having a child," said Amy, a health educator and past president of the Greater New York Society for Health Education. "Whereas the other books are more professionally based, and have a lot of information, speculation, and education with just brief anecdotal paragraphs or verbatim quotes from parents."

Among the steps the Abbeys took to heal was to join a support group. And through grief counselors Amy knows, she was able to find the nine other authors who contribute their stories to her book. The concluding chapter, for example, features a parent who lost her 13-months-old daughter to a fetal genetic illness, and how she went to genetic counseling to see if her newest baby may have the same illness.

Amy's book does offer something on the clinical side. A social worker offers a summary chapter that advises women not to suppress their grief and not to turn away from their partner.

"I wanted to write this book to help other moms in my position," Amy said. "... Like any other book out there, my book won't replace anyone¹s individual counseling. I just felt that, if there are a 100 things to help me with my coping, I needed one more. So hopefully this is just another piece of somebody elses puzzle."
Comments about this story? JKellard@liherald.com or (516) 569-4000 ext. 287.


Long Island Love Stories©

Eric and Amy Abbey, Interview with Virginia Huie April 2007

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