Long Island Press©
HONORING L.I.'S WOMEN OF ACHIEVEMENT
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
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
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
Long Island Press Link
A TALE OF THREE PREGNANCIES
When Alison Abbey was born Aug. 14,
2001, her mother, Amy, was reborn after 16 months of a self-described
Oceanside mom compiles stories for book on life
Joe Kellard 03/30/2006
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
"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
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
Comments about this story?
JKellard@liherald.com or (516) 569-4000 ext. 287.