For anyone who’s ever been adopted, it’s a common desire to seek out your biological parents. The people whose blood runs through your veins and whose DNA you’re made up of.
For Melissa Ohden, that journey was much different.
When she was born, Melissa weighed less than three pounds. She was cared for by NICU nurses before later being adopted into her forever family.
But when Melissa was just 14 years old, she learned a dark and devastating secret about herself.
She was a survivor of a failed abortion.
The toxic saline solution that was meant to kill her before she was even born had not been successful in its pursuit. And at the tender age of 14, Melissa entered a downward spiral of soul-searching.
She says like so many young people, she was ashamed to let anyone else know how much she was hurting. At a time in life when she desperately wanted to be loved, she learned that she was never wanted in the first place. That’s a difficult and tragic thing for anyone to navigate.
Melissa turned to what she calls her “unholy trinity” of coping mechanisms: bulimia, alcohol and sex.
For the rest of her teen years and beyond, Melissa credits the “grace of God” for her survival, saying she had to be willing to wake up every day and make the decision not to turn to unhealthy habits but praise God for the life He allowed her to have.
Before she was born, “God did have a plan.” And even in the midst of unimaginable pain, suffering, doubt and confusion, God had a plan still for Melissa’s life.
Through her search, Melissa learned her birth mother was a 19-year-old college student who had been forced into having an abortion by her own mother.
She was so heavily sedated, she didn’t even know Melissa had been born alive. In fact, nobody did. Melissa lay discarded as medical waste until a nurse happened to hear her weak cries, slight movements and gasps for breath. She rushed the 2 pound, 14 ounce orphan to the NICU, where she miraculously survived.
Today, Melissa is a devout Catholic and committed pro-life advocate. She’s a wife, mother and author of a memoir called You Carried Me, in which she details her extensive search for her birth mother.
If that kind of love doesn’t represent the love of Jesus, I don’t know what does. Devoting 17 years of your life to searching for the woman who thought she’d killed you before you were born is nothing short of inspiring. But something about becoming a mother herself helped Melissa in the process of softening her heart.
“I’ve always loved her, but my love for her deepens year after year,” Melissa says of her birth mother. “And not just because the circumstances of her life and mine are now different…I know the truth about how she was forced into that abortion. But I think the older I get, the more I learn how to love people, and to respect them for who they are.”