Melissa Ohden has learned the truth about her unique birth in bits and pieces across several decades.
Ohden survived a late-term saline abortion and was adopted three months later into a loving home. Last year, after four decades, she and her birth mother met for the first time.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Ohden explained how she gradually learned about the circumstances of her mother’s abortion and her birth.
It began when she was 14 and in an argument with her sister. Ohden learned that she had been adopted after surviving a botched abortion. She said the news was difficult for her to process, especially the idea that her mother did not want her and tried to have her killed before she was born.
When she was 19, she said she decided to start looking for her birth parents anyway.
Here’s more from the report:
She pored over phonebooks, newspapers on microfiche, and year books at the library, not knowing her birth mother’s name but looking for someone who looked like herself.
She also put an advert in the local newspaper appealing for anyone with information to come forward, but to no avail.
After years of futile hunting, Melissa came across a startling lead when she was 30.
‘I knew my maternal grandparents’ surname and where they had been employed, so that was a big piece of the puzzle,’ she said.
‘I was flicking through a nursing college year book when I came across a woman I suspected was my grandmother. I still didn’t know at this stage her full role in what happened.’
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She sent them a letter, but only her grandfather wrote back.
‘He said my live birth was not the intention the day I was born. He also made it clear I wouldn’t find my birth mother through them because they were estranged from her.
‘It was evident their relationship with my mother was never the same after my birth. I couldn’t put my finger on it but I knew then something sinister had gone on.’
Later, Ohden learned that her grandparents basically had forced her mother to have the abortion. Her mother was about eight-months pregnant with Ohden, though doctors at the time of the abortion estimated she was about 20 weeks along.
“I discovered that my birth mother, aged 19, had been forced into the abortion by her own mother, who was an educational nurse at the hospital,” she said. “[My birth mom] was heavily sedated and didn’t know that I had been born alive. It would be 30 odd years before she learned the truth.”
A cousin of her birth mother later got in touch with Ohden and shared even more details. Ohden learned that her mother had irregular periods, so she did not realize she was pregnant until the third trimester. Her mother’s cousin also told her that Ohden’s biological grandparents pressured her to get an abortion because they did not approve of her boyfriend, Ohden’s father.
“That was a huge shock, I’d spent so many years thinking my mother never wanted me,” she said. “My grandmother arranged for the saline abortion within days of finding out about the pregnancy. My heart ached for my mother for having gone through that.”
Ohden said she also found out that her birth mother’s sister visited her in the hospital during the five-day abortion procedure and tried to get her out; but the hospital staff said it was too late.
Nearly forty years after the abortion and Ohden’s unexpected live birth, the cousin put her in touch with her birth mother.
“My mother had no idea I was alive … can you imagine? We chatted for three years before we met. I think we were both scared of rejection,” Ohden said.
Last year, they finally did. When Ohden first saw her birth mother, she said she felt scared, almost as if she wanted to run away.
“Then we hugged and both cried. I said, ‘It’s been a long time.’ She told me, ‘I was robbed of you.’ Then it felt really natural,” Ohden said. “She carries a lot of guilt and lives with many regrets but I told her I don’t blame her at all.”
Ohden said her journey to discover her past has been long and painful, but she forgives her grandparents for what they did. Her grandmother died several years ago, so she never had the chance to tell her that.
“… I refuse to be poisoned by bitterness – that’s no way to live,” she said. “Through my Catholic faith I have learnt to forgive. It doesn’t make what happened okay, but it releases you from the pain. We are all human and we all make mistakes.”