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.”
She defines their journey as a “love story.”
“It’s a love story that God wrote, and man attempted to re-write…[but] God’s story wins in the end.”
After writing her memoir, and learning more and more about her birth mother, Melissa got to meet the woman who gave her life. The two had spent years in communication, getting to know one another, learn “secrets” from one another and really just build trust.
In the summer of 2016, after a lifetime of pain, and healing, they finally met face-to-face for the first time.
Melissa says the encounter was “everything I could have ever expected, and more.”
Her mother had spent 36 years believing Melissa had died at the hospital. She carried relentless regret and guilt, but to have the opportunity to learn that not only is her child alive, but she also loves her and has forgiven her; the meeting was a beautiful part of the healing process for both women.
They embraced, and Melissa said to her mother, “It’s been a long time.”
Her story of survival, trial, forgiveness and love is something many of us can’t even begin to comprehend.
God wrote a story that no man could ever take away, destroy or use for evil. Like Melissa said, God’s story wins in the end.
May we all carry that beautiful truth with us today.