Diocesan News

Ohden: God’s plan involves life, grace, sharing story

Abortion survivor speaks to students from Aquinas, Pius X, Newman

Story courtesy Pius X High School

(PXHS) - Melissa Ohden is the survivor of an abortion attempt 41 years ago. She shared her story Oct. 9 at a “Pro-Life Day” assembly at Pius X High School in Lincoln. 

Students attended from Pius X, Lourdes Central of Nebraska City, Bishop Neumann of Wahoo, St. Cecilia of Hastings, and Aquinas of David City.

Melissa’s birth mom was an unmarried college student forced into an abortion by her mother, a nurse. Like 64% of women who pursue the “choice” of abortion, Ohden’s mother was coerced into ending her child’s life. However, the toxic saline infusion method didn’t work as quickly as her abortionist had hoped, so they tried again.

When a little baby girl was born alive, struggling to breathe, the head nurse – Ohden’s grandmother – directed the hospital staff to forgo life-saving treatment for the infant.

“I can’t imagine what happened in her life that made her feel that way,” Ohden said.

God intervened. One nurse wouldn’t follow orders.

“That doctor messed up,” said the nurse who brought the nearly 3-pound girl into the hospital NICU. “She just kept gasping for breath. I just couldn’t let her die.”

* * *

Medical staff now wondered: What’s next? What are the long-term implications for a baby who survived this horrible ordeal? 

Ohden overcame multiple health complications, and a few months after her delivery at 31 weeks (more than 10 weeks older than previously thought), God delivered adoptive parents who “fell in love” the moment they first saw their tiny baby girl in the NICU.

This is the culture Ohden wants to see restored in the country. 

“I have hope our culture will be restored to a culture of life,” she said, later noting that there are more parents waiting to adopt than there are children waiting to be adopted. 

While she always knew she was adopted, Melissa didn’t know the full story of her birth until she was 14 years old. Her older sister (also adopted) struggled with the fear and uncertainty of an unplanned high school pregnancy… and considered abortion, until their parents helped to save the life of their grandchild by disclosing that Melissa was an abortion survivor. This revelation led to her sister choosing life for her son, Melissa’s nephew (now 26 years old), and it also had a profound impact on Melissa’s life.

Ohden felt hurt, and tried to cope by abusing alcohol and developing an eating disorder. On the outside, Melissa’s parents believed she was the “perfect child” because she masked all the internal pain with good grades. 

“I tried to run away from my life, run away from pain, run away from God,” she said. “The reality is some of you are going through struggles right now.”

Don’t keep it to yourself, she advised. And be a friend to others who may be going through struggles.

* * *

By age 19, Ohden said she was in a better place emotionally, and felt the power to forgive. She sought out her birth parents and grandparents, and worked repeatedly to gain access to her medical records.

After 10 years of being told no, she was finally given her medical records from her birth. God’s hand showed up again: her parents’ names were not blacked out, as they should have been.  

She found her birth mom’s parents early on, wrote to her grandfather and heard back from him. He shared more details of the story, acknowledged the tragedy of the situation, but said he would not forward information to her birth mom, who was estranged. Unbeknownst to Ohden at the time, there was a dark secret still living, one that hadn’t died in the silence.

* * *

Ten more years of searching led her to her birth father, who was living in the same city she was living in at the time. God’s plan, right? – yes, she said.

Melissa wrote a letter to his work, so he could keep it private if he needed. He never responded. Sometime later she Googled his name, and his obituary was among the search results; dead at 51. God’s plan? – really? she patiently wondered.

After her birth father’s death, his dad was cleaning out his son’s work desk and found the letter. That was the first he had known of the baby, the failed abortion, the girl living out God’s plan for her. Melissa’s paternal grandfather is now an active part of the family’s life.

The abortion attempt had fractured many relationships, a repercussion that reverberated far beyond the immediate individuals involved, Ohden said. Abortion is not talked about enough, she said; it’s not talked about at all.

People need to know, Ohden said, that “there is hope to be found, there is healing. We have to reach people with love.”

One of Ohden’s daughters was born in the very same hospital as Ohden, giving her happy memories of a place she once dreaded.

* * *

There was one more person she needed to reach. And one more secret.

When Ohden was born, she was whisked away to another room, where her life was saved. But no one ever told Melissa’s mother that her child had survived the abortion attempt.

Ohden’s birth mother lived her life believing the abortion – the one forced on her by her own mother – had been successful.

“She did not know if it was a little boy or little girl that died that day,” Ohden said.

Now Ohden’s birth mom asked another big question: how could her daughter forgive her?

With God’s grace, Ohden did just that. It’s was God’s call, she said. His plan. Her life. And the lives of many others. A journey each must walk.  

And when she found her birth mom, Ohden discovered they too had been living in the same city. They now spend time together. As a family. As God intended.

* * *

Ohden said there are 260 others who are now in an Abortion Survivor’s Network. It’s not always an easy group to admit to being a part of, she said. Shame. Silence. Politics. 

Ohden’s first time speaking publicly about her story was very difficult – she thought it was due to nervousness. Her stomach was queasy, and she felt sick. Later Melissa would understand why: She had morning sickness from being pregnant with her first child.

Her survival has impacted the story of many lives, and Ohden’s message is to share the truth, and to reach out with love. Those lives, those people, need love and grace and forgiveness. And our world needs love and grace and forgiveness.

And God delivers.

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