Try 1 month for 99¢

It's a tender photograph.

A little baby with big eyes and dark hair wears a yellow sleeper as she lies on a fuzzy blanket.

Years later, more photographs show a young girl and then a pretty woman with an upturned nose - high cheek bones that might make some models envious - and a wide smile. But the photographs don't tell the story of Melissa Ohden's traumatic beginning - or how close she came to not living at all.

Ohden, who lives in Sioux City, Iowa, survived a failed saline infusion abortion in 1977. Now an internationally known speaker, Ohden will share her story at 7 p.m. Feb. 9 and at 8 a.m. Feb. 11 at Midland University. The second event is set during the Right to Life Prayer Breakfast. Both are open to the public. There is an $8 cost for the breakfast in Midland's dining hall.

Those who attend can learn about Ohden and her desire to make a difference and to inspire others.

Her life story began in 1977 when her biological mother, a 19-year-old, unmarried college student, went to have an abortion. Saline solution was injected into the amniotic fluid that surrounded Ohden.

"That type of procedure was meant to scald me to death," Ohden said. "Over a five-day period I was subject to that salt solution."

The solution burns and peels away skin before going to the internal organs, Ohden said.

Ohden's mother was sent home, then five days later returned to the hospital where labor was induced.

"She was meant to deliver a dead child, from what I've been told," Ohden said. "I was believed to be dead and left for dead. As I was left in the hospital room, the nurse with my mother realized I was making small movements and weak grunting noises - and realized the abortion was not successful.

"Because I was so ill, the doctors and nurses started to provide me with medical care."

Ohden's birth parents made plans for her adoption. She became a ward of the state and her adoptive parents were contacted.

She went from a hospital in Sioux City, Iowa, to the University of Iowa for longer-term care.

"The doctors made it clear that they didn't believe I would live for very long and if I did live I would have multiple disabilities," Ohden said.

She weighed just 2 pounds, 14 ounces.

"I suffered from seizures and severe respiratory and liver problems and required multiple blood transfusions," she said.

Ohden, who later obtained medical records of her case, said a doctor's notation indicated that he thought she appeared to be about 31 weeks, gestational stage, or almost 8 months. Ohden said her mother believed she was less than five months pregnant.

"Fifty-five million children have lost their lives during Wade vs. Roe alone," she said. "For someone like me to survive really defies the odds."

Ohden was two months old when she went to live with her adoptive family in October 1977.

She has no long-standing health issues and with a master's degree in social work, she has worked in the areas of substance abuse, mental health, domestic violence/sexual assault counseling and child welfare.

"I'm the only survivor of a surgical abortion that anybody is aware of - who is healthy today," she said.

Ohden was 14 when she learned that she was an abortion survivor. That happened after her older sister, also adopted, had an unplanned pregnancy as a teen.

"Our parents decided to tell her about my being a survivor so it would give her hope with what she was facing," Ohden said.

But when Ohden learned the truth she was devastated and angry.

"I didn't know who I was anymore," she said. "I was scared about what it meant for my life. I'd never heard of anybody like me before and I struggled with feeling ashamed. I faced guilt for more years than I can count. I look at those numbers of children who've lost their lives and I spent years thinking, ‘why me?'"

Although research is limited, Ohden said there are at least 44,000 survivors in the U.S. - who people know about. She has a relationship with 25 survivors in the U.S. and about 10 others internationally.

Ohden suspects there are many people, who have survived and are healthy, but they may never know the truth.

As a teen, Ohden struggled with the knowledge.

"I made a lot of mistakes when I was in pain," she said.

She used alcohol and had an eating disorder. She made bad dating choices. She wanted to forget what had happened.

"Thankfully I came out of those years unscathed and I'd like to share that," she said. "None of those things fix anything. All they do is make more problems."

Instead, Ohden said her faith healed her.

At age 19, she began what would become a 10-year quest to obtain her medical records and find her birth family. In 2007, she obtained her records, which clearly told about the abortion, and found her birth parents.

She wrote her birth father a letter that July, but never heard back from him. She later learned that he died in January 2008. After his death, his family found Ohden's letter and contacted her.

"I have a really close relationship with my grandfather and my great aunt," she said.

Ohden contacted her birth mother's parents. They wouldn't pass Ohden's information along because they were estranged from her birth mother. That was the last time Ohden has heard from them.

She came forward as a survivor in 2007 and in April 2008, Ohden and her husband, Ryan, had their first child, Olivia. They lost a second child in a miscarriage in November 2011.

These days, Ohden speaks at about 50 to 60 events a year in the United States, Canada and Australia. She has spoken before Australia's parliament, testified on Capitol Hill and was on Fox news a couple weeks ago.

Get tips on free stuff and fun ideas delivered weekly to your inbox

Most of the time, people are respectful to her. Her message hasn't always been well received, however.

"I've been spit at and protested and picketed on university campuses," she said.

On her birthday, one Twitter respondent wrote: "Couldn't your mother do anything right? She couldn't even kill you the way she was supposed to."

Such things haven't stopped her.

"God's given me huge shoulders," she said.

Ohden also knows she's making a difference.

"I know first-hand I've had a hand in saving three babies this year," she said, noting that the mothers contacted her after having their children.

She's been contacted by women who have apologized to her for having an abortion. Others believe they may be her birth mother - although they haven't been.

Ohden said she lets people in this situation know that they're forgiven and that resources are available to help them.

In her Fremont talk, Ohden plans to share many stories and said she seeks to inspire people involved in respecting and protecting lives like hers.

"Sometimes people get discouraged and I know coming face to face with somebody like me gives them encouragement," she said.

She also talks about the generational impact of abortion.

"I live every day of my life knowing that she (Olivia) would never have lived if that abortion would have ended my life. As a parent that's the most painful thing in the world," she said.

Ohden said she sees abortion through the lives of her biological family.

"Relationships have been ended and are strained," she said. "Secrets have been kept and my biological family is still hurting 34 years later from that one abortion - and I lived."

Ohden is working on an abortion survivors' network to provide support for survivors and educate the public about them.

"The public needs to know that we exist and that there are a lot of us," she said. "We're your neighbor, your friend - and we could be your family member."

Those who browse through Ohden's website can see she is a family member, wife and mother.

And that - at one time - she was a little baby who wore a yellow sleeper.

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.
0
0
0
0
0

Load comments