Forty-one years ago, Melissa Ohden survived an abortion. She grew up knowing that she had been born prematurely and had been adopted, but it was not until she reached the age of 14 that she learned the difficult circumstances surrounding her birth. During an argument with her sister, who was also adopted, the latter shouted out: “You know Melissa, at least my biological parents wanted me! “ Discovering the truth led to a “downward spiral” in Melissa’s mental health. “I developed an eating disorder, struggled with alcohol abuse. I didn’t want to be me”, she explains.
Five years later, she decided to look for her biological mother. She found her ten years later and discovered that her biological mother had thought that her baby was dead. She didn’t know whether she had given birth to a baby girl or boy, and the adoption was kept a secret.
When they met for the first time, what struck Melissa the most was the “regret” in her mother’s eyes… Her mother had had an abortion at 19 years of age, forced into it by her mother who was a hospital nurse and who had enlisted the help of an obstetrician friend. “Together they literally forced the abortion on my birth mother against her will”. Her grandmother had clearly left instructions and told her colleagues to “leave the baby in the room to die“.
But she hadn’t counted on the nurse who, on hearing the baby girl crying “among medical waste”, took her to the intensive care unit where, “against the odds”, she survived. Doctors believed she would be blind and that she had a fatal heart defect—she had been born weighing 1.3 kg and had just received toxic saline over a period of five days—but in the end she grew up in perfect health, in an adopted family.
“It is astonishing”, admits Melissa who considers herself to be “one of the luckiest people in the world”. Lucky not only because she survived but because she also has her biological mother and adoptive parents. “My biological family is a huge part of my life”, she explains. She and her mother like to see each other “as often as we possibly can”.
When she thinks back to her grandmother’s words on the day she was born, she recognises that “It’s not been easy […] to live with”. She goes on: “But I’m not angry with her. We all make mistakes in this life. I don’t hold that against her. My heart breaks for her because I will always wonder what it was in her life that made her take that decision on mine”.
After discovering her mother’s regret, Melissa is now delighted “to experience her joy”.
BBC, Adam Eley et Jo Adnitt (05/06/2018)