Abortion Survivor Melissa Ohden Meets Nurse Who Helped Love Her Into Life
By Melissa Ohden
Editor’s note: Melissa Ohden will be speaking at a National Teens for Life general session.
The abortion survivor steps into the room and comes face to face with a nurse volunteer that held and rocked her nearly thirty-five years ago when she was in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Tears flow quickly and they embrace. Sounds like a scene straight out of the film “October Baby,” doesn’t it? For me, it’s life.
I don’t think I will ever cease to be amazed at what unfolds in my life. Truly, surviving a failed saline infusion abortion 34 years ago was just one example of the amazing instances of miracles, blessings, and God-incidences that I experience every day. The supporters of the Vitae Foundation’s Banquet in Sedalia, Missouri, on April 24th were blessed to witness yet another one of them; namely, me coming face to face with Michelle Lehr, who is pictured above on my right (Vitae Vice President Anne Carmichael is to my left), who held me in the NICU at the University of Iowa Hospital in 1977, where I had been transferred to after surviving the failed abortion.
Michelle was a college student, studying nursing, when she volunteered to hold babies at the Hospital. As Michelle remembers, I was preparing to leave the NICU and go home to my adoptive parents on the one occasion that she held me. When she questioned the nursing staff about the name of the little girl she chose to hold that day, she was told that I was nameless. And when she inquired further about why a nearly three-month-old baby was nameless, Michelle was told about what I had survived.
“God burned your image into my brain, never to be forgotten.” Thirty-four years later, Michelle had not forgotten about me, and a curious search on the Internet a month ago about abortion survivors led her to me. “Melissa, did you recover at the University of Iowa Hospital? If so, then I believe that I rocked you as a volunteer. I distinctly remember a tiny infant with that same story in 1977 or 1978.”
Waking up to this message on Facebook on March 23rd, I was pulled out of the stupor of illness that I was experiencing. I rarely speak about being transferred to The University of Iowa Hospitals because it’s too confusing for people. It’s hard enough to comprehend how someone like me survives in the first place, but to then wrap your brain around how I was saved and then transferred to another hospital for continued care, that’s just down right difficult to grasp for many. So, for Michelle to bring up the University of Iowa Hospital, I knew that she knew me. I mean REALLY knew me.
“I did, Michelle!!!! Oh, my gosh. I got to tour the NICU a few years back and see two of the nurses who cared for me there. It was 1977. Here I am at the airport, crying this morning, reading this. Thank you for helping to love me into life!” In between my tears, I quickly sent her this response. By the time Michelle had read my response the next day, she had already visited my ministry website and viewed the picture of me as an infant, lying in the incubator, and she knew it was me that she had held. Thirty-four years later, I was the one baby that she remembered distinctly. And although we offered up plans to connect by phone, between battling illness that affected my voice for weeks, traveling and speaking, and my responsibilities at home, I hadn’t had time to contact Michelle. I was waiting for my schedule to slow down so that I could give contacting her the time and attention that I wanted and she deserved, but God had other plans, thankfully.
I was on my way to Sedalia on April 24th to speak that evening, when I opened an email from the Vitae Foundation entitled “Small Surprise.” My interest piqued, I opened it to learn that the “small surprise” was that Michelle lived within a couple of hours of Sedalia and would be attending the banquet that night. Although the Vitae staff were excited about this amazing opportunity for Michelle and I, l don’t think any of could guess the impact that Michelle’s attendance and our first meeting in almost thirty-five years would have on us or the Vitae supporters.
I cried more times than I can count leading up to the Vitae event, knowing that Michelle was yet another individual who knew first-hand about how abortion had affected me, she had seen me and even held me when I was still a vulnerable little girl, who was still attempting to fully recover from the saline infusion abortion procedure meant to end my life. I wondered how our meeting would go, I wondered if I had shaped her life and her beliefs about abortion, I wondered so many things throughout the day. Yet, when I walked into the Parkview Christian Church that night, I stopped wondering and just trusted that our meeting would unfold the way that it was intended to.
And without saying a word, I knew Michelle when I saw her that night. There was a knowing in her eyes, an understanding that communicated this wasn’t the first time we had met. This wasn’t a meeting, it was a reunion. We hugged and cried when we first met that evening, and certainly, my tears flowed many times that night. I learned that night that Michelle is still a nurse today, and believes in the sanctity of human life. I believe that holding me that day in the NICU 34 years ago sealed those beliefs that she had held at the time onto her heart.
Words can’t even begin to describe what it was like to meet Michelle, to give her my thanks in front of a couple hundred people for her loving hands holding me years ago and for remembering me in a world that would often rather forget lives like mine. Simply put, last night was a blessing; a blessing for me, a blessing for her, and a blessing for the Vitae Foundation and the people from the Sedalia area.
I know Michelle probably thinks that she did something very simple that day by holding me, and that she doesn’t deserve all of the attention that she received, but I disagree. It’s ordinary people like Michelle, like you and me, who, by stepping up, do extraordinary things that make a huge difference in the lives of children who are at risk of being aborted, of women and men in need. I look forward to sharing more at the upcoming NRLC Convention about meeting Michelle and others I’ve met who played a hand in both saving my life and enhancing my life, providing me with the love and support that helped me to thrive.
Thank you again, Michelle, for playing a part in loving me into life, for never forgetting me, and for blessing me with your presence in my life again!
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