Unconditional Love and the Myth of the Unwanted Child: Reflections on the 2012 NRLC National Convention

By Melissa Ohden

Editor’s note. Melissa the survivor of a “failed” saline abortion, has spoken at the last two National Right to Life Conventions. Having heard wonderful things about her talk this year to teens, I asked her to share her experiences at the Convention with National Right to Life News Today readers. Melissa refers to Joleigh Little, whom our readers will recognize as a frequent contributor to NRL News, who is Teens for Life Director, for Wisconsin Right to Life.

Melissa Ohden

No matter how many conventions I attend, no matter how many years I spend in the fight for the respect and protection of life, no matter how many places at which I speak around the world, I will never stop learning and growing; I will never stop having my eyes opened and my heart widened to the truths about life, love, and this world.  Yet knowing this, the 2012 NRLC Convention moved and changed me in ways that I had not expected.

Loving children into life through our actions for them and towards their biological parents is a theme that I often speak of, having seen in my own life the impact that others had on my ability to not only survive, but thrive, in the face of my biological mother’s failed abortion.  Whether it be the individuals who prayed outside of the hospital where the abortion took place, the nurses and volunteers who not only provided me with great medical care, but also named me when I was left nameless for months, fed me from a bottle when they were told not to, who knitted me clothing, who stayed in contact with me and my family over the years, or my adoptive parents who believed in and loved the tiny little girl in the NICU fighting for her life, I was loved into life by a multitude of ordinary people whose love thereby did extraordinary things.

Even though I talk about this concept regularly, I sometimes look around in our world today and wonder where all the love is; I wonder how many people are doing for others what was done for me, how many people hear what I’m saying and implement it? And then I met Susanna Musser.

Susanna Musser

I had read parts of Susanna’s blog, The Blessing of Verity, www.theblessingofverity.com, after having heard about her beautiful family through Joleigh Little, but I’ll be honest, I wasn’t prepared for how meeting Susanna and one of her daughters, Katie, would affect and change me.  If you haven’t visited her blog yet, I would greatly encourage you to do so.  I don’t want to spoil your own opportunity to visit the site and be personally impacted by it, yourself, but I will tell you a little a bit about Verity, Katie, and the Musser family so that you can understand why I was impacted the way that I was by meeting them.

The Myth of the Unwanted Child was the title of the NRLC Convention workshop that Susanna and Joleigh presented this year, and if you weren’t in attendance for it, or you haven’t yet ordered a copy of the presentation, I highly encourage you to order a copy of it.  Even though I had read Susanna’s blog before and had been blessed to have dinner with her and Katie the evening before the workshop, I found myself with my head in my hands sobbing multiple times throughout the presentation.

Anyone who knows me well knows that if crying were an Olympic sport I would easily be a gold medalist. But the reality of Verity’s life, the Musser family’s 10th child, who was born with Down Syndrome, and the reality of Katie’s, the family’s 11th child who was adopted from an orphanage in Bulgaria, along with the reality of the lives of other children with special needs completely overwhelmed me. 

“My heart’s been broken once again with what breaks yours, Lord,” I kept thinking to myself as I heard about how children in Eastern Europe with Down Syndrome are routinely placed in Adult Mental Institutions between the ages of 4 and 8 (and Susanna had even heard of a child as young as 17 months being placed there), where they are left for the rest of their lives, often confined to their beds with little human interaction, mobility, nutritious food, or sadly, love.

As Susanna so boldly shared both the horrors of what they saw and experienced through their adoption process and the joys of the great things God is doing through them for children in that orphanage and around the world, Katie proudly sat on her mother’s lap and often vocalized to her.  If someone didn’t know Katie’s story or the Musser’s, maybe they wouldn’t have appreciated watching and hearing this exchange as the rest of us did.  But if they knew the quality of life Katie had before she was adopted, if they knew how much she has grown, how much she has progressed, how she has gone from a 7-year-old girl who weighed less than 10 pounds to a 10-year-old girl who now weighs 37 pounds, among many other amazing developments, they would have been as riveted to Katie and Susanna as I was.

As a recent blog post by Susanna reflects, Katie continues to grow and learn more and more each day.  Through the life of Katie, through the lives of the Musser family, we are all given a beautiful opportunity to see just what it is that has aided and supported Katie for all of this to happen; we are all given the opportunity to see just why it is that children are able to heal, to learn and grow despite difficult circumstances and the complexities of special needs.

What’s the ‘magic bullet,’ so to speak for Katie and for other children? As Susanna so aptly states, “It’s not some magical hidden knowledge about special needs, or a designer lifestyle, or extra-ordinary saintliness, or a gargantuan income. It’s because my family accepts and values and loves me unconditionally and is willing to work hard and sacrifice for me. That’s all.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.  It’s unconditional love that has had such a significant impact on Katie and other children.  It’s unconditional love that has given them the opportunity to not only survive in this world, but to thrive, to overcome obstacles and expectations for their lives.  It’s unconditional love that has transformed them from the inside out, and if you visit Susanna’s blog, you will have the chance to see, yourself, just how much Katie and other children have been beautifully transformed by being loved.

I walked into the NRLC Convention and even Susanna and Joleigh’s workshop with a heart for adoption and a passion for protecting all children. But I will tell you that I was radically educated and moved by what I heard and saw this year, especially through that workshop and my interaction with Susanna and Joleigh’s daughters.  I am not the same woman today as I was before I went to the Convention.  My eyes have seen, my ears have heard, my heart has felt things that have forever changed me.  My passion for fighting for the lives of children has had a pile of matches thrown on it that have set a blazing fire.   Not only do I fight for the preborn, but I fight for all children to be given the gift of being loved into life like I was and like Katie and countless other children are.

Each year, the NRLC Convention provides a great opportunity to gain a wealth of information from individuals, both presenters and attendees alike, who have a wealth of experience to share.  Yes, the weather was unforgettably hot this year (says the mother who thought it would be a great idea to take Joleigh’s daughter Clara and my daughter Olivia out for some “fresh air” one day in the sweltering heat), and the storms that passed through the D.C. area are not yet even a distant memory (says the woman who thought that the storm that Friday night during the convention was going to blow right in through the bathroom vent).But there are much more memorable people, experiences, and information that I hope are forever ingrained in your memory and therefore your life and work as a result of attending this year’s convention.

Yes, having a great speaker or presenter is certainly a big part of the equation when it comes to your convention experience (says the woman who hopes that she is one of those speakers for you), but I also believe that your time at the convention is also what you make of it.  It’s good to catch up with old friends, but it’s also an amazing blessing to make new ones.

It’s wonderful to hear one of your favorite speakers present, but it’s an amazing gift to hear a new presenter speak on a topic that you’ve never focused much time and attention to in the past.  It’s great to head into the convention with a set of expectations about what you hope to learn, who you hope to see, and what you hope to do with those experiences once you leave, but it’s even better to let yourself be moved and changed in ways that you didn’t plan on and didn’t even know were possible, all because the convention offered you the opportunity and you took full advantage of it.

Who knows what next year’s convention in Dallas may bring? All I know is this……if this year is any example of what to expect, I will not be the same woman leaving Dallas as I was going in.  I hope that you can join me in that experience.

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