By Melissa Ohden
Editor’s note. In 1977, Melissa survived a “failed” abortion. She has spoken multiple times at the National Right to Life Convention and will again this year in Louisville. The 2014 convention begins in eight days! For more information about registering for the convention, go to nrlconvention.com. This article first ran in 2012.
Dominique Moceanu. It didn’t matter that when she was an Olympic gold medalist in 1996, I was 18 years old. I still wanted to be like her. As a young girl, I had been obsessed with gymnastics. My family couldn’t afford gymnastics classes, so watching it on TV was the closest I ever got to the sport. Even at the age of 18, I still glued myself to the TV whenever gymnastics were on, and my mother still apologized for never being able to give me the opportunity to participate in the sport. And there was Dominique, at the age of 14, along with the other members of the “Magnificent Seven” medaling in Atlanta. I was so impressed with her talent, her poise, her personality.
Little did I know that day in 1996 as I watched her in the Olympics that Dominique’s lives and mine were more alike than I ever could have imagined. No, I may never know what it’s like to be an Olympic gymnast, but I do know what it’s like to have a secret adoption in the family (and in my case the abortion that preceded it), to have that secret come to light, and to have siblings involved.
As the AP and Life News reported last week, in her recently released memoir, “Off Balance,” Dominique discusses how, in 2007, she received a letter from a young woman who identified herself as her biological sister who had been placed for adoption. As Moceanu states in a recent 20/20 interview, “It was the biggest bombshell of my life. I had this sister that was born who was given up for adoption, and I never knew it.”
When Dominique confronted her parents, Dumitru and Camilla, she learned that her sister had been born with serious health issues, including not having any legs. Her Romanian parents were encouraged to make an adoption plan for her due to the difficulties and costs that would come from raising their daughter. Dominique reports that she has since met with her sister a number of times, and that their similarities are “mind-blowing”– “the tones in our voices, our handwriting, the way we laugh and chuckle.”
Interestingly enough, just as Moceanu discovered this great family secret back in 2007, it was in that very same year that I finally found my own biological family after ten years of searching. When I found my biological family and had some communication with them, I learned that I have a number of siblings, including two on the maternal side and one on the paternal side. Sadly, in the past five years, I have never had the opportunity to know any more about my siblings or have the chance to meet them. And although I’ve had contact with my maternal grandparents and I have a close relationship with my paternal grandfather and a paternal great aunt, by and large, I am still much of a family secret. I’m the other side of Dominique’s story—like her adopted sister.
Believe it or not, I live in the very same city as my biological sister on the paternal side of my family. Of all the places in the world, I live in the very same city of about 80,000 people. Yet five years after finding out about me, my biological father’s family has not been able to navigate the waters of the great family secret that was held for 30 years and enable us to connect with one another. The fact that my sister is still young (in high school), and that she is still dealing with the loss of our father in 2008 creates many obstacles to connecting, and I understand and respect our family’s decision to not yet tell her about me, but it’s incredibly hard.
Little does my sister know, just like Dominique didn’t know for years about her own sister, that I exist. Little does she know that she has a sister who survived a failed abortion and was then placed for adoption. Little does she know that this sister has a picture of her, obtained from their grandfather, that hangs on the side of her sister’s refrigerator, and that it is with great pride and joy that her sister reads about her academic and musical achievements in the newspaper and has kept the clippings chronicling all of it. Little does she know that her sister prays for her every night, and looks forward to someday meeting her. Little does she know that many a day her sister wonders if the young woman that she sees at the mall, at the pool, at the grocery store might be her.
Dominique Moceanu’s story has brought me a lot of joy. As I so un-eloquently stated on Facebook the other night, I’m so glad that her sister was adopted and not aborted. Subconsciously, I guess you could say that I am grateful that her opportunity at life and being loved was different than mine. And I have found great joy and great hope in the meeting of these two sisters. It has renewed my hope for my own life.
Whether it’s said out loud or not, Dominique’s family story is a lot like many of our stories. Every family has its’ secrets. Many of those secrets revolve around the issues of abortion and adoption, and in cases like mine, both. Whether it’s said out loud or not, the Moceanu family story also speaks volumes about the sanctity of human life and about the loving option of adoption. Although I can’t imagine how difficult it was for their family to carry the secret of the adoption and then have it come to light, they have nothing to be ashamed of. Adoption is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed of.
And in the case of my life and families like mine who have experienced abortion, I believe that it (abortion) needs to be talked about. As I have seen throughout my work as a therapist and throughout my work in pro-life ministry, abortion affects families, whether it’s talked about or not. And it isn’t until the abortion is finally talked about, that family members can truly understand why they’ve heard, felt, experienced what they have within the family. It isn’t until the truth is brought to light that all family members can begin to heal.
As for me, I will continue to patiently await the day that I will get to communicate with my sister and even my other siblings, God willing. I will continue to pray for them, for my entire family. And while she may no longer be a gymnast, I am still a Dominique Moceanu fan, and now a fan of her whole family, too.
Editor’s note. This appeared on Melissa’s webpage and is reprinted with permission.