By Melissa Ohden
Editor’s note. This ran yesterday on the blog of Melissa Ohden. Melissa is the survivor of a “failed” saline abortion in 1977. She speaks all over the world including at many National Right to Life Conventions. She has often written for NRL News Today.
If you’ve ever wondered what goes through an abortion survivor’s head on their birthday, I’ll give you a sneak peek into mine on my 40th birthday.
12:33 am: I’m woken up by our 3-year-old. I glance at the clock, realizing it’s now the 29th. I say a prayer, thanking God for being alive and continue this prayer multiple times throughout the day.
6:30 am: I think about how I was delivered around this time in the final step of the abortion procedure. I’m saddened and horrified thinking about it, while at the same time, so thankful to have been born alive.
These thoughts automatically trigger my questions about who all was present at the time or shortly thereafter and the effect all of this might have had on them. My grandmother was there. Nurses were there. I worry about them. Yes, even my grandmother. Did this haunt them throughout their lives? When did the abortionist first find out the abortion had “failed”? When did he begin to panic? Was I his first botched abortion survivor?
I reflect on the panic that so many must have felt. This wasn’t supposed to happen. And then to be told I needed to be left to die. To hear me, to see me, this suffering newborn gasping for breath. My heart breaks for them. I wonder, do they realize today is the 40th anniversary of that fateful day?
9:00 am: I wonder how long I had been in the NICU forty years ago today at this time. I wonder if my grandmother kept checking on me. I wonder if she was allowed anywhere near me? I wonder what that was like for her to have me there at the hospital she worked at, trained nurses at, for the next twenty one days. Was she ever thankful I was actually born alive, or was she simply angry that the abortion failed, and I was there like a black eye for all to see–the child born to her daughter out of wedlock?
1:00 pm: I can’t remember what time my medical records state that the neonatologist visited me, but I think of him today. “Approximately 31 weeks gestation,” he wrote in my records. I’m sure he assessed and directed care for many premature infants. I wonder what he thought of my circumstances?
3:00: The words “it is finished” keep rolling around in my head. Of course, it reminds me of Jesus on Good Friday, as He hung from the Cross, but the words have been echoing in my head all day. After four days of the abortion procedure, today was meant to be the day that it was finished. Except, much like Good Friday, God was not done. What looks like the end, could very well be just the beginning. Thank God, truly!
5:00 pm: I think about the nurses again. I wonder if that nurse who whisked me off to the NICU because she couldn’t just leave me there to die is still alive today? If she remembers this day? If she does, I sure hope she knows how thankful I am for her.
And the NICU nurses…I think about them again, too. I wonder who’s been tending to me throughout the day. Have they been praying over me already? I bet they have, based on the conversation I was blessed to have with one of them earlier this year.
I wonder what the buzz is around the hospital, knowing it was so associated with my grandmother. Did people know 40 years ago around this time about what happened? I know how quickly news and gossip travel, and this one would have hit like a lightning bolt. What was this like for my grandmother? Did it anger her more that the abortion had failed and created all of this? Did it make her even angrier at my birthmother? What was it like for her continue to be there at the hospital in the days and weeks even after I was gone? That place had to have been forever changed for her.
8:30: As I’m rocking our overly tired three year old to sleep (so thankful that she asked me to do this), I think about my grandmother once again. If her plans had succeeded, I wouldn’t be doing this right now. I wouldn’t have become a mother. I wouldn’t have lived. My daughters wouldn’t have lived. And I choke back the tears that threaten to fall and wake Ava.
I wonder if she ever would have accepted me. I wonder if she ever could have loved me, despite how she worked so hard that I not live. I feel sorry for her that she never got to meet her great-granddaughters and see the impact of the decisions she made about my life and therefore, theirs. Maybe it would have affected her in a positive way? Maybe she could have recognized the damage she caused?
As I rock Ava, I think about how 40 years ago at this time, I was motherless. And I hate thinking about this. Taken from my birthmother, without her knowing I was alive, and not yet having my adoptive mom’s arms to hold me, I was alone. I know the nurses provided me great care and love, but I was motherless. And my heart aches for my newborn self.
And for my birthmother. I wonder if she was still in the hospital, with me being just down the hallway, unbeknownst to her?
9:00: I’ll be honest. I’ve really done nothing today for myself. It’s been a busy day. My own goal was to sit down and drink a cup of coffee while reading a magazine. I contemplate sitting down to at least read the magazine, but decide instead to tuck our nine-year-old, (who doesn’t want or need tucked in that often these days), into bed.
I even brush her hair as I help her settle in. I reflect on how this simple thing, brushing her hair, is a gift. She may not allow me to do this much longer, and just being with her, caring for her, is a gift.
And as I settle her in, the final thoughts of the day settle in. It is finished. There’s those words again. The horrors of that day still haunt me and my birthmother, as well as many extended family members and likely the medical professionals who cared for me, maybe even the abortionist, but the evils of that day are finished.
I’m alive. I’ve been united with my birthmom and many members of both sides of my biological family, despite all of the efforts to keep us apart. The secrets of what was done to me, of what was done to my birthmother, are secrets no more.
That cycle of secrecy, lies and suffering has ended. The fear that has silenced so many, including me over the years, has been overcome.
And I return again to my prayers of Thanksgiving.