Here’s another article, written by Dolores Cullen with the Storm Lake Times, whose link hasn’t been working properly.
Abortion survivor found loving family in Storm Lake, Iowa
Melissa Ohden becomes a political pro-life advocate
‘I started to make sounds and movement and that’s when they stepped in to save me.’
by dolores cullen
Storm Lake Times
Thirty-one years ago at St. Luke’s Hospital in Sioux City, Melissa, at 2 pounds, 14 ounces, fought to survive. Nurses were attending to her mother, who had had an abortion. After five days in the saline, caustic solution injected into her mother, the baby emerged – and was thought to be dead.
“I started to make sounds and movement,” said Melissa, “and that’s when they stepped in to save me.”
So began the life of a Melissa Ohden, the international pro-life speaker who now lives in Sioux City. She will be hosted by St. Mary’s Pro-Life Club to speak next Sunday and Monday in Storm Lake.
She was so unwanted that her mother chose abortion, but here’s the rest of the story: Baby Melissa was adopted by a couple who brought her to Storm Lake at age four. She graduated from Storm Lake High School in 1977 and from Buena Vista University in December 1999.
Love at first sight
Melissa’s adoptive mother Linda Cross, who moved from Storm Lake to Ida Grove a few years ago, remembers seeing “Missy” for the first time. She and her husband Ron, now of Sioux Rapids, had traveled to Iowa City where the baby had been transferred.
“A nurse there felt bad for her because she didn’t have any parents,” said Linda. “She got her a little outfit and gave her a name, because she didn’t want to just call her ‘baby’.”
The Crosses had been told about the medical issues that could accompany the child, born between 18 and 22 weeks. Retardation, sight problems, emotional and physical disabilities were possiblities.
But, “the first time when they put her in my arms, I just knew,” recalled Linda, “I knew she was an awesome baby.” She can’t think back without choking up. Part of the baby’s dark hair was shaved to allow for intervenous feeding.
Linda describes Melissa as a child who always wanted to please her parents. That didn’t mean there weren’t conflicts in the house. When Melissa was in eighth grade she got into a fight with her older sister Tammy, who blurted out the hurtful words, “At least my parents wanted me!”
That night the girl questioned her mother. “Nothing could have prepared me for the words that came next,” writes Melissa in her blog. “Not an ounce of my being could have ever fathomed the great secret that the world around me had harbored the past 14 years of my life. ‘Your mother had an abortion during her fifth month of pregnancy, and you survived it.’
“All at once the wind was sucked out of my lungs and my stomach turned sour. Tears streaming, cries racking my body, my mother consoled me that night, and our lives were forever changed.”
Strength to face the truth
Melissa said she spent many years of her life being ashamed and embarrassed by the abortion attempt. “I was also very hurt, assuming that so little was thought of me and my potential for life. Of course, I would be lying to myself and everyone else, if I stated that I had never been angry with my biological mother for the decision that was made to end my life. Looking back on this now, I understand that this was all part of the grieving process that I had to go through.”
Others in Storm Lake knew Melissa carried a burden. Storm Lake Middle School English teacher Marsha Ingram remembers Melissa writing a paper about the abortion attempt and reading it in front of fellow eighth graders. “I know how much courage it took,” Marsha said.
Melissa credits Ingram as a teacher who was especially supportive of and influential to her. When Ingram tells her students she isn’t there to judge, they come forth with personal stories, like the boy who journeyed north on foot across the desert from El Salvador to the U.S.
Jim Nichols was another teacher Melissa praised: “In high school, I was very active in the Peer Help classes and in social service as a result of Mr. Nichols. He always encouraged me to use my experiences and my skills to help improve the lives of others.” Melissa became a mentor in Mrs. McKenna’s third grade class while in high school. She worked with one boy, in particular, who was struggling at home and school. Jim Nichols and Melissa remember clearly the high school awards ceremony where the boy surprised her with a dozen red roses.
“I believe I had great support growing up in Storm Lake,” said Melissa. She credits her parents for providing a loving environment. In addition to her sister Tammy, Melissa is close to her brother Dustin, who now lives in Storm Lake. (Ron and Linda had Dustin after they adopted the two girls, even though they thought they were unable to have children.)
Melissa recalled her confirmation at United Methodist Church. “I can still remember how much more it meant to me after learning about the abortion. While others picked out Bible verses like John 3:16, mine focused on God knowing me before I was born. My confirmation was definitely a celebration of faith and of life that year.”
Finding a calling
Armed with an undergraduate degree in English, education and Spanish, Melissa went on to teach one semester in the Okoboji schools. “I had a student there who changed my life,” she explained. “He stayed after class every day at the end of the day, and I later discovered that he had found his sister and mother shot to death a few months before that. He taught me that I was meant to do more than just give kids homework.”
Melissa went on to work in a domestic violence/sexual assault shelter. She then pursued a graduate degree in social work.
She is now a Social Work Supervisor with the Department of Human Services for Woodbury and Plymouth counties. She is married to Ryan Ohden, whose parents Ron and Terry Behrens live in Storm Lake. The Ohdens are thrilled with their young daughter Olivia who was born last April.
It was only a year and a half ago that Melissa decided to come forward publicly with her story. She had wanted to make contact with her biological family. Her search ultimately led her just down the street, where she was reunited with members of her biological father’s family in Sioux City. She was saddened to read in the Sioux City Journal that her biological father died at age 50; she never met him.
“My own wishes to not be part of the rhetoric, but part of the solution, was one of the reasons why I did not come out with my story until recently,” she said. “I still feel pressure from many to get involved in highly political and/or highly religious activities, and I refuse to do so. I believe that it is my purpose to share my story with others and have them come to me with an open heart and an open mind; protesting, picketing and the like would only close hearts and minds, so I do not participate in them.”
Melissa doesn’t state whether she believes abortion should be legal or illegal. Instead she focuses on ways to make resources available to women and girls who are pregnant.
She has teamed with the group Feminists For Life since 2007. She has spoken at Capitol Hill, at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, the National Students for Life Conference in Washington, a few colleges in Ontario, Canada, and at a fundraiser in Ontario, in addition to the Sioux City Interfaith Prayer Service.
She has been asked by colleges in the U.S., plus Canada and Ireland to speak and her story has traveled around the world. Her pregnancy with Olivia and now taking care of her has limited her speaking somewhat.
Responses to Melissa’s presentations indicate to her the deep damage abortion can cause. “I have heard from men who have arranged abortions for the women in their lives and have now felt great grief over the years as a result. I have heard from women whose sisters have had abortions, and they now grieve the loss of the nieces or nephews they never knew.”
Her talks are permeated with faith in God, and gratitude to those who have helped realize her self worth.
Her father Ron isn’t surprised by the success Melissa has made of herself. “She worked very, very hard to get where she’s at,” he said. He looks back on her birth and the survival of the tiny baby who was predicted to suffer from birth defects. “Definately a miracle. It was the way it was meant to be,” he said.
Melissa hopes people come away with an appreciation of how fragile and precious each life is. “Even though my circumstances are truly unique, we can all relate at some level to what I have experienced and how I have survived and thrived.”
Source:The Storm Lake Times
Storm Lake, Iowa