On August 24, 1977, Melissa Ohden’s mother, 19, went to Saint Luke’s hospital in Sioux City, Iowa for the first step in her saline abortion that takes five days to complete.
She was eight months pregnant and on August 29, 1977 she delivered her child.
Her mother, who worked as an educational nurse at the hospital and was in the room as the abortion took place, had coerced her daughter into having the abortion.
But unknown to her mother, Melissa was born alive and the staff left her to die in a pile of medical waste.
But a while later when another nurse entered the room she heard a faint whimpering and rustling and discovered Melissa still alive.
The nurse rushed Melissa to emergency and after a three-month stint in the hospital she was adopted by a Catholic family, Ron and Linda Ohden, who lived in Sioux Falls.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Melissa, 40, shared her incredible story of forgiveness as she spent 17 years trying to track down her parents.
Initially her adoptive parents never told Melissa she was adopted. The news was blurted out in a fight with her older sister. When Melissa ran to her parents, they told of her incredible survival from an abortion.
After graduating from university, Melissa continued living in Sioux Falls.
She spent years searching newspapers and school year books looking for clues on who her parents were. The break through came when she asked the hospital for the medical records associated with her abortion and they failed to cross out the names of her parents.
From this she was able to track down her father, who did not respond to her queries. But when Melissa read an obituary that he had died, she tracked down his brother and this eventually led to her getting enough information to find her mother who had married another man.
When Melissa contacted her mother, she had no idea her daughter had survived the abortion and for years had felt guilty about what she had done.
Melissa’s mother and father were engaged to be married when she became pregnant. But Melissa’s grandmother never approved of the father and relentlessly pressured for an abortion.
After the abortion, Melissa’s mother broke off all contact with her mother. Since an adoption requires the mother’s approval, Melissa believes her mother’s signature was undoubtedly forged.
Melissa said her biggest struggle was forgiving her mother, father and her grandmother who was the major catalyst for the abortion.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Melissa said
“It’s been a long and painful journey from shame and anger to faith and forgiveness. But I refuse to be poisoned by bitterness — that’s no way to live.
“Through my Catholic faith I have learned to forgive. It doesn’t make what happened okay, but it releases you from the pain. We are all human and we all make mistakes.”
She added, “I have only forgiveness in my heart, for my father and even for my grandmother.”
Melissa now married with two children of her own has a master’s degree in social work. Today, she works as a motivational speaker and has also started an organization called the Abortions Survivor Network. She even wrote a book on her survival: “You Carried Me: A Daughter’s Memoir.”
The story of Melissa’s willingness to forgive really struck me. For a Christian, forgiving others who have offended us is an important part of our journey with God.
Jesus said if we don’t forgive, then God can’t forgive us.
15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. (Matthew 6:15 NASV)
I think our unwillingness to forgive becomes a slap in the face to the grace our Heavenly Father has extended us. In one sense, our unforgiveness is a subconscious rejection of the forgiveness God extended to us.
But curiously, Jesus even addressed how necessary it is to forgive family.
When a disciple came to Jesus asking how many times he should extend forgiveness to his brother – up to seven times. Jesus answered seventy times seven.
21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21-23 NASV)
Jesus’s message here is simply unlimited forgiveness.
Family offenses can be one of the most difficult things to deal with because it is the deepest form of betrayal. It is also more difficult because we are often in situations where we can’t avoid them.
When Jesus said seventy times seven, I am not convinced he was talking about 490 different offenses, though that could be the case.
Instead, I suspect the Lord was referring to one serious offense that people have to forgive again and again.
Forgiveness is like an onion.
When you forgive the offense, you peel back one layer of the onion, and things seem to be fine. But weeks, even months later, the offense pops into your mind again along with the anger and you must forgive one more time and you peel off the another layer.
As you go through this process several times forgiving again and again, one day you will pull off the last peal, and the onion disappears and you have completely forgiven the person.
Forgive and keep on forgiving, until the onion of offense is completely gone.