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    Ears of wheat in a field silhouetted by a lavendar and gold sunset.

    The Woman Who Carried Me

    An Abortion Survivor and Her Mother in Conversation


    March 25, 2020
    • Mel

      An excellent read! First, let me say that I think abortion is a horrible. If it must be done, do it as soon as possible after conception! I want to explore this difficult, highly personal issue from a political point of view, since many evangelical Christians support Donald Trump based foremost on his supposed anti-abortion stand. I happen to consider myself "Pro-choice", but this should not be taken to mean I am "pro-abortion"!! Not at all! It means the decision to abort a pregnancy should be handled at the local level; by those directly associated with the situation. As citizens of the US we are granted many rights, but that does not mean that acting upon a right is always the "right thing to do". For instance, the right to divorce does not imply it is the right thing to do. Only those intimately involved can and should make such a weighty decision. If Christian faith is to have any meaning at all it must allow the individual to make conscience-based decisions...even about matters of life and death. Does Christian faith not imply God will be the final judge? Offered with sincerity.

    • M G Crandall

      We are glad you’ve came to this happy ending But in the world there’s another ending. I call it the Club of the Unwanted. These are the children of mothers who wanted an abortion and couldn’t get one. They are the objects of rage that never ends. They are hated for breathing. I’ve learned how big a club this is. And if you asked it’s members, many would say that living this life - labeled as the “child who destroyed the family by being born” - they would tell you nothing is worth the pain they live with.

    Melissa Ohden was fourteen when she learned that she was the survivor of a botched abortion. In You Carried Me: A Daughter’s Memoir, she details her search for her biological parents, and her own journey from anger and shame to faith and empowerment.

    Three years ago, when Plough published You Carried Me, Melissa had only just met her birth mother. Now, she and her birth mother, Ruth, have co-written this epilogue for the new paperback edition.

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    Melissa: When You Carried Me was published three years ago, my birth mother and I had just met face-to-face for the first time after years of communicating through emails, cards, and photos. As two women so deeply wounded by abortion, we needed those years to build trust and love. Meeting each other was a natural outflow from the relationship we had established. In the book, I shared what a sacred experience that was. Yet as forthcoming as we were about that meeting and the convergence of our lives, there are some important specifics we left out in order to protect her privacy. We can share those now. First, her name: Ruth. My father was Elliot.

    Ruth: The day I heard that Melissa had survived the abortion my mother had performed on me was a Sunday in August 2007. My twin sister, Mary, called in the afternoon. I could tell it was going to be a serious conversation, so I went to the bedroom. Mary told me that the child Elliot and I had was alive. My first thought was: what a cruel joke to play on your twin sister. But she continued, telling me that I had a daughter who was alive and well, and living in Sioux City. My daughter had done an interview with the KMEG TV station and there was a segment on the website where I could see her.

    I was crying hysterically as I came out of the bedroom. I told my boyfriend to turn off the TV because we had to talk. I began telling him all about the situation, of which he knew nothing. He is an easygoing person but was in utter disbelief that this could have happened.

    Despite my shock, it dawned on me that this was finally the beginning – a chance to get to the bottom of what had happened.

    Melissa Ohden and her birth mother, Ruth

    Ruth and Melissa

    Melissa: We chose to meet for the first time at the Kansas City Zoo because it’s a public place that felt natural and family-friendly. But there’s more. Not only do I live in the Kansas City area, but so do Ruth and my half-sister, Jennifer. Yes, you read that correctly. Without knowing it, we had ended up living in the same city, hundreds of miles from our roots and the hospital where my life began.

    In fact, when Ruth’s cousin, Susan, contacted me back in 2013 with details about the abortion being coerced, about my grandmother being responsible for so much of it, and how my survival had been kept secret from Ruth for over thirty years, her primary reason for reaching out was because I had publicly announced we were moving to Kansas City. As a family, they felt it was time to approach me. I’m so grateful Susan did reach out and that Ruth is now a part of my life, as well as my half-sisters. I’m thankful the information they shared gave me more pieces to the puzzle of my life.

    Ruth: The day we first met was a Sunday, May 22, 2016. I had to work three hours that morning. Then I went to my daughter Jennifer’s house. I changed clothes, grabbed some lunch, and headed for the zoo with Jenny and her two children. We were to meet Melissa at one o’clock.

    Melissa, Ryan, and Olivia arrived shortly before we did. (Ava had recently been in the hospital so was unable to come.) When we arrived, we stood in the picnic area where we planned to meet and looked around. Jenny spotted them first and waved. Melissa and her family walked our way. When we met, I embraced Melissa in a big hug. The tears started flowing. I told her, “I never got to hold you.”

    I eventually let go of her and we walked around the zoo. The kids held hands like they had known each other forever. Ryan and Jenny kept track of them so Melissa and I could talk. It was my best day ever. I remember thinking, “I can die now. I have all my children in my life.”

    Melissa: The truth really does set us free. The truth that I’m alive has set Ruth free. And learning truths about the forced abortion and my survival have set me free. I still have many questions, as does Ruth: about who at the hospital knew the circumstances and allowed the abortion to take place, and about who knew I was placed for adoption without her knowledge of my survival. God is unfolding some hints about those details in his own time, as he always does.

    Ruth: One of the best aspects of getting to know Melissa is discovering all the things we have in common. Comparing physical similarities was fun the first day we met – Melissa inherited some striking and beautiful features from her biological father, but I think we have the same nose and a similar shape to our smiles. We really looked alike when we were younger. If you put a photo of Melissa as a young teenager next to one of me from high school, you’d have a hard time telling who is who.

    Over the last couple of years, we’ve discovered we share much more than physical characteristics. We are both passionate and driven; we tend to throw ourselves completely into whatever project we are working on. We are both empathetic, spending a lot of time worrying about others. We’re both stubborn, which comes in handy when you’ve survived the things we have. We both love music and played instruments when we were growing up. We are both animal lovers, and we’ve bonded over sharing pictures of our silly pets. We both find our greatest joy in our family, and I’m so thankful that our families now include each other after all these years.

    We certainly have our differences as well. We joke about the things Melissa thankfully did not inherit from me, like my public-speaking anxiety or my unreliable sense of direction. She’s not left-handed like me, although one of her daughters is. The real joy in getting to know Melissa has been learning all the little details that make her unique and amazing, whether they match my traits or not.

    Ruth with Olivia and Ava (Melissa’s daughters, in teal) and two other grandchildren

    Ruth with Olivia and Ava (Melissa’s daughters, in teal) and two other grandchildren

    Melissa: There are still unanswered questions for us both, but what we do know is that although I was the intended victim in that abortion, she was a secondary victim. And we both continue to choose to rise above being victimized. We choose to thrive. To live. To love. To forgive. To give to this world.

    Ruth: I am not a victim, but I am a survivor. The scars you can’t see are the hardest to heal. Melissa and I are both survivors.

    I hope anyone reading this book will see that there is a silver lining to a story that had such a horrific start. Although our story is extreme, because my own mother plotted and carried out this abortion on her daughter and granddaughter, God not only saved Melissa’s life but ultimately brought us together to reclaim some of the thirty years we missed in each other’s lives.

    I hope anyone being pressured into an abortion will read our story and gain strength to stand up for herself and go for help at a pregnancy center. There are alternatives to abortion. If you abort, you will never stop wondering about the child you would have had. At least, I never stopped thinking about mine. I had two miscarriages later in life and always thought they were my punishment for not running away or standing up to my parents when I first found out I was pregnant.

    I’m the luckiest woman in the world to have gone through this ordeal and come out with a living daughter. I now have my firstborn child in my life as well as a son-in-law and two more beautiful granddaughters.

    Melissa: Although the last few years have been full of funny and personal moments as we got to know each other, Ruth and I are starting to do some serious projects together, as we share sides of the abortion narrative that are often overlooked in our society: how many women experience coerced and forced abortions, how many regret their decision to abort, and how some children do indeed survive the procedure.

    I chose not to include photos of Ruth in the first edition, because I wanted to protect her privacy. But soon after the book was released, she and I did our first joint TV interview (one with Inside Edition that unfortunately was never aired). Since then we’ve shown photos of our reunited family and participated in a number of interviews together.

    Ruth: I am so proud of Melissa’s work and her activism for the unborn. She is a natural at what she does. Some interviews we did together have even aired in other countries. I will keep doing interviews with Melissa whenever she asks. Contrary to what people might think, it is not difficult for me to take part. The deep, dark family secret my parents thought would never be told is being shouted from the rooftops.

    Melissa: If there’s one thing I’ve continued to experience firsthand in my life, particularly since meeting Ruth in 2016, it’s that love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Cor. 13:7). I would add that love always strengthens, always emboldens, always unlocks potential. In short, love transforms you into the person you were meant to be. Ruth coming into my life has enabled me to continue to grow into who I was created to be, and who the world needs me to be.

    So, the truth sets us free and love strengthens us. I have never felt stronger, more loved, or more purposeful than I have in these past few years. That’s what love and truth do! They have carried me through the challenges of parenting a child born with complex medical needs. And they have guided me through an American culture on fire with abortion wars. I have testified at Senate hearings, at Capitol Hill news conferences, at the White House, and on national television as some states were expanding abortion access through all nine months of pregnancy and one governor even discussed infanticide for babies who survive abortion as I did.

    Ruth now carries my purpose with her, as she shares her experience with the world. My mom and dad, Linda and Ron, continue to be the most amazing parents, carrying love not only for me but for Ruth too. As I advocate for life and healing, my husband, Ryan, and our daughters, Ava and Olivia, help carry the load with incredible strength and grace. I can’t thank them enough for their understanding and passion.

    Ruth: A big void in my life has been filled. There was always a piece of my puzzle missing, and now that missing piece has found its place. My broken heart is now full and complete. I lived a long time with tremendous guilt and self-loathing because I thought my child died in the abortion.

    I truly believe that everything in life happens for a reason. I may never know the full reason for what happened, but I’m thankful Melissa had loving parents and didn’t have to endure the abuse at the hands of family that I did. Melissa and I will never be as close as she is to her adoptive parents, but I feel blessed that we are in each other’s lives and can spend the next thirty years making up for the thirty years we lost.

    Melissa: Life may not look anything like we expected it to, or anything like we want it to, but God’s plans for us are so much greater than we can usually comprehend. If you look closely, you’ll see his fingerprints all over your life. He’s carried me and Ruth, and he’s carried you. We all have yet to see where he might carry us next.

    Contributed By MelissaOhden Melissa Ohden

    Melissa Ohden is founder of the Abortion Survivors Network and an advocate for women, men, and children impacted by abortion.

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