Love & Family

My mum was told I was DEAD – It took me 17 years to find her

'She explained there was much more to my story than I'd ever imagined'
My birth mother and me

Aged just 14, Melissa Ohden disocvered the shocking reason she’d been adopted her a baby.

But, after years of searching, she was finally able to meet the mum who gave her life.

We were arguing again, as teenage sisters do.

Whatever Tammy, then 18, and I were rowing about must have felt like a big deal but I can’t even remember that now. All I remember was her final shot.

‘At least my biological parents wanted me,’ she blurted out.

Both of us were adopted.

Our adoptive parents, Linda and Ron, had been open about it but I’d always assumed my biological mother had loved me enough to give me up.

Now, my sister was telling the 14-year-old me otherwise.

Rushing straight to Mum, I wanted answers.

‘We never meant to keep this from you,’ she started.

She went on to explain everything… I was the result of a botched abortion.

It was thought that my mother was 20 weeks pregnant when actually she was 31 weeks. I was born alive and then laid aside.

My head was in a spin.

Laid aside. What did that even mean?

I imagined the shock on everyone’s faces as I, the tiny, unwanted baby, kept breathing.

‘Two nurses intervened to save your life,’ Mum told me.

I was taken to a special care unit, then transferred to another hospital where a nurse called Mary gave me a name.

It was a lot to take in. I didn’t know anyone like me and I felt like such a freak.

I didn’t blame my family for the way it had come out.

In fact, I didn’t want them to worry about me so I never talked about how much it hurt.

But inside I was a mess.

My mum wanted me dead, I’d think in my darkest times. I wasn’t meant to be here.

As the years went on, though, I began to wonder about my biological parents.

I knew in my heart they must have suffered too, and I wanted to show them that I was okay, even that I forgave them.

Me as a baby (Credit: Supplied)

Then, when I was 19, the internet arrived, and that changed everything.

It took years of research, but when I was 30, at last I found my maternal grandparents. But my grandfather wrote back saying they were estranged from my biological mother and I’d never find her.

Alarm bells were ringing.

‘It feels like something funny went on,’ I told my husband, Ryan.

That same year, 2007, I got my medical records.

In a stroke of luck, my parents’ names hadn’t been blacked out properly and I saw them – Elliott and Ruth.

So, I wrote to my father, but he never replied.

When I googled him, I discovered he had died unexpectedly, aged 51.

It’s odd grieving for someone you never knew, and his death put a stop to my hunt for a while.

My biological mother had a new married name and I couldn’t find her easily.

I began to wonder what the point of it all was.

By then, I had a daughter of my own – Olivia, then five.

But the curiosity remained and sometimes

I spent hours searching on Facebook.

Starting my own family (Credit: Supplied)

I was 36 when I got an email that would change my life again.

I think you’re looking for Ruth, it said.

It was from Susan, my biological mum’s cousin.

She explained there was much more to my story than I’d ever imagined.

My mother and father had been engaged but when she told my grandmother she was pregnant aged 19, she was forced to have a termination.

My grandmother, a prominent nurse in the community, arranged the procedure with a doctor who was a friend of hers.

By the time I was born, my mother was in such a bad way she didn’t know if she’d had a boy or girl, let alone that I was alive.

She didn’t walk away from me, I realised. She thought I was dead.

Susan put us in touch and, after 17 years of searching, I’d found my mother.

We started with tentative emails and calls. We were both in so much shock.

Ruth had spent decades dealing with the guilt of an abortion she never wanted.

And now, here I was, very much alive!

Incredibly, we were living in the same city.

By then, my grandmother had died but as time went on, I was able to forgive her.

Meeting my mother (Credit: Supplied)

It took three years before Ruth and I decided to meet in May 2016.

‘I never got to hold you,’ she said, as she took me in her arms for the first time.

We cried and laughed and it felt so normal.

‘This is the best day of my life,’ Ruth told me.

I also learned I had two half sisters. Now, we catch up as often as we can.

I’ve written a book, You Carried Me: a daughter’s memoir.

I’m glad I can speak out so people in my position don’t feel as alone as I did.

Amazingly, I’m not alone any more, though.

I have my wonderful daughters, Olivia, now 12, and Ava, six.

And I have my biological mother, as well as my adoptive one.

My birth mother and me (Credit: Supplied)

Ruth says:

When we met, I embraced Melissa in a big hug. The tears started flowing.

It was my best day ever.

I remember thinking, I can die now. I have all my children in my life.

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.

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