When their own child dies, their own life no longer seems to make sense to the parents. For many people, the journey back to everyday life is a struggle for the rest of their lives. Even if the trauma has been overcome, the sadness remains.
There are more than 3,000 star children every year in Germany.
All star parents lost their child before or shortly after birth. We have been exchanging ideas with star parents for several years now. And that's why I'm very happy that Vanesa contacted me and is sharing her story with us today.
How I would have loved to meet Vanesa in person for a little walk around the Alster. But unfortunately there are too many kilometers separating us, so we quickly arranged to have a Zoom conversation:
Tanja: Dear Vanesa, thank you very much for taking the time to tell me your story today. I know that the topic is unimaginable for many people. Losing your own child is the worst thing I can imagine. Nevertheless, it is very important that we talk about it because it is done far too little.
Vanesa: Thank you. I think the idea of talking about our story is very nice and perhaps showing other star parents that they are not alone with their thoughts and feelings.
Tanja: Would you like to share your story with me?
Vanesa: Very much. I am now 30 years old and had to let my firstborn son go in January 2020. I went into labor in the 25th week of pregnancy and my son had to be brought into the world via an emergency cesarean section. He weighed 722g and was very weak, so he was immediately placed in the incubator.
After two days we found out that he had since suffered from several severe brain bleeds and would not be able to live without the help of machines. They couldn't tell us specifically, but the nurses and doctors said he was already in severe pain, which would only get worse due to the extent it was already there.
It was with a heavy heart that we decided to switch off the machines. So that he doesn't have to suffer anymore. After the decision to let him go, it was also possible for the first time to hold him and have him on our chest because then all the tubes were removed. He had his last heartbeat on my husband's chest. Of course it broke our hearts, even though we knew it was best for him.
Tanja: Dear Vanesa, first of all thank you for your trust. I have goosebumps all over my body right now and I would like to tell you how sorry I am that you had to let your little darling go.
Vanessa: Thank you very much. But I have to tell you that it feels really good for me to talk about him and tell our story. And I now consider myself really lucky because I had him with me for two days. I was able to bathe, change and dress him after his death. That gave me so much. I felt like I was a mom. To be his mom. And yes, that moment was very, very important for me.
Tanja: (struggles for words) I am incredibly impressed with you. I mean, it's only been a year since this major loss, so it's very recent. How did you manage to process it all?
Vanesa: Yes, you're right. It's still very fresh. But what has really helped me is my husband and my dog. And an incredible amount of talking. My husband and I repeatedly talked about our feelings and impressions. We talked again and again about the moment of birth, the last moments with our son and of course our great sadness.
My husband grieved in a completely different way than I did, but that's totally okay. I already knew in the hospital that we could both do this together. And we did it and grew even stronger together.
Tanja: That’s not a given either. I'm very pleased that you mastered this together. What advice would you give other star parents? What are your experiences that can help others in this situation?
Vanesa: Talk, talk, talk. Don't isolate yourself or try to do everything alone. You are not alone with this topic! We ourselves have experienced that a similar fate has befallen many other people and it has helped us a lot to know that we are not alone.
Vanesa and I talked very openly for over an hour.
The conversation was very emotional and very impressive for me.
Vanesa is truly an incredibly strong woman who radiates so much joy and happiness.
Further links: In memory of your own star child - our star child posters