By Airman 1st Class Savannah L. Waters, 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 31, 2018
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (AFNS) -- “Often times, people don’t know resources are out there,” said Chap. (Maj.) Mark Rendon, U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz family and life chaplain. “Or, they’re unaware of how to get these resources. And sometimes, it’s just not a subject that is easily talked about with others, because, the loss of a child is very difficult.”
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, where organizations and communities everywhere host events to commemorate the lives parents and families have lost due to miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss. However, Rendon is on a mission to make pregnancy and infant loss awareness more than just an annual event within the Kaiserslautern military community.
Rendon, his wife, Tania, and son, AJ, hosted a “Wave of Light Celebration” at the Java Café at Rhine Ordnance Barracks, Dec. 12, 2017, to join parents and families within the KMC who’ve experienced this particular kind of loss.
“To be transparent and vulnerable, my wife and I have experienced three miscarriages: Peanut, Button and Jelly Bean,” Rendon said. “It is my honor, privilege and calling to serve such families because my wife and I have been there. In our experience, there was little to no support of any kind.”
According to the Share Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support website, www.nationalshare.org, nearly one in four pregnancies ends in loss.
“The goal of this event was to recognize and appreciate the sanctity of life for each moment every baby brought joy to every family with every heartbeat,” Rendon said.
“My hope is that families can experience this time together celebrating life knowing they're not alone, and that there are others who share similar experiences.”
When the Rendons were anticipating their first child, they didn’t know what to expect.
“I was really excited, I had never been through this before,” Rendon said. “I was looking at the screen, and I was anticipating, and I was nervous…and the doctor left the room.”
That was the first of three losses the Rendons experienced as parents.
“In 2005, when we had our first loss, MEND, Mommies Enduring Neonatal Death, was the only organization or community I could find online at the time,” said Tania.
MEND is a Christian, non-profit organization that reaches out to families who have suffered the loss of a baby, and hosts a variety of support groups throughout the nation.
The MEND website maintains and regularly updates a list of resources for those who’ve needed it the last 19 years, including bi-monthly newsletters, music, books, publications and family memorials.
Another resource, the Share Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support, is a community that can provide support for grandparents, siblings and others in the family unit. Their services include bedside companions, phone support, face-to-face support group meetings, resource packets, private online communities, memorial events, training for caregivers and more.
The KMC is making steps toward becoming a community that has a variety of choices and support for those that have experienced the tragic loss of a baby. Rendon hosts the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support Group every third Tuesday of the month.
“How do I honor my babies?” Rendon asked. “They are a part of my life. It’s not like grieving the end of an older relative’s life. They’d lived a fruitful, meaningful, full life. How can a baby? You never stop grieving, thinking about all that they could’ve become.”
The Rendons didn’t really begin to heal until after their third loss, Rendon said.
“Our story began to be a teaching point for others,” Rendon said. “It still hurt, but I set forth on a path to which God was calling me, to help heal the wounded. That is how I’m going to honor my babies.”
The journey of grief within this experience is often overlooked, undermined or unrecognized, Rendon said.
“My wife and I would love the opportunity to serve our community in a unique and special way in the area of pregnancy and infant loss,” Rendon said. “I really appreciate the support to all our families throughout the KMC in so many areas. It's an honor and privilege to serve alongside all of you.”