Sweetness and sorrow. Ahead of Mother's Day, one mum shares her story.
Mother’s Day holds the sweetest and most sorrowful memories for Kerry Parnell.
Mother’s Day always meant Centennial Park.
My first one was spent wheeling my gleaming new Bugaboo around the park just six weeks after I became a mum. We sat on a blanket under a tree near the café, where we had a picnic and I fumblingly fed my beautiful baby boy Teddy outside for the first time, grappling with a muslin wrap blowing in the wind.
To onlookers we seemed like any other new parents; the same as all the other families there enjoying the day.
What they could not see, could never know, were the terminal health issues my precious son was battling and the emotional agony we were in that day and every day of what would be his short life. His heart would fail; ours shatter into pieces.
By the next Mother’s Day Teddy was gone and the Bugaboo empty and immobile in our house. I returned to Centennial Park and walked my usual circuit, my hands strangely redundant with no pram to push, no baby to cradle. As I passed by the other families I remember wanting to scream out that I was a mother, too; I was still a mother.
Centennial Park had been our happy place — on those increasingly rare days when he didn’t have hospital appointments, we’d walk around it and feel for a brief hour that we were a normal mother and son.
Teddy had poor eyesight but had loved to look up at the trees. And although they couldn’t save him, after he died I truly believe they helped to heal me.
On my second Mother’s Day, I placed my blanket beneath a grand eucalyptus tree by the water, lay down and wept ugly giant sobs. I didn’t look like other mothers that year.
In those darkest of days when my soul had shrivelled, my only solace was the park and those trees. But what I could never have imagined then — especially because I was already in my forties — was that on my third Mother’s Day, I would be once again in Centennial Park with a baby; my newborn daughter. And two years after that, with a sister for her and Teddy.
It is Teddy who made me a mother. He changed me so completely that I consider my life in two parts: before and after. After Teddy I radically altered my outlook. I simply do not process things the way I did before.
Everything material became immaterial — including the Bugaboo, which we sold — and I did find joy again, understanding that it is in the tiniest details of life. Happiness to me now is singing songs, reading stories, coffee and cake and cuddles, endless cuddles.
I adore being a mum. And although I don’t live near Centennial Park anymore, our new home is surrounded by trees: I made sure of it.
One of our family’s favourite activities is a walk in the woods. I don’t know if it’s Teddy, or shinrin-yoku (forest bathing), but I think those big old trees are watching over my little tribe.
I had been excited to read to Teddy when he was born and one of my friends gave me The Magic Faraway Tree books for his baby shower. He never got to read them, but they have become my daughters’ favourite bedtime stories. And now when we walk in our local forest they hug the trees and put their ears to the trunks to listen to them, just like in the books.
They never hear them speak, but I already know their message of love and who sent it.