Mothers can be many things: loving, multi-taking, kind, firm when needed, gentle, imaginative, entrepreneurial and resilient. Writer, Angela Reedman-Polinksi, recently caught up with a local mother who portrays these qualities and when the going gets tough, always looks for the good.
by Angela Reedman-Polinksi
Melissa Kent grew up in the historic Western Queensland mining town of Charters Towers, and enjoyed a feeling of strong community, creative collaborations and the joys of music.
“I grew up with my brother Steven on the family farm. Our dad, David, owned and ran Plants Meats butcher shop in town, and our Mum, Julie, stayed home to care for the family and farm.”
Mel was an active musician playing in three different bands, and due to all of her practise, commitment and community focus, she received an Australia Day Award (Youth Cultural Award) in 2001 for her work with music within the community.
When Mel was 16 she met 17-year-old Michael Kent. “At the time I had plans to study at the Conservatory of Music and continue my passion for music.”
The plans took a side step however as the couple moved to Townsville in 2003 for Michael’s work and Mel picked up work in a local café.
“We married in 2007 at The Strand on a hot windy day,” Mel smiled. I remember how the bridal parties dress heels were trapped in the planks on the pier during the wedding photographs!”
Michael’s father, David, had passed away earlier and so Mel arranged a photograph of him to be positioned on their signing table.
Mel became pregnant with their first child, Lachlan, who arrived in June 2008 and she undertook online studies to become a doula.
She was mentored for eight years by a doula group and attended and assisted in many births. “I loved the birth events, watching a new life enter the world is so magical,” said Mel.
Continuing her work in the community, Mel educated on birthing options and taught baby wearing techniques.
The family grew a little bigger in May 2010 when baby Evie came along, but Mel continued to mentor and support mums going through pregnancy and labour and post-natal depression.
She began a placental encapsulation service where she collected and treated newly delivered placenta for the parents.
“I remember brand new dads awkwardly arriving with eskies carrying the precious cargo,” Mel laughed.
As part of her service, Mel air-dehydrated, ground and filled individual capsules. Mums took the tablets to increase their milk supply, boost iron levels and combat post-natal depression. Service demand increased, and Mel went from two batches a year to four batches per week.
In May 2014 the family grew to welcome in their third baby, Audrey. However, this didn’t slow Mel down as an active and passionate advocate for women’s health and, with three kids, she took on one extra challenge.
Mel hosted a world premiere screening of ‘Microbirth’ in Townsville on 20 September. (Maleny also hosted a screening on the same day.)
‘Microbirth’ is a documentary discussing scientific research about childbirth and gut bacteria. The event was a success and another event was scheduled for November.
Baby Audrey, however, began to experience complex health issues around this time. Heat was identified as a strong irritant amongst other pollutants, chemical and stress-based triggers resulting in anaphylactic attacks.
The family made a choice to move to Maleny for the cooler climate to ease her conditions in 2015. They were strongly drawn to the sense of community.
Mel said, “I feel like the Hinterland is like the small town I grew up in. I have a growing network of friends here and a village to raise our children in.”
She began developing a children’s book Broccoli Trees – Yes Please which she published in 2017. “The book encourages children to explore and expand their palates through play.”
It has sold over 650 copies with it’s healthy eating message for children. Blessed Earth in Maleny now stocks copies, which Mel is very happy about.
The Kent family have been warmly welcomed by Maleny and received support from friends and family who fundraised to provide a small air purifier for Audrey.
The Variety Club also ran a fundraiser which provided a large air purifier removing chemicals from the house environment. This mean less anaphylactic attacks and gives Audrey freedom to move freely around the house with less concerns of an immediate immune response.
It is still a long road ahead. Audrey’s conditions are multiple, complex and chronic. There are further medical treatments scheduled in 2018 with lengthy hospital stays, testing and procedures to undergo for this active and attentive little girl.
Mel said people often ask how she keeps her smile. “I work hard to find an attitude of gratitude. I find at least one thing every day that I am grateful for and I hold on to that.”
This family has now found their forever home in Mooloolah Valley and travel to Maleny for school. Mel cherishes the warm, creative community and says they couldn’t do what they do without them.
“It is because of them we can help our older children enjoy some time doing regular activities while knowing Audrey is safe and supported.”
Mel is focussed and resilient, with two more children’s book manuscripts ready to send to her publisher this year and plans to write more.
So, let’s raise a mug of tea to Mel Kent on Mother’s Day, who reminds us to look for something to be thankful for, whatever our situation in life.