Radio presenter Donna Lynch sat down with physio and “super-mum” Rebecca Tweedy ahead of Mother’s Day this year to speak about life, faith and family.
DONNA: Tell us about the early years of Rebecca Tweedy.
REBECCA: I grew up in Brisbane and I’m from a big family; I’ve got four brothers and no sisters. And I’m in the middle of that really. We just had a really good life and did lots of family things together. Mum and Dad introduced us to camping and bushwalking early on. They’re all the memories I have early on, just going off to camping trips, and I think they were early adopters of the bushwalking.
DONNA: Was there any Christianity in the early years?
REBECCA: Mum and Dad were both Catholics, so a lot of our early time – we’d go to Mass every Sunday. I would say that we did a lot of thinking about it and the ideals behind Christianity, and a lot of discussions about it.
DONNA: You are married to Sean and he is kind of in a similar working environment to you, tell us about how you met and what he was doing?
REBECCA: We met just through mutual friends when we were at uni, probably about 24 (years old). He worked at that stage at the Sporting Wheelies. He’s an exercise physiologist, which is very similar to a physio.
DONNA: You have three children, two boys and a girl, and life kind of changed in a major way for you in July last year didn’t it?
REBECCA: Yeah, we were sort of just going along with our life, and on July 21 last year, Connor, my youngest child, who was 16 at the time, was playing rugby, which is what he loves, and he was involved in a scrum where the scrum collapsed and he broke his neck. So he was a quadriplegic. And he’s just spent the last seven months in the spinal injuries unit at Princess Alexandra Hospital.
DONNA: How does that affect you, not only as a person, but as a mum?
REBECCA: It’s been a pretty difficult time as you can imagine, a lot of up and down emotions. It’s sort of a hard thing because I’m his mum but I also can’t separate myself from being a physio in and amongst this – which has helped in some ways but it also has been difficult. From early on I knew the significance of a spinal cord injury and (I knew from) having worked with people with spinal cord injuries in the past. Initially it was pretty devastating, knowing what the future was for Connor. Sean and I have had a very different way of approaching it and we have complemented each other well. Sean’s approach was to deal with what we’ve got in front of us. I tend to be thinking ahead and catastrophising, so it’s been fantastic in that Sean has really helped us realise that people with spinal cord injuries – and he’s worked with them a lot – have very good lives and being able to contribute to society in a full way.
DONNA: It must have tested your faith at this time, did it?
REBECCA: Interestingly, probably the time going back a number of years when I had my first child Georgina, my faith was tested quite a lot because I had cancer and had about three years of treatment after that. At that time, my faith was really helpful because it really gave me strength. I thought a lot about being part of a flock and Jesus looking after that flock, and that was a really helpful thing at that time. Probably about 10 years after that I had another crisis of faith where I just really questioned what it really meant to me in my life. I sort of came through that period with a realisation that Jesus’ message is such an important thing. I really felt as though his message of doing unto others how you would like to be treated is just such a great message. In the last six months since Connor’s accident, I think (it’s been) just realising the importance of your community and the importance of your family and the strength that you get from family and friends.
DONNA: How proud of your family are you with all of that happening?
REBECCA: I suppose it’s one of those things where it probably could either split your family up or you could maybe draw together. Luckily for Sean and I, everyone’s sort of come together and helping out where they can. We’re by no means perfect; we still have a lot of disagreements about this and that, but I think on the whole we’re realising that this is a time of life we’ve all sort of got to be drawn together and help each other where we can.
DONNA: Your first Mother’s Day, this time around and in this situation too, how do you feel about that?
REBECCA: I know that Seamus and Connor, my sons, won’t even realise it’s Mother’s Day. That’s pretty normal. They might grunt Happy Mother’s Day to me. Georgie might remember and buy me something, but, yeah, look, we don’t really make such a big deal of Mother’s Day. However, I do feel as though it is significant; it has been a really difficult past six months. It will be nice … I usually just sleep in and have a breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day.
DONNA: It’s also got to be a gift how Connor’s adapted to what’s happening in his life, tell us about that?
REBECCA: We’ve just been amazed how well he’s accepted it – probably because of Sean’s influence of just really saying from the start, you’re going to have a good life whatever happens. If you’re in a wheelchair you can still really have a great life, so Connor’s taken that on board and he is very accepting of the fact that he’s changed and I think he still finds it hard going to social events, it’s difficult for him. He’s been to parties. He can’t be included in the same way he used to be. He can’t be on the dance floor, as much. I’m sure he’ll learn all these things of being able to be in a wheelchair and still be around his friends; I think it is hard. His attitude, he sort of just got on with life. He’s now the manager of the rugby team rather than being in the rugby team. He’s just spent the last three days at the school rugby camp, and just contributing how he can. He’s taken up wheelchair rugby. That’s his competitive side being fulfilled that way, and he’s really doing a lot of rehabilitation, and a lot of his time is taken up with that.
DONNA: You are such a positive person, have you got a message to mums for Mother’s Day?
REBECCA: It’s such a hard thing sometimes being a mother and I think there’s a lot of practical things, those everyday sort of boring things that often get in the way. Just taking a step back and really appreciating being a mum and all the joys that brings as well.
DONNA: You say Connor’s always thinking of things to do in such a positive mindset, he’s also got a great website up and running. Tell us about that?
REBECCA: It’s connortweedy.com, it really started from the school. At Gregory Terrace, there were some old boys who wanted to contribute financially, which we’re so grateful for. It started through that. If anyone feels as though they’re able to contribute in that way, it will be helpful for the future because we don’t know what the future holds.