Mum's Journey: Introducing Emmah Money
Meet Emmah Money: a beacon of strength who defied Cystic Fibrosis, inspiring all with her journey. Her tale encompasses triumph over health odds, nurturing her premature daughter Willow, and empowering others to conquer adversity.
1. Let’s start with the basics. What’s it like being a mum?
Being a mum is honestly the most rewarding yet challenging role. Bringing a baby into the world is such a miracle and I know I am not the only Mum to say this, but as that little baby gets placed into your arms, you lose a piece of who you once were and all of a sudden become this whole new person, that being “Mummy” So whilst you try to navigate what that means, you are also now responsible for this tiny little person, who does not come with an instruction manual. So for me being a mum, is about discovering who you are, whilst learning how to raise this little person the best possible way.
2. Give us a run-down, who is Emmah Money and what drives her?
Emmah Money also known as CF Mummy, is a strong, determined, and passionate woman. Having been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, Cystic Fibrosis, the odds were never in my favour. I was born at a time when CF children were not expected to live through their childhood. For me, I was born into a family who were not from Australia and had very little English speaking let alone understanding of the language. When I was born into the world and diagnosed with CF, my biological parents were told I would not live to see my childhood, as a result of this, the best decision for them, was to put me up for adoption. I was only a few months old when my adoptive Mum and Dad became my parents, both incredible people. My Dad, in particular, was a man of colour, a paraplegic, with no leg, 1 hip, and 1 kidney at the time. He had a very visible disability.
Both my Mum and Dad, wanted to adopt a baby with a disability to give them a chance at life, because disability, that being visible or invisible in my case, does not define you as a person. It comes with limitations, but it should not stop you from living a full life.
So my drive for life comes from being given a life-threatening illness, time after time, defying the odds. I survived my childhood, I saw many of my friends pass away at an early age, it is incredibly confronting and scary to think that these kids I grew up with, were deteriorating. I don’t think we have a choice in the matter, but I do know we choose how we can think and see things.
My Dad sadly passed away in 2022, he was the most inspiring person to me. He continued to show me that despite what life threw his way, he never gave up, he always looked for the positives and he was grateful for being here. My drive comes from seeing Dad achieve incredible things, such as representing Australia in competing in the 1988 Seoul Paralympics, I was only 1, but the stories he would tell, he would always lead by example, that anything is possible if you set your mind to it. So, I am driven by beating CF and living my life to the absolute fullest, in doing so, doing the things I was “never expected to do”
3. You were the Australian of the Year SA Local Hero back in 2020. How amazing! Tell us more about these incredible awards.
For as long as I can remember, I have raised awareness for Cystic Fibrosis. From a young age, I always looked to see how to raise money to help find a cure. CF is the most common life-threatening illness affecting Australians. 1 in 25 Aussies carry the CF gene and are completely unaware, to break it down further, every 4 days, a baby is born with CF. As a kid growing up, I never had another “girl/woman” like me to aspire to be like. You know, another woman with CF doing amazing things. I have memories of older CF girls in the hospital, who were attached to oxygen tanks and sadly funerals became more of a common ‘event’ for me since the age of just 6.
I knew I had to change this. Through my advocacy and fundraising efforts, I have always been passionate to raise awareness and funds to help support finding a cure and bettering the lives of those living with CF. I have always volunteered my time and had some crazy ideas over time for fundraising events. Through sharing my own personal story, I quickly learned how to navigate the story to only share so much but to do so in a positive way to help raise awareness for CF.
I spent a lot of time in the hospital, fighting infections, at one stage I spent 16 weeks hospitalised. I had feeding tubes where I would have my nights being fed with high-calorie milk to aid in weight gain because CF does not just affect the lungs, it also affects the digestive system, so a pancreatic deficiency has meant that gaining weight has always been a problem for me. I would take up to 60 pancreatic enzymes a day, to help digest my food. And that was just the pancreas side.
Looking back now, I had to live and learn to have a story to share, but at the age of 16, my entire life changed. I had been unwell for some time, spending months on end hospitalised as I was unable to get better, my lungs felt like they were deteriorating and I remember thinking, this was it for me. I had begun the journey of “lung failure” I was granted a wish by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which post my wish being granted, I saw my health take a positive turn. (Now that’s the short version of that story) I ended up winning National Magazine, Girlfriend, Girlfriend of the Year in 2005, this was the beginning of a whole new chapter. (The award wasn’t about being a good girlfriend either, it was about what I wanted to do in life and how I had achieved it so far) I spoke about raising awareness and funds for CF, the different fundraising I had done and what was on the plans for me moving forward.
2005 saw me not only with the national magazine competition but also became the national youth ambassador for CF Australia. It was also the same year, I found my biological parents in Adelaide, who had been told I had passed away, not long after my adoption, which clearly was untrue. This was a journey I was not prepared to be on.
I spoke very openly about this part of my life to the point, I wrote my own autobiography at the age of 17, which was published by Random House Australia, titled, The Words Inside. My book talks about the bullying I endured throughout high school, growing up with CF and so much more, but I also speak about finding my biological parents. Looking back, I wish I had not been such an “open book” but I was young. ABC’s The Australian Story even did a very special segment on this chapter of my life, as the entire finding of them was something out of a movie.
So winning that award in 2005 was the beginning. I continued to raise awareness for CF through fundraising, public speaking, and anyway I could think to. I was fortunate to receive multiple awards over the years to come, but nothing as incredible as being announced the 2020 Australian of the Year, SA Local Hero. I still do not know to this day who nominated me as they wished to remain anonymous, but this is one of the highlights of my professional career. This has opened a world of opportunity and seen me expand to a wider community, not just those with CF.
My goal evolved, to not just help those with CF but beyond the CF world. Through the lessons from my Dad and what I have been through, I hope through sharing my personal stories of strength, courage, and resilience to help others overcome adversity and see that anything is possible. Cliché, but true. I also have a strong love for women’s empowerment, helping women realise their worth and encouraging them through inspiration and determination, to believe anything is possible. We are all faced with obstacles, but it is what we do once we overcome them that matters.
4. Tell us about @cysticfibrosissa and the amazing idea you had with your lipstick, where 100% of proceeds go to Cystic Fibrosis SA.The beautiful girls from SA brand, Romance Minerals, reached out to me and suggested we did something fun to raise money for CF. We wanted to do something outside the box and what better way than to have a lippy! After going through a few shades, especially being a busy Mum, I wanted a colour that can be everyday wear to keep lips with a bit of colour but hydrated. So, we came up with the shade and then called it “CF Mummy” with proceeds being donated to CFSA. CFSA is a not-for-profit organisation in SA that support those living with Cystic Fibrosis. It relies solely on donations from the community or grants. Having been a member of CFSA my entire life, the support and services they have provided not just to myself, but other families over the years have made living with CF a little easier at times.
5. Are you comfortable with feeding in front of others with the new Freestyle Hands-free Breast Pump?
I love how easy the Freestyle Hands-free breast pump has been to use. I have two older children, so the morning wake up when you are breastfeeding, means those boobies need to be emptied completely, so I would do a feed and then on my way to school drop off, have the pump on whilst driving. Completely easy to use and it saves the overflow of milk in the morning.
It's also a quiet machine, and not notice if you are wearing the Medela Pumping bra with a top over the top. So, it isn’t obvious and perfect for Mum on the go.
6. Your precious little Willow came into your life early. Tell us how you managed that and still being Mum to two other beautiful kids.
Our beautiful Willow Ray was born on the 8th of February. Her entry into the world was a scary one. Having CF, I was a high-risk pregnancy already, but in the last trimester I found myself being diagnosed with preeclampsia. I did not realise how serious or scary this was. I remember walking and my legs and feet were so swollen and fluid-like, that it felt like my skin was flapping on the top of my feet. I started seeing double and became very ill, very fast.
Within a few hours of being seen at the hospital, I was put on bed rest as I was at a high risk of having a stroke and my placenta had issues also. It all happened so fast, it was very scary – and something I will share more detail about later.
Because of the risk, this brought onto myself and Willow, I was induced at 35 weeks, it was very scary as there were a lot of risks involved, something I was not prepared for at all. I was given IV steroids over two days to help progress the lung development of Willow while she was in my uterus still, as she was being prepared to come into the world a little too early, we had to take all safety measures. Hearing the risks and what could go wrong, was very scary and confronting. I had never had a premature baby before, so this was all new and overwhelming.
Within days of being in hospital, our little Willow Ray was born, weighing 1.5kg’s she was a tiny little dolly. No one talks about the bad things in childbirth, so what happened next, I was not prepared for. At all.
20 minutes after birthing Willow, the placenta was still stuck and had torn into many pieces, I then hemorrhaged and continued to lose mass amounts of blood causing my blood pressure to drop significantly. I remember feeling it all happen too and it was beyond scary as I had no control over what was happening, but my body was quickly losing life. A medical emergency was called, and I was rushed to the theatre where I lay awake the entire time as they tried to stop the bleeding and pull the placenta pieces out. I lost a total of litres of blood and never in my life had I been so scared. I just had my beautiful girl, and all seemed to go well until it didn’t. One day, I will share this story in more detail, because it was quite the journey. It took months to recover, and I emotionally struggled, being in the hospital I grew up in, not being able to take my baby with me, as she was too little to come home. I am so incredibly grateful to my beautiful husband who stood by my side every step of the way. We had many nights of no sleep for many reasons. I had reached the absolute peak of exhaustion, I had no weight on me, I had undergone 3 blood transfusions and 1 iron infusion, and my body was trying to recoup, all whilst trying to breastfeed and pump every 2 hours to help my baby thrive. Remembering my other children, a 10-year-old and 8-year-old were at home, unable to visit Willow and seeing me go through what seemed to be somewhat of a bittersweet nightmare.
I remember a few weeks after I had been discharged, Willow was still in the hospital and I was in the hospital all day and night nearly, with my husband taking care of the other two, I remember him saying to me one night, I should come home and get some rest and the other two also needed me, I was so upset I felt like a failure. I rang my daughter who spoke to me on Facetime and through tired, red eyes, I said to her I was sorry I hadn’t been picking them up from school. I showed her Willow in her little crib, and my daughter said to me, “Mummy, we have had you our entire lives, it's Willow’s turn now”
I just sobbed.
It wasn’t much longer until we got Willow home, she came home with the tube in her nose, so I was pumping my milk and feeding it to her through the syringe and having her latch on when she could. Her little mouth was so tiny, she couldn’t fit my nipple in her mouth. It was quite the entrance into the world for our girl and the few months after that was something I never imagined.
My husband is my rock and my number one support. I feel incredibly lucky to have him and my children as our hearts are filled with so much love, we got through one of the toughest times together. And as one of the nurses said, “I lived to tell the tale”.
7. Breastfeeding. We all know it can be hard but tell us why you found it hard and how you overcame those issues.
There is so much pressure on women to breastfeed, sometimes we don’t have the supply, or the baby doesn’t latch on, there are so many things that can happen when it comes to feeding. I feel lucky that I have been able to breastfeed all 3 of my children.
Having a premature baby however and breastfeeding, I found it difficult trying to keep up the 1-2 hourly feeds, then having to express to have extra, but it would be as small as 5mls Willow would need, it was liquid gold. I put a lot of pressure on myself to feed her, I lost even more weight and struggled to have energy myself. This a reminder to drink lots of water, rest when you can – even if you are just laying down for short periods of time, and rest where you can in the beginning. And do not be hard on yourself, because it is not always something everyone can do, and that is OKAY! A full-fed baby is much better than a hungry, crying baby (And Mumma).
8. When did you decide to start your pumping journey? Before or after birth? When did you get your first pump and why?
I was lucky with getting colostrum at around 33 weeks, so only a few weeks before I had Willow. I started pumping when they admitted me into the hospital, it was small amounts of colostrum, but it seemed to be what she needed. Within 2 days of her birth, I started to pump because the demand for my milk was high, so using my hand or a manual pump was not easy for me. I also found the pump was more efficient, I could use it for both breasts at the same time and it took a bit of pressure off for me.
9. You are such a busy woman. A mum to three kids, an incredible businesswoman and always looking so put together. How do you balance self-care and being a mum? Do you have hobbies and favourite things to do?
Self-care for me looks a little different to what it used to, I love going to the hair salon for a wash and blow dry once a week, the girls at Kaz Hair Brighton have been seeing me before Willow so they treat me to some pampering time. It’s simple things like this.
I like having a list – I have worked so hard to be where I am today, I feel lucky to be able to call some of my “work” hobbies amongst my favourite things.
I have a podcast called The Princess of Possible, where in season 1 I spoke to a range of guests who have been affected by CF and overcome the odds. Season 2 is underway and I cannot wait to share what this is about, because it is beyond the CF community and I think so many women will relate. I also run women’s empowerment events as well as fundraisers and other similar functions. I also do a lot of public speaking, which started out in schools to high school students, but since COVID, I have grown into businesses where I focus on overcoming adversity, resilience, and inspiration.
Our lives are very busy, making sure the kids are doing what they enjoy, from school to sports and then working for my husband and I. I love the social scene, so often attend events across Adelaide, from the latest fashion in seasons to new restaurants, or my favourite, seeing a musical/show.
My husband is a horse trainer, and this is a 7-day-a-week job, you’ll often see my Instagram with Raceday’s and outfits, with little Willow quickly becoming a trackside princess.
I enjoy quality time with my children, close friends, and hubby of course. But to be honest, I am a busy woman, I don’t know how to stop.
10. If you can give the mums out there reading this interview one piece of motherly advice, what would it be?
Do what works for you and your baby. Too often we are influenced by what everyone else is doing and we put so much pressure on ourselves to match up, it is not worth it. You are so blessed to have a little baby, who just simply adores you. Time goes so fast that you need to slow down and be in the moment. Because you blink and they are crawling, walking, talking and you don’t get these moments back.
So enjoy the days on the couch where you have not showered or brushed your hair, enjoy the cuddles, the kisses, and those small moments because I promise you will look back and this time will have gone so fast.
To learn more about Emmah and her experiences as a mother, follow her on Instagram.
And make sure you download the Medela Family App to keep track of everything your baby needs!