Letters to my children: Mothers from all walks of life reflect on their families

Mums come to motherhood in many different ways and not all families look alike. This Mother’s Day we celebrate mums in all their magnificent, complicated, beautiful glory
Letters to my children: Mothers from all walks of life reflect on their families

Emma Doran and her daughter Ella. Photograph Moya Nolan

Maria Moynihan

  • Journalist Maria Moynihan has two children, Danann and Fallon and lives in Tralee with her husband Danny.

Maria and Fallon and Danny
Maria and Fallon and Danny

Dear Danann and Fallon, 

There is no other way to start this letter, except to say that I thank God every day for the gift of you both; even if I can only carry you, Danann, in my heart, while Fallon fills my arms.

Before you both came along, the truth is that I was not sure if I was cut out for motherhood. Maybe a small part of that was due to doubts over my disability; having been born with one arm, I was not sure how I would tackle the nappy changes and general baby wrangling. But I think it was more that I worried whether I had enough of myself to give to a little human who depended on me entirely, and if I could cope with the demands of the role. It did not take long to learn just how much I could cope with.

Because at the 20-week scan, we discovered that our first baby, our little boy, had Edwards’ Syndrome; a condition that is deemed incompatible with life. But I am so grateful that even in our shock and sorrow, we could see that you were absolutely compatible with love. You were never a diagnosis to us. You were simply our Danann. And we decided that as long as you were able to stay with us, we would do our best to celebrate your one wild and precious life.

I will not pretend this was easy. When you are preparing for birth - and death - there is no place for you in the maternity world. People might think that I was strong; but that is not true. Danann, you were strong. By fighting to reach 38 weeks, you proved so many people wrong. And your strength and courage made me brave by default. By believing in you, I began to believe in myself.

Our greatest wish was that we would have precious time with you, to look into your eyes, whisper in your ear and tell you how much we loved you. Sadly, it was not to be as you slipped quietly to the next realm in the final hours of labour on October 19 2019. Becoming a mother transforms you; having your baby die changes you irrevocably. In losing you Danann, I lost a part of myself forever, but in having you, I got to experience a love beyond anything I could have ever imagined. And while I wish with all my heart that you were here, you will always be my precious boy in the stars.

And Fallon, I am so thankful for you, my sweetest girl. Arriving just 14 months after the birth of your brother, you will never know the hope and healing that you brought to our lives. You are so full of fun, and to watch the world through your eyes is a joy. I sometimes can’t quite believe that you are mine and I hope that you will carry that same sense of wonder and adventure that you possess now through your life.

You have taught me a lot about myself. I am more patient than I ever imagined. Silly things that would have bothered me before now don’t even factor. I am happiest when you admit defeat to sleep and collapse into my arms. Well, arm and a half, if I’m being accurate.

As it turns out, I’m not too shabby when it comes to changing nappies, artificial hand or otherwise. I hope that by growing up with a mammy with a disability, you will see that everybody is actually perfect in their own way and what makes us different is what makes us special. Your brother’s life is testament to that too; and I know that as you get to know and to love him, you will learn that even in the hardest of times, life is still to be cherished and celebrated.

But most of all, Danann and Fallon, I hope that you will always know how loved you are, no matter how far apart we might be.

Thank you for choosing me to be your mammy x

Lorraine McHugh

  • Lorriane McHugh lives in Leitrim with her daughter Hoa who was born in Vietnam. She is a writer and a children’s mindfulness practitioner.

Lorraine McHugh
Lorraine McHugh

To my daughter, the girl who made me a mother.

You don’t understand how much you changed our lives; you are our sun and we are the planets, everything revolves around you. That gaping hole... you filled it. To say you completed us is an understatement.

You really don’t understand yet and I hope someday you will realise your worth and realise the impact you had and continue to have on our lives.

You came to us at nearly six years old and now you are over nine, it seems mad that you are only in our lives three and a half years when I look at the changes that have happened.

I forget we are a family made up in a different way, I forget that people might look at us curiously when we are out and about. I remember looking at others in the same way when we were waiting to travel to you, because one day I hoped we would be like them. And here we are. We’ve come so far. Labels don’t matter. Adoptive mum, adopted daughter. We are mammy and daughter, we fit together. I’m conscious not to use ‘meant to be’ a family, no-one should go through losing their birth family and waiting years for their adoptive family but based on the existing circumstances we were in, the universe brought us together to be mum and daughter. We are so lucky to have each other.


Emma Doran

  • Comedian Emma Doran lives in Dublin with her family. She had her daughter Ella when she was 18.

 Emma Doran, with her daughter Ella. Photograph Moya Nolan
Emma Doran, with her daughter Ella. Photograph Moya Nolan

Dear Ella, 

I always knew that I wanted to be a mother. Even when I was a kid and you had to draw your future, it was always me and a house and kids. There was never like a husband, or a man there, that didn’t seem to be a big focus for me, but I always knew I wanted kids. Still, I certainly didn’t expect to get pregnant when I was 18.

I felt a very strong connection to you very early and I knew very quickly that I couldn’t imagine not having you. Obviously, it was stressful at times, like I was doing my Leaving Cert, but even during all that there was a lot of joy to be had. I can remember the first time you kicked and watching you move. I would imagine what you would look like. There was a lot of happiness, and I would share that with my close friends and my mam. I was still wearing a giant, huge fleece to school though and you weren’t born till May, I was f*cking sweating!

Having you was an amazing experience, but I remember straight after you were born, I thought you looked kind of funny, you had this conehead. The midwife, who was so lovely, must have seen me looking at it because she came over and told me it would settle. She’s been through a lot, she said and so have you.

The confidence I felt on the ward after I had you was incredible. The midwife took you around to show you off to other people because you were so beautiful. You had these full lips and these gorgeous big eyes, and I was there thinking, that’s my little baby. I actually wanted to call you Peach because you were so gorgeous, but I didn’t have the bottle.

What you gave me straightaway was a massive sense of focus and purpose. I never had such determination before you. Now, obviously it’s not ideal to have a child when you’re young but there’s a lot of positives there and we grew up together. You were just my little pal. I could take you anywhere, I’d just pop you in the buggy and we’d head off on the bus. You were a really civilised little toddler, a joy.

I have your brothers now too but the kind of bond that you have with a child when you’re a young single parent and it’s just the two of you together is different, you’ve seen so much of me. Going through college, my first job and when I started doing stand-up.

I’ve said this before, but I wish that I had met you when I was younger. I love being your mother, but I wish you’d been a friend of mine.

You’re a much nicer person than I am, honestly. You’re very loyal, you never went through that thing of trying to be cool, like I did. If I met you as a friend, I think I’d have had the best friend in the world, you’re just brilliant. Now, you did show up a bit too early but you’re definitely the best thing that ever happened to me. I’m really proud of us.


Ellie Kisyombe

  • Ellie Kisyombe is a mum of two, founder of Our Table, a politician, a chef and a Direct Provision Campaigner.

Ellie Kisyombe with  Tina and Maurice
Ellie Kisyombe with  Tina and Maurice

To my children on Mother’s Day, 

I want to say how proud I am of you both and how much I have been since you followed me here to Ireland. I think that Direct Provision has shaped us to bond and be close to one another and to really understand each other.

There was a time when I wasn’t sure if you understood me, but I think now you know that everything I did, I did for you. I really tried to be the best mum I could be.

I was one of the lucky women, being able to have you with me here in Ireland. I saw my fellow women who spent time with me in Direct Provision that never got a chance to bring their children here. Their children have grown without their presence. Some of them have gotten married, some women lost their children, and some said that their children lost their way because they never had a chance to be raised by their mother. I’m so glad that I got a chance to be a mother to you, even though it happened late.

I will always feel proud of who you have become, and I also feel proud of myself as a mom. I wasn’t always the best, I’m still a human being but I gave you everything single thing I could, and I know that I could die and take a bullet to save you. And that’s exactly what I’ve done. I don’t want to be full of myself but I’m trying to appreciate me, myself as a mum.

I’m so very proud to see you becoming young adults and thriving and shaping your lives into the reality that you want.

Despite whatever Direct Provision did to us, we got through, sometimes we cried but we cried together. I know that you don’t blame me for the things that I have done but know that everything I did, I did for the best of you.


Ranae Von Meding

  • Ranae Von Meding is the CEO of Equal Children, a writer and a campaigner for equality for all children of LGBTQ+ families. She lives in Dublin with her wife and two children.

Ranae Von Meding with her wife Audrey and the twins
Ranae Von Meding with her wife Audrey and the twins

Ava and Arya. 

My girls. You two are going to change this world in ways I couldn’t even begin to understand. Being called your Mama is the biggest privilege of my life. The days you both were born will forever go down in our family history as two of the best moments in time.

So many wonderful things have happened to me in my 34 years, but it’s really hard to imagine anything better or more wonderful than the two of you. I can’t picture life without you and it’s hard to even remember what life was before you. You have each, individually and as a duo, brought so much love, so much joy, so much life into mine. You’ve made the everyday into something magic.

Your mom and I always knew we would have kids but I never thought we would be so lucky to get the two of you. Do you know that so many times we just stop and look at each other and say “how did we make these two amazing little people?”

When you overhear us saying this, Ava, you say “well I was an egg in Mom’s tummy and then you moved me into your belly Mama, and then I was born.” It makes us so proud to see the intelligent and compassionate person you are turning out to be Ava. Arya, you are the funniest person I know, besides your Mom, my wife.

Now don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been easy. You have both tested me in ways I didn’t know possible. You know how to drive me so crazy that I want to scream and on the flip side how to melt me with a single look.

If I can leave you with any sort of advice or if I pass anything on to you it would be this.

Above all my loves, always be kind. Never be too stubborn to admit you are wrong. Dance your hearts out and don’t give a second thought to what other people think. You are both awesome and I hope you never ever forget that.

We have said this to you both since you were born and it’s become something of a family motto, so let me leave you with this. “What are we? FAMILY!”

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