I was born in England but moved to Wales when I was young.
Growing up, I spent time in foster care and residential care. I first came into care when I was 5 and I left when I was 16. For a lot of this time, I lived with one foster family. They were amazing and we had a good relationship. I went through a rebellious time and had a break from them but later I went back.
I had my first child when I was 23 and my second when I was 26.
What does being a parent mean to you? OR How would you describe being a parent?
Being a parent means everything to me, even though it can be really hard! I always knew I wanted to be be a parent. I had experienced two miscarriages (the first at 16) and I had wondered whether I would be able to have a family.
When I found out I was pregnant at 23, I was really happy but it was also a very scary time and I kept thinking something would go wrong.
Do you think your experiences growing up affect the way you parent?
I 100% think being in care growing up affected the way I parent. I wondered if I would be a good parent. I know there is no such thing as a perfect parent but I really wanted to be a good one.
I still think about it today and my children are 2 and 4. I’m always thinking, ‘is this the way it should be done, is there something I should have done differently’?
What support do you or did you get from professionals?
I didn’t really have any support.
When I was in hospital the midwife was helpful. I was in there for 7 days and she kept checking up on me.
At the time I was homeless and was living with a friend and her mother. I was homeless and waiting for council to help me with a place of my own. I was in a vulnerable position and knew I was being manipulated but didn’t have anywhere else to go.
I am still grateful to the midwife because she could see that I was in a vulnerable position, she understood that I was stressing about where I was going to live and she supported during phone calls with the council. Not long after I was offered my own place.
I did have a good relationship with the health visitor and I had some help from local charities, but mainly, I was on my own. It was really hard but I feel proud when I look back now.
What support do you or did you get from friends, family or people in the community?
For my first child, I didn’t have friends or family to rely on. My partner died unexpectedly in the weeks just before the birth, so I was really struggling with that. I was also living with a friend and her mother but this wasn’t a healthy situation and although I was frightened to admit it, I knew I was being manipulated and controlled.
Thankfully I now have a great support system. My partner is great and we share caring for the children around our day and night shifts. My partner’s family also help and I have a good relationship with my mother-in-law.
I have also re-united with my sister and she lives not too far away, With friends from work too, I am in a totally different position to what I was before.
Looking back, what was helpful or unhelpful?
Social services have definitely not been helpful!
On my first pregnancy, I had to go through an assessment. During the health appointments I was asked if I was a care leaver and because I said I was, they made a referral to social services. There wasn’t any support offered, there was no help, all it did was just stress me out. They knew my situation and would ask things like ‘how are you going to cope’ but no help was given.
When I had my second child, the same thing happened, I was referred to social services because I was asked if I had been in care. This time it was better, it was just a phone call and they said they could see they had done an assessment before.
My worst experience with them though was when my daughter had a small mark on her face. Nobody knew where it came from. She was in nursery, she was learning to walk, there were lots of little bumps at the time and it could have happened anywhere.
What started as a tiny mark turned into months of hell. My daughter had to go through so many tests, we were kept in hospital from the Wednesday to the Saturday so she could have various, scans and blood tests. It was awful. It was so unnecessary for her – she had to be put to sleep to have one scan. I also had no money, no food, no changes of clothes. I couldn’t leave her and we weren’t allowed to leave until the tests results had come back. It was awful and I don’t think I will ever get over it. It affected my mental health. I was in college at the time and I ended up dropping out because I didn’t feel I could leave her with anyone. That has stayed with me and even now I am reluctant to leave my children with anyone.
I think I was treated differently because I’d been in care, there is a stigma and they saw me as a risk.
What support/help would you have liked?
I would have liked some support for me. I don’t think I was prepared for being a parent, I didn’t know what to expect. No one tells you how hard it is. This is the same for mothers who have been in care and those who haven’t. There should be someone for mum, midwives are only there for a short time, health visitors are there for the babies. There needs to be someone for the mother. You shouldn’t have to have it if you don’t want it, but it should be available as an option. It would definitely have helped me.
This Blog is part of our ExChange conference, “It Takes a Village: Global perspectives on care-experienced parents”
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