This author of this list has asked to remain anonymous. Yet I am so grateful to them for giving us a glimpse into a struggle that, to be honest, is far more complex than I could have comprehended:

  • Firstly I write this not seeking sympathy or pity but to create a picture to try encourage people to be open and understanding to a subject that provokes strong opinions in many. 

  • When a partner dies or walks out it’s natural for folk to empathise with the other partner or to a least offer kind words and support. You’re given space and time to grieve for what you’ve lost. Having a partner convicted and imprisoned you get no such thing. 

  • I was 17 the first time my partner got remanded for burglary, I was 8 weeks pregnant at the time. I told few people about the pregnancy, mainly because I was ashamed. I then found out the baby had died 4 weeks later. Having a normal relationship and experiencing a loss is hard enough, facing it alone and almost in secret is crippling. 

  • This first stint as a ‘con’s bird’ was hard. Dealing with homelessness, being skint, scrounging lifts for visits and having to spend my time running to and from a phone box to speak to him dragged. It was easier to mask this all with alcohol and recreational drug use, he was released serving 12 months for burglary. 

  • You feel crap, you feel controlled, you feel restricted but at 17 and on a downwards spiral you block it all out. 

  • In 2012, he was remanded again for burglary and he was later convicted to various crimes and sentenced to 24 months in prison. Similarly to the first time I was 8 weeks pregnant – this time the baby was ok. The weeks ticked by and I got bigger and bigger and my due date loomed closer. We should’ve been looking forward to our son arriving but instead we were awaiting the news of a possible tag (electronically monitored curfew) date and early release. 

  • Your pregnancy feels overshadowed and tainted. You feel judged, you feel ashamed, you feel conflicted and pretty trapped.

  • With the tag refused, going into parenthood essentially as a single mother. There were complications in my pregnancy and I ended up having a pretty traumatic induction, labour which ended in an EMCS. During this time you look for support, I took my mother with me with whom I had a strained relationship with. My partner was scared, lost and upset but unfortunately I had little sympathy. Having to spend the first hours of motherhood with a mobile held up to your ear talking to someone who you’re quite frankly pissed off with for leaving you, is not enjoyable or something you wish to remember. 

  • You feel like you owe them something, you owe them the phone calls and the time. Limiting this makes you feel cruel and guilty and like you’re withholding them even more liberties. 

  • The guilt of taking a 10 day old premature baby into a prison is something that has bitterly resided with me even now 6 years on. Having to take the most precious thing in the world into an area where rapists, murders and drug dealers mingle is a hideous feeling that leaves you questioning your parenting ability and morals. 

  • The anger and resentment sits with you for every sleepless night, every health visitor appointment and at every milestone. Playgroup became a minefield of awkward questions and silences – ‘oh so what does your partner do?’ ‘Are you still with his dad?’. Once it got out that I was the partner of a prisoner I didn’t get invited for coffee by one group anymore. Having to explain your reasoning for hanging around and waiting again for what feels like the millionth time and the feelings of being judged. 

  • He was released when my son was 5 months old, it was unsettling having him home. I had to share my routine, share MY baby that was mine and mine only and also having to readapt to living with someone again. To him everything was fine, it was normal, he was coming home to his house with his family in it. To me it was a stranger intruding in my space, being involved where there was no need for involvement. It sounds cruel but you have to learn to relove the person you lost. It completely contradicts the initial feelings of grief when you first lose them.

  • Learning patience is hard – the most memorable part is going for breakfast upon his release and him looking shocked when I began to breastfeed our son. ‘Can he not wait until he’s home, there’s people here’ having to explain that you’re 5 months into breastfeeding now, it’s pretty well established and something completely normal. Learning not to be cross or pissed off because they don’t know how to change a nappy, or fold his bits down as not to wet his baby grow. 

  • It’s learning how to parent again, but as coparents. The realisation that although being a single mother is testing and lonely, that inevitably it’s easier. There’s no reliance on a person that you feel could leave you any second. You have to build trust, but it’s hard.  

  • Then just when the trust was back, another prison sentence. By this time I’d had my second son, he was 7 months old and my eldest was 29 months. This time it was for historic offences. 

  • So by this point we’ve gone from single parent, coparenting, coparenting to two children and back to single parenting to two children. Funnily enough, my now husband gets annoyed when I refer to myself as being a single parent. I think it is a reflection upon his feelings of guilt and embarrassment. 

  • So his last stint, travelling an hour and a half to a prison every week with two children in tow. At least I could drive now and wasn’t reliant on others. The long queues, the invasive checks, the sniffer dogs and awkward conversations with vaguely familiar prison guards who now recognise you over the years. The overwhelming paranoia and anxiety about how they must feel about you, judging you ‘what a mug, we’ve seen her through no babies, one baby and now the second’. They may not of thought that, but let’s face it they probably did. 

  • The last spell was the hardest. 

  • You can’t develop your own single was of parenting because it was expected that you still consider your partners feelings towards parenting. How you do things, nursery hours, discipline, birthday/Christmas ideas etc. It shouldn’t be that was but it is. It’s ridiculous to write it in actual real life words but you are controlled by something that you can’t quite pinpoint. It’s a lack of freedom but being free. Having to wait until 6pm for a phone call to check that yes it is ok to go away for a weekend with the kids. Having to remember bits of information knowing if you forget it won’t be until the next time you talk. Going out for a night out was the worst, the guilt mainly. But also having to reassure your partner, no you’re not going to cheat, why would you wait a year for them and cheat. 

  • My youngest took his first steps in prison. There’s no photo, no video and we’ve even lied to him about where it happened. My husband is home now and has been for 3 years. Out of a 10 year relationship he’s been imprisoned for nearly 3 years. He’s missed his first child being born, his first Christmas, his second child’s first birthday, his first child’s third birthday. He’s missed actively grieving for a lost baby. He’s missed various milestones. 

  • How do I feel? I still feel bitter, resentful, anger, guilt and betrayed to name a few. Parenting with a partner convicted is hard, it’s misunderstood, it’s confusing, it’s most definitely not something I wish to experience again. Was it worth it? No, probably not. You can’t rebuild trust that’s lost so many times. The fear of being alone again resides for long after your loved one is released. Motherhood is tainted with extra guilt. You never quite feel good enough. How much damage have you done to your child? Is this why they act up? How would it have been different? Do people still judge me? All these questions are things I think of daily. 

  • Will I do it again? No, being stronger, older, wiser and more confident I would not. It’s not a life for children, it’s not a life for anyone. When your partner goes to prison they take a bit of you and a bit of your child with them.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Siobhan December 3, 2018 at 6:02 pm

    What a strong woman. Thank you for writing this down

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