"My child wasn't in prison with me, but he was six months old when I was sentenced in 2014," Faheema* tells Parent24.
She confesses she was a substance user for 12 years and in that time, she was in and out of prison regularly.
"Leaving him was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I had never been away from him, and then one day I went out and didn't come back because I had been arrested."
She didn't see him throughout her sentence because her family didn't visit her when she was in prison.
"The day I came out on parole, I had missed his first birthday, his first step and his first word," she says.
This article is one of a series on Mothers in Prison. Find the previous article here: Commit the crime, do the time
He didn't recognise me
Her son didn't recognise her, she says, and it broke her.
"Just thinking back to that day now as I'm sharing this, I get teary. He didn't know who I was, but looked at me with an angry expression. As if to say:, 'I don't know you, but I'm mad at you.'"
"I had to force my way to bath him, for us to eat together, for him to want to be close to me again, because I wanted him to remember our bond as mom and son. It took three months for him to accept me again."
'Prison is no place for a baby'
Faheema adds: "When I was in prison, my child was on my mind every second of every day. I prayed for him so much. I prayed for me to be a better mom."
She says she didn't take her son with her to prison because it's no place for a baby.
"The first time I was sentenced, I worked in the Mother and Baby Unit (MBU) The moms who gave birth stayed there along with the pregnant inmates. I cooked their food and the babies' meals," she says.
'Help would come a few hours later'
She adds that, in her experience, the mothers in the MBU are well taken care of, but the wardens are not very helpful.
"Like, if you need something for the baby, you can easily wait up to a week before you get it. That's if you get it at all," she says.
"So many girls' water broke during the night. The women would scream for help but by the time the wardens come, the baby is out already. The ladies helped each other. They would bang on the metal door and scream for help."
"Help would come a few hours later," she says, adding, "The wardens don't care. They do everything in their own time."
*Name changed by request
Find the complete series here: Mothers in Prison: A Parent24 Series
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