What it’s like to… be pregnant in prison

Mariam Mola was sentenced, aged 25, for a crime she committed seven years earlier – as a teenager. But not just that, she was heavily pregnant when the judge sent her down. Here, she discusses the reality of being pregnant in prison…

Mariam Mola, 27, lives in east London with her daughter. 

“I was raised in east London. My childhood was fun but I grew up very quickly and had my first job in financial services at 16; making me more mature then many of my school friends.

Then I was sent to prison aged 25 whilst heavily pregnant with my first baby for fraud I committed when I was around 18 years old. I believe that crime shouldn’t be tolerated. I made a mistake when I was very young and I guess prison was deserved but being pregnant in prison is definitely the most horrific experience for any women.

The fact that I was pregnant had no bearing on the ruling; no mitigating circumstances were considered. 

Pregnant in prison…

Before being sent to a mother and baby unit where I was with other mothers and their babies I was in Holloway Prison. In Holloway I was treated exactly the same as all the other prisoners.

Prison is not pleasant at all. You are constantly hungry and tired. I was working in the kitchen stirring soup that I was not allowed to eat and contact with your family is minimal. But the staff were amazing and made the experience better.

I get along with most people and don’t really struggle to make friends so I had no problems making friends – even in prison where it’s usually considered to be difficult to connect with people.

Inside, it’s completely different to the TV show Bad Girls – they make it seem more scary than it really is. The best way to describe it is a boarding school full of girls. Which means lots of bullying and gossiping.

On being released, I was just feeling so blessed and grateful to be given the opportunity to be with my child. It no longer mattered where it was. Prison or in the community

I gave birth in hospital then we were later transferred to a mother and baby Unit. Eight weeks after I had given birth I was home with my family.

On being released, I was just feeling so blessed and grateful to be given the opportunity to be with my child. It no longer mattered where it was. Prison or in the community. As long as I was with her that’s all that mattered.

I launched Mentor MatchHER on International Women’s Day in March 2016, a powerful day to launch a powerful movement. Our initiative is committed to transforming the lives of women deemed most at risk of becoming marginalised from society by empowering them into enterprise.

The mentors and speakers we work with give women hope and purpose to make a substantial shift in their lives, and to create a positive future. We have hosted events at Condè Nast College, Burberry Thomas’s and Vogue Cafè at Westfield to help encourage women into enterprise by connecting them with mentors who will help guide them through talks and one-on-one speed mentoring sessions.

It’s been an amazing journey and in six months I’ve had the opportunity to do TV and radio interviews with the BBC, ITV on the Lorraine Show and we have been featured in Stylist, Cosmo, Look Magazine and so many other papers so I think it’s been received pretty well. 

Family life is good! I’m really enjoying being a mum and I have an amazing support network, which helps. 

Without going to prison I wouldn’t have found mentor MatcHER which means I wouldn’t have found my tribe; my network of women. I wouldn’t have re-connected to my faith on this level. I’m a born again Christian and believe that my faith is the paramount thing that helped me get through this season of my life.

My hopes for the future? I just want to be better than I was yesterday so that means anything is possible with me. Watch this space.”

Find out more about Mentor MatchHER