About the Book
This book was written in a hope to help those who have found, or still finding, themselves in the same predicament I was before. It tells of the upbringing of a broken girl who grew deeper in her brokenness. She only noticed how broken she was later on in life as she reflected on the many choices she had made which resulted in this ultimate realisation that “making choices/decisions from a broken place often leads us to more brokenness.” I was that girl.
In this brave and beautiful memoir, written with the raw honesty and openness, I boldly discuss my painful childhood memories which devolved from a safe place into a shocking tale of heartbreaks and abuse—examining why I endured years of physical, mental and emotional pain, and how I eventually broke free from it all.
As painful as it was, I had to allow God to do that open heart surgery on me in order for me to understood that there is a need for us to be healed, not just physically, because “trauma is not what happens to you; trauma is what happens inside you as a result of what happens to you.” It affects us in many different ways and creeps up in the way we perceive ourselves, those around us and life. There is a need for us to be made whole before embarking in new friendships and relationships. There is a need for us to know our truest identity and be rooted in it.
A smile can hide many painful tales, that’s right but the pain behind the smile in not hidden to the one who constantly relieves it. You need to be set free. Do not allow your past, your experiences, etc. define you or your future. There is hope. There is freedom. There is light even at the end of the darkest tunnel.
From Childhood to Adulthood – The Lone Ranger
In the early 90s, our mum came back to visit us again but this time she was taking us back to France. I believe I was around 7 years old. We were sad to leave our family and friends behind yet were definitely happy to be reunited with our mum and at the thought of being with her every day.
Back in France, we lived in Paris for a short while and moved to Toulouse where most of our family were. I remember our mum still going back and forth to Congo. She made sure her sister, nephew and brother joined us in Toulouse when we had settled. Her heart was always in the right place and she helped a lot of people making their way to Europe, I will always remember that.
Foster care debut
I don’t recall how my sister and I ended up in foster care, but one day we did. Most of our childhood, when we got back to France, was spent with our mum and in foster care with foster parents or in care homes. We were in foster care on and off for some years but I’ve always been with my sister. It is not usual practice to find children from the same family kept together. I consider us lucky. Thinking about foster care brings back both good and not-so-good memories.
Our mum was very present and involved though all I can remember is that we moved homes and locations a lot!
My childhood is nothing I believe I can brag about except I did enjoy amazing activities such as horse riding lessons, skiing trips in the winter, the drives to the beach in the summer and the numerous after school club activities. I knew most children my age did not do as much as we did. I know that is certainly more than what some would or could do but to me, those were not exceptional things. I guess I may have taken them for granted.
As mentioned before, I have 6 sisters and 2 brothers. Yes, that is a lot but let me explain in order for you to understand the rest of my story. On my mum’s side, I have 3 sisters and I am the second born. On my dad’s side, I have 2 sisters and 2 brothers and I am his firstborn. I also have a sister who is my stepmum’s niece whom they adopted as a child.
In 1991, during our last year in Toulouse, our little sister was born. She may have been 1 year old when we moved to Lille. In Lille, my big sister and I were back in foster care while our little sister lived with our mum in a small studio flat. I think the main reason why, at that time, we stayed in a care home was because our mum was not settled down but also because she could not afford a bigger flat to accommodate us all.
From what you read, you can understand that our lives were pretty much set in an undefined and unwanted rhythm – foster home to foster family to mum and back into the same cycle. Whilst in foster care, mum always made the effort to visit, it never felt like she was an absent mother but she was still missing the important bits. I probably had all my major achievements while in foster care i.e learning to ride a bike. Don’t get me wrong, I wish I was with my mum all the time but I somehow got used to it, I had desensitised myself to whatever emotions I could feel. I knew it was impossible and I learned to accept things just the way they were. To be honest, I did not mind. I know it sounds heartless but I was young and I learned to adapt.
My experience of being in the “system” wasn’t that bad, except for one part which I will discuss in Chapter 4. Strange things have happened there but nothing out of the ordinary I guess. Being in that environment, I got to do a lot of things I wouldn’t have done growing up in an African home hence in a way, I am grateful for the experience and the way this has opened up my mind to new things.
Whether in care homes or in foster families, my sister and I have always been together. As I mentioned in the previous chapter this was a comfort to both of us. I think it also brought comfort to our mum. I know we were blessed to be together when other siblings have been split apart whilst in the “system”.
In France, it might be different elsewhere, care homes are places where children stay for a while when their parents cannot take care of them for various reasons. It may be for weeks, months or years. It’s a big house with a lot of children and adults on a rota looking after us, day and night. The adults on-site managed the place and looked after us, especially the younger ones. We were all assigned a key worker and I will always remember ours, he was like a father figure to us. He taught me how to fish and ride a bike.
We had our meals together on big tables which we took in turns to set. Things were very structured from breakfast to showers to school to snack time etc. Pretty much everything was run on a schedule. Most of us were encouraged to take part in activities on Wednesday afternoons as there was no school. the activities could be anything you like, I often wondered where the money came from because we were all doing something. I believe I made the most of that by joining Karate, Boxing, Kickboxing and many more. Weekends were always packed with fun outdoor activities which we enjoyed when we were not spending them with our mum. Compared to our peers at school, we were definitely privileged. Most children in the care home received visits from their parents, if not every weekend for the lucky ones, at least every 2 weeks but for the less fortunate (as I would call them), it was on a monthly basis or none.
From my experience, I am well aware that not all care homes are the same.
Having moved around quite a lot as a child, I never made lasting friendships. That’s one thing I always regretted; I moved schools so often there was never an opportunity to. It, however, has a rather advantageous aspect; my focus was more on my studies than on making friends. The thought of the heartbreak of leaving friends behind made it slightly easier for me to not get attached. I was detached emotionally but still envious of finding people who had been friends since Nursery. I longed to settle in one place and have friends with whom I could recall our past years in school as in “Do you remember last year…”. Having these sorts of friendships meant that I belonged somewhere and was part of something.
If you are reading the book and have gotten this far, I would encourage you to speak to a leader of your church or cell group about similar things. Healthy human relationships are essential for physical, spiritual and emotional growth and quite important that you heal from past hurts and emotional detachments as I call it. I now realise that, through the culmination of past pain and other issues, I had built a wall around my heart and kept people at a distance.
This went on until I was about 9 or 10 years old when we got settled in a foster home in Lille, North of France. That foster home was the same one we previously lived in. Our mum lived with our sister. My big sister and I stayed in the same care home for 3 consecutive years only seeing our mum some weekends, this was not regular. I never actually stopped to think what our mum was doing during the times we were in care, I just got on with things. I think I didn’t want to get attached to anyone, even her, emotionally. I was only attached and cared mostly about my sister. She seemed happy to see us during those weekends and we were happy to be with her – an effective unspoken arrangement.
We had no family in Lille and our mum was a full-time mum who eventually got involved with the wrong people. She was arrested and sentenced to serve a couple of months in prison. From then on, our little sisters entered the care system. It was still a shock to us.
My little sister, the one directly after me, had been in care previously in Lille when she was very young, she must have been 3 years old. I remember going to visit her with our social worker. When it was time to leave, she screamed and cried so much, my heart was in pieces. I cried all the way back. I mean, my big sister and I were used to being in care but it was her first experience and because she was much younger than us she could not be where we were at that time. Her cries haunted me for a couple of days. She wanted to be with us and we wanted to be with her too. After going through this, I vowed to never let anything like that happen to my children.
A couple of months later, my aunt came from Toulouse and took my younger sister out of foster care to go live with her. I think she was granted temporary custody at the time. She visited us in our foster home to give us the news and for us to say goodbye to our sister. Our mum was aware of everything that was happening and would write to us as often as she could to reassure us.
When our mum was released, she went to Belgium to live with her partner at the time. A couple of months later, she gave birth to our youngest sister. This was a surprise to us, especially since we were not aware that she was expecting and deducted that she went to prison being pregnant. We received pictures of our baby sister while in foster care and were very excited. She was born prematurely and had to be incubated for several months so our mum wasn’t able to leave Belgium to visit us. When our little sister came out of the hospital, our mum moved back to Toulouse to join our little sister who was with our aunt and settled there. We couldn’t wait to see the latest addition to our family.
Because we hadn’t seen our mum for a long time, on a particular Christmas holiday, I remember vividly, our social worker driving us from Lille to Toulouse so we could spend Christmas with our mother and sisters. That was a long journey! Let me take this opportunity to applaud the good and caring social workers we were blessed with; this was one of them. Later on, our mum, with the help of our assigned social worker, started the process for us to be reunited in the same city at least. Shortly after filing the paperwork and consulting with the children’s court, we were transferred from our care home in Lille to another care home in Toulouse. Once again we found ourselves packing our lives in small suitcases though this time we embarked on a plane journey by ourselves only supervised by the air hostesses. Being in Toulouse meant that we had the opportunity to be out most weekends and spend time with our extended family more frequently.
I think that was a good move for us however, I wished we were at home with our mum and sisters.
We thought it would only be a matter of time before we could be reunited properly but our mum got really sick and the girls were placed together in a foster family until she got better. Though she never really got better, she was able to look after the sister who comes after me and the last born stayed with the foster family and regularly visited with occasional stays.
About the Author
Paulette Monteiro is a first-time author and has been working on her memoir for over a year. She volunteers in her local church as part of the youth ministry.
Her life journey has given her a broad base from which to approach many life topics and issues.
She is new to writing and is still developing her writing skills.
She especially enjoys sharing her testimony and faith with individuals who are going through similar situations and encourage them on their life journey.
Buy the Book
DISCLOSURE: SOME OF THE LINKS IN THE PAGE ABOVE MAY BE “AFFILIATE LINKS.” THIS MEANS IF YOU CLICK ON THE LINK AND PURCHASE THE ITEM, WE WILL RECEIVE AN AFFILIATE COMMISSION. WE ARE DISCLOSING THIS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION’S 16 CFR, PART 255: “GUIDES CONCERNING THE USE OF ENDORSEMENTS AND TESTIMONIALS IN ADVERTISING.”