Keshia Morris Desir, my daughter and mom to be interviews me on motherhood. In my book Out of the Snares, a story of hope and encouragement I talk about motherhood and how being a mom is my purpose.
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Keshia Morris Desir has a blossoming career in DC. She is an activist working in DC to disrupt the over criminalization of communities of color by investigating and exposing the underlying causes of mass incarceration through a democracy lens. Getting incarceration money out of politics, and advocating for guaranteed voting rights for everyone, including people serving time in prison. But today she is speaking as my daughter about becoming a mother. She is entering into the second trimester of her first pregnancy.
Keshia: I am super excited to be here with my mother today to interview her on her book, Out of the Snares: A story of hope and encouragement and her chapter on, motherhood.
The very first question I have for you, mom is in your book, you share a bit about the, circle of life, and how your parents were not married when you were born. So, for folks that haven’t yet read the book, can you share a little bit about that experience?
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My circle of life started with poverty and child abuse
Myrna: Yes, I would love to. Out of the Snares, is basically my story. It’s the story of me getting out of the snares of, child sexual abuse, poverty, being born in a third world country. And, of course, being born to parents, or who were not married. My mom and my dad hooked up and had sex and I showed up. They weren’t even really in a committed relationship. It’s one of those things that happened. When I read Oprah’s story I found out that her parents also hooked up just one time and created her. We were both born for a purpose.
So, I pull that in to my experience, that I was born with a purpose. On that rainy day, all those years ago in Guyana, my mom was alone when I was born because my father was not around. And I feel that coming from that kind of nurturing environment, where my mother was my central figure or my central person. For a long time, it was my mom, it was my grandmother, it was my aunt. These are the people that kind of raised me and as I got a little older, my father came back into my life.
But yes, I learned everything that I know about, motherhood, from my mom and my grandmother and my mom is an amazing mother. She has four children, and she basically single handedly raised them all on her own because the men were not around. She was that unfortunate, the men kept leaving. Your dad and I broke up when you were five years old. So, I have been the most influential person in your life and I took that very seriously. So, that’s basically my introduction to, motherhood.
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The connection between Single mothers and delinquent children
Keshia: As you were speaking, I’m thinking about my work. And I’m thinking about what usually breeds or is usually the crux of, black families, being involved in the, criminal justice system. Thankfully, none of your brothers and sisters have been involved in the, criminal justice system, and I just want to know, what do you what do you attribute that to? Because often we do hear of, black families, that come from, quote, unquote, broken homes where fathers aren’t in the picture. They get involved in crime, they go down the wrong path, they get involved in the, criminal justice system, somehow. So, what do you attribute your family success to?
Myrna: Excellent question. And I’ve thought about this a while now, not in Guyana, because we left Guyana as children. So, we weren’t old enough to get into the, criminal justice system, in Guyana. But when we were living in Toronto, Canada, we actually lived in the projects. And I have always wondered why my siblings didn’t get involved with the bad crowd. I’ve always wondered about that and the only thing that I can come up with was that my mother loved us and we didn’t want to disappoint her. I was speaking to her a couple of weeks back. And it was really interesting what she said. She said to me, you know, I had yawl, and I took any job because I had yawl to feed!
Keshia: Thank you for sharing that mom, it was really helpful to hear that feedback. It was just something that I was thinking about. I’m just gonna turn it back over to you. I think you have something a poem that you’d like to share.
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Motherhood my baby girl is born
Myrna: Yes. Right. So, in my chapter on, motherhood, I start off my book talking about the, circle of life, continues where I was born, and then I dived right into, motherhood, because it was something that was very important to me and made me feel so special. I have two biological children. I was 21 years old when my son was born, and then you my daughter was born on my 30th birthday. So, because she was born on my 30th birthday, she was a girl and a lot of women always want little baby girls. You know, I was tickled pink, in fact, it becomes more special than that. She was conceived for my honeymoon.
So, I came back from my honeymoon, and a couple of weeks later found out that I was pregnant. The immediate response of me learning that I was pregnant was joy. I mean, I didn’t know the sex until she came out. But we had a connection from the very beginning. So, in my book, I actually wrote a poem that I want to read to you guys. It says,
Poem my baby girl is here
My greatest blessing showed up on my 30 birthday,
A bundle of joy for born to this world
Six pounds, seven ounces of joy, my birthday gift. Oh, what a toy.
I little girl with curly brown hair, smooth black skin, with the face of an angel.
I shed a tear it was a love affair at first sight.
She reached through my heart and grabbed my soul forever more.
God had given me the desires of my heart, a daughter to adore.
Bird sang, trees swayed, the sun shone brightly, and the heavens opened up and poured out rain.
My baby girl was here. Keshia, her father whispered welcome to my world.
And her mother answered, Glory be to God, let her light shine brightly.
Let her be a delight.
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Myrna: See, I spoke it into existence, you have been a delight. You have been the gift that keeps on giving. A lot of mothers and daughters have special relationships, but we have a relationship that everybody talks about, and it’s absolutely amazing.
Keshia: Wow. It’s been a while since I’ve heard that poem. I have a jacket on but if you could see my arms, I probably have goosebumps. I just hope to repeat that, I am heading as you said, into my second trimester. And I have a similar due date as our birthday so yeah, we should be hoping for three peat.
Myrna: Yes, yes. From our mouths to God’s ears.
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Motherhood: How to protect your kids from sexual abuse
Keshia: Okay. All right. Well, I’m gonna take this conversation a little bit differently. And I’m going to ask you a question, because at the start of this conversation, you started by saying that Out of the Snares is about you coming out of poverty, sexual abuse, and parents not being in the home. And so, we talked a little bit about the, poverty, we talked a little bit about parents not being in the home. But I’m wanting to hear a bit more about your memories of your, child abuse. And in your book, you also talk about how the memories of that, child abuse, came back to you after I was born. Can you talk a little bit about that? About that time for you as you had me and those memories of, sexual abuse, came flooding back to you.
And then also maybe you want to give some advice to listeners that have experienced, sexual abuse, and have had daughters and now have to feel like they have to protect their child at all costs.
Myrna: Well, thank you Keshia, it’s a very important conversation to have. So let me start with me and then I will expand it out. I was, sexually abused, by my godfather. I called him grandfather and I spent a lot of time at his house. So, that is the first problem that contributes to our black and brown babies getting, sexually abused, because apparently in our community it happens a lot. In my experience, it wasn’t a babysitting thing. It was just that, I was always at someone’s house. I was at my aunt’s house, I was at my grandfather’s house and when you’re sleeping over at people’s houses and there is men around, this is basically what happens.
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Mothers also need to protect boys
I read something from Tyler Perry, that was addressing this issue, and he was talking about our community. Most Black mothers don’t have money for a babysitter, so they always have the kids go and stay at the uncle dem house and this person’s house and all that kind of stuff. And this is basically what happens. Kids are being, sexually abused, by people that come to our homes and even boyfriends. So, getting back to my, child abuse, I didn’t have any trauma attached to it as it was happening because this person was a loved one and I really loved him.
He showered me with gifts, we were poor, and he was rich. So when this experience was going on, I wasn’t traumatized in any way. I mean, I didn’t understand what was going on because it started when I was very young age. I didn’t understand what was going on until I started having boyfriends at 13 and realized, you’ve already had sex. These guys are gonna think that you’re a tramp.
Past sexual abuse trauma resurfaced after birth of child
That started my whole self-respect phase which worked for me because I was never promiscuous. So, it wasn’t very traumatic. When I recognized that it was wrong, I stopped it. There was no big problem. You know what I mean? But then, when you were born, something that I buried came alive and it was very, traumatic. I stopped wanting to have your dad to touch me, I had bad dreams. And whatever it was, clearly it was coming back up. I mean, and it was really an unusual response. Of course, I never went to therapy or anything. I just worked through it, but it started my vigilance of making sure you were not exposed to, sexual abuse.
And my vigilance came with people in my home and where I sent you to sleep over. Your father and I split up when you were five years old. I made sure that anybody that I’m bringing to the house that I would, make sure I don’t leave you alone with that person. At one point in time, my sister was living with me, and her husband started bathing you. And I immediately put a stop to that.
So these are the ways that you protect your girl children and boy children, because it’s not only girls now. But you protect them by knowing who they’re coming into contact with. Our world is becoming really messed up because women are now molesting boys. Tyler Perry, tells a story of how he was molested by a woman and I think even Terry Crews revealed that he was also, sexually assaulted.
Motherhood: Be careful your kids are always watching
In my book, I share my views on, motherhood, and I believe that, motherhood, you are a role model for your kids. I remember you were always watching me. It was an incredible thing, you didn’t feel comfortable unless you’re in my presence watching and listening, watching and listening. And mothers or fathers, your kids are always listening. They’re always watching. So, you can’t say “Do as I say it, not as I do.” You’ve got to do it. You’ve got to walk the walk. So, I was a role model to you and I taught you things that my mom taught me. For example, to make decisions for yourself.
What do you feel is the role of a mother and how do you plan to embrace, motherhood?
Keshia: Yeah, I mean we’ve talked a lot about protection, I definitely think that the role of the mom is to protect their cub so to speak. When we watch Animal Planet you always see the mother lion protecting her cub and protecting them from harm.
The role of a mother
So definitely protection is the, role of a mother, as well as all the other things like:
- Feed your children not only actual physically feeding, but emotionally feeding, feeding their self-confidence,
- Teaching them to become contributing members of society
- Helping them to find their purpose
- Teaching them to love God
- And how to survive in life
- To lead by example, kids are always watching. You want to be able to not only say the important things, but show them the important things as well.
So how am I embracing motherhood? I’m still learning, I am just a few months in but yeah, I have been reading books and I am working towards embracing, motherhood.
It still feels weird. You know, hearing my baby’s heartbeat seeing it via ultrasounds. I mean, it just feels different. I can’t even really grasp the words to say like, how does it feel to know that something is living inside of you and living inside of your belly? Right. Something that you have to care for and nurture and protect and be worried for and scared for and love all at the same time. So, it’s very humbling. Maybe that’s the word.
Circle of life continues connection with baby
Myrna: I didn’t hear the word, connection. Are you connecting to this baby?
Keshia: Thanks for putting me on the spot mom. I don’t know if I would say I am connecting with the baby yet. I don’t feel connected yet. I did have the feeling that morning that it was a girl even though all along I’ve been saying they think it’s a boy. But that morning I did say yeah, you’re a girl. So maybe. Also, the day before I found out that I was pregnant. I said we need a new car and went out and bought a new car that day. Because I’m like we you know, we need a new car for family planning. So, I guess she is speaking to me.
Myrna: She’s sending you those signals. Yes, yes. Amazing. All right. Well, listen, Keshia Morris Desir. You did not disappoint. We had an incredible conversation. Thank you for sharing your, motherhood experience, with me and my audience. Wishing you the best pregnancy and delivery.