Erika Byers (31), Zeus and Kane (11 months)
Erika shares -
“I had two losses before I had my twins. I terminated two separate pregnancies. There was no sexual assault. There was no medical need. I was not ready to be responsible for another human. The first abortion was a collective decision between me and my partner, and the second time, I hid it from him until it was done, in fear that he would try to convince me to keep it. Both were at 6 weeks and I was able to continue about my life, without anyone really knowing what I was going through. I kept both hidden from my family and even my closest friends. Until now, only a handful of people knew. I kept it hidden out of shame and fear of judgment. In a lot of ways, I judged myself. I’m still in the process of healing from those losses. For a while, I didn’t think I would be able to conceive after terminating the two pregnancies. I felt like I didn’t deserve it, and the universe would punish me for my selfishness. I’m so grateful that I was wrong. I’m so happy that Zeus and Kane are here today, and I’m reminded that even in my darkness, I am deserving of grace. I have no regrets and I’m finally healing.
How has parenthood impacted your body image?
I look at my body completely differently now. Before I got pregnant, I loved my body. Looking back, I was probably a little vain. When I got pregnant, I realized immediately that my body was not my own anymore. It served a different purpose. My body was the source of life for Zeus and Kane. They depended on my body for their development and it felt like the most important thing I could do with my body. When I think about how womxn’s bodies are picked apart and how black bodies are broken down, I can’t help but look at my body as the physical proof of my humanity and divinity. It is sacred and so fucking strong. It’s resilient and malleable. It has been stretched and scarred. It’s shared with Zeus, Kane, and King. It is the source of life, nourishment and safety. It forgives me daily and I am so grateful.
What was your postpartum experience?
My postpartum journey was a blur in a lot of ways. I’m not sure how I adjusted. I had lots of support (my fiancé, my mom, my sisters, my friends, my doula and my nanny) but even with all of the support, it was really tough. I remember a lot of tears. I had physical pain, and emotional pain. I knew it would be difficult but, in the moment, I didn’t think I could handle it. I struggled to find the time to take care of myself. I had to be reminded to eat, drink water and shower, because I spent almost every waking moment nursing or caring for my babies. When I got a break from that, all I wanted to do was sleep. Like a lot of womxn, I struggled with the new me. When I was pregnant, I mentally prepared for the birth of my babies. My body physically prepared for their birth. I knew I would become a mama and I was so excited about that. What I didn’t know was that the old Erika, the woman that I had just gotten the chance to get to know, would die when the mama Erika was born. It sounds morbid, but that is true for me. I was no longer the old me. I really tried to do any and everything to feel like the old me, but it never happened. I was a new Erika, and the old Erika was gone. I loved her, but I’m learning to love the new Erika, too. She’s stronger than I thought, and she’s real. I still consider myself to be in the 4th trimester and I’m taking each day as a new opportunity to learn to love the new Erika and see the beauty in this journey.
What is your truth?
My truth is that I’m still trying to figure this shit out. I literally say “I don’t know what to do” every day. I’m still learning to embrace the unknown. I was the kind of person who wanted to plan everything. I still find comfort in plans, but I’m learning that with babies, nothing really goes according to plan. I’m still a little crazy about maintaining a schedule, but I’m learning to be more flexible. I’m learning to cherish the moments that test me the most. I’m learning to be ok with asking for help, and saying that I’m overwhelmed. I don’t want to be superwoman. I want to be the best mama to Zeus and Kane, but I also want to be allowed to make mistakes. The pressure of being superwoman is too much to carry. I just want to be Erika; mama, wife, sister, daughter, friend, activist, human.
What brought you here today?
I’m here because I am ready to begin my journey to community healing. I am ready to begin the process of healing myself from the inside out. I am ready to begin this journey of parenting for liberation, and not out of fear. I am here because I wish the same for everyone, especially for black womxn. I’m sharing my story because I believe sharing our individual experiences is the beginning of the normalization of something that so many womxn have been made to feel ashamed of feeling. No two stories are the same, but there are similarities, and we can heal through our connectedness. I believe that’s what his movement is about and I’m here for it.