Everyone knows Serena Williams the tennis player is tough. You don’t win 22 Grand Slam titles and come back from massive injuries without being tough.
But Serena Williams the mom is even tougher.
Williams, a first-time mother, gave birth to Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. 25 days ahead of her 36th birthday. While Williams’ pregnancy was relatively normal, the complications began once she went into labor.
In the latest edition of Vogue, Williams details how Olympia’s heart rate dropped during contractions, prompting an emergency C-section. The C-section was successful and the tennis star and her now-husband, Alexis Ohanian, thought everything was OK.
While recovering the next day, Williams felt short of breath. Immediately, she informed her medical team that she thought was having a pulmonary embolism, and needed a CT scan and blood thinners. When Williams was met with resistance from a nurse, a doctor performed an ultrasound, which didn’t appease the Olympian.
“I was like, a Doppler? I told you, I need a CT scan and a heparin drip,” she remembers telling the team. The ultrasound revealed nothing, so they sent her for the CT, and sure enough, several small blood clots had settled in her lungs. Minutes later she was on the drip. “I was like, listen to Dr. Williams!”
That would have been enough of a scare for anyone, but this was just the beginning of Williams’ six-day medical scare. The pulmonary embolism brought on intense coughing spells, which forced open Williams’ fresh C-section wound. That issue required another surgery. While in the operating room, doctors discovered that a large hematoma had developed in her abdomen, due to the blood thinners being used to treat her original blood clots.
After all of that, Williams was unable to get out of bed for six weeks and the emotional toll of having a baby started to catch up with her.
“Sometimes I get really down and feel like, Man, I can’t do this,” she says. “It’s that same negative attitude I have on the court sometimes. I guess that’s just who I am. No one talks about the low moments—the pressure you feel, the incredible letdown every time you hear the baby cry. I’ve broken down I don’t know how many times. Or I’ll get angry about the crying, then sad about being angry, and then guilty, like, Why do I feel so sad when I have a beautiful baby? The emotions are insane.”
Williams lost in her return to the court in an exhibition match in Abu Dhabi. She also entered the Australian Open, but withdrew from the tournament last week.