Serena Williams Talks Highs And Lows Of New Motherhood And Life-Threatening Complications After Emergency C-Section

January 10, 2018  |  

Like most new mothers, Serena Williams is absolutely in love with her 4-month-old daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. In fact, she told Vogue magazine, “We’re not spending a day apart until she’s eighteen.”

Serena, who covers the mag’s February issue with her mini-me, went on to say, “Now that I’m 36 and I look at my baby, I remember that this was also one of my goals when I was little, before tennis took over, when I was still kind of a normal girl who played with dolls. Oh, my God, I loved my dolls.”

With the dream of being a mother realized, the tennis pro finds her other goals — like having 25 Grand Slam victories (she currently has 23), which would surpass the current record of 24 set by Australian player Margaret Court — are taking on new form.

“To be honest, there’s something really attractive about the idea of moving to San Francisco and just being a mom,” she confessed, noting she and her husband Alexis just found a house in Silicon Valley where his company, Reddit, is located. “But not yet. Maybe this goes without saying, but it needs to be said in a powerful way: I absolutely want more Grand Slams. I’m well aware of the record books, unfortunately. It’s not a secret that I have my sights on 25. And actually, I think having a baby might help. When I’m too anxious I lose matches, and I feel like a lot of that anxiety disappeared when Olympia was born. Knowing I’ve got this beautiful baby to go home to makes me feel like I don’t have to play another match. I don’t need the money or the titles or the prestige. I want them, but I don’t need them. That’s a different feeling for me.”

During the holidays, Serena stepped back on the court for the first time since giving birth September 1, 2017, but after she failed to live up to her own expectations she withdrew from the 2018 Australian Open late last week. Her performance, which she failed to rate when asked, may have had something to do with the long recovery she had since going into labor. As Vogue detailed the scary saga:

“Olympia was born by emergency C-section after her heart rate dove dangerously low during contractions. The surgery went off without a hitch; Alexis cut the cord, and the wailing newborn fell silent the moment she was laid on her mother’s chest. ‘That was an amazing feeling,’ Serena remembers. ‘And then everything went bad.’

The day after the C-section, Serena felt short of breath and requested a CT scan and blood thinner due to her history of blood clots. While the nurse initially ignored her concerns and an ultrasound failed to show anything was wrong, eventually a CT scan was ordered and revealed “several small blood clots had settled in her lungs.”

“But this was just the first chapter of a six-day drama,” Vogue explained. “Her fresh C-section wound popped open from the intense coughing spells caused by the pulmonary embolism, and when she returned to surgery, they found that a large hematoma had flooded her abdomen, the result of a medical catch-22 in which the potentially lifesaving blood thinner caused hemorrhaging at the site of her C-section. She returned yet again to the OR to have a filter inserted into a major vein, in order to prevent more clots from dislodging and traveling into her lungs. Serena came home a week later only to find that the night nurse had fallen through, and she spent the first six weeks of motherhood unable to get out of bed.”

At times, both the physical and emotional toll of being a new mother weighs heavily on Serena who’s also a newlywed.

“Sometimes I get really down and feel like, Man, I can’t do this,” she said. “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.”

Thankfully, Serena has her own mother to turn to in those moments when she questions herself. “Obedience brings protection; that’s what my mom told me,” Serena shared. “That’s straight from the Bible, and she wrote it down on paper and gave it to me. I was always obedient: Whatever my parents told me to do, I did. There was no discussion. Maybe I had a little rebellious phase in my 20s, when I tried liquor for the first time. Maybe having a baby on the tennis tour is the most rebellious thing I could ever do.”

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