Serena Williams absolutely loves motherhood, but the journey to this point was incredibly tough for the 36-year-old. She opened up about that struggle for the first time in the February issue of Vogue, but went a step further to advocate for better healthcare for women giving birth around the world. She shared her story on CNN.com in an effort to raise awareness as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador. “I almost died after giving birth to my daughter, Olympia,” she wrote. “Yet I consider myself fortunate.”
“It began with a pulmonary embolism, which is a condition in which one or more arteries in the lungs becomes blocked by a blood clot,” she said. “Because of my medical history with this problem, I live in fear of this situation. So, when I fell short of breath, I didn’t wait a second to alert the nurses.”
“This sparked a slew of health complications that I am lucky to have survived,” she continued. “First my C-section wound popped open due to the intense coughing I endured as a result of the embolism. I returned to surgery, where the doctors found a large hematoma, a swelling of clotted blood, in my abdomen. And then I returned to the operating room for a procedure that prevents clots from traveling to my lungs. When I finally made it home to my family, I had to spend the first six weeks of motherhood in bed.”
While Williams had top doctors helping her, most women, Black women especially, aren’t given the same access to avoid losing their children and/or their own lives during and after childbirth.
“I am so grateful I had access to such an incredible medical team of doctors and nurses at a hospital with state-of-the-art equipment,” she said. “They knew exactly how to handle this complicated turn of events. If it weren’t for their professional care, I wouldn’t be here today.”