Serena Williams made history when she beat her sister Venus Williams at the 2017 Australian Open. The title gave her a recording-breaking 23 grand slams. But little did we know, she was eight weeks pregnant at the time with her now four-month-old daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. The 36-year-old tennis champion revealed that though she had a relatively easy pregnancy, she went through life-threatening complications after the birth of her daughter.
"I almost died after giving birth to my daughter, Olympia. Yet, I consider myself fortunate," Serena wrote in a recent column for CNN. Serena is using her story to speak out about the importance of affordable health care for mothers and children.
"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," Serena wrote. "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." Serena then applauds UNICEF's commitment to mothers and children across the globe.
In the February cover story of Vogue, Serena revealed that her daughter was born by an emergency cesarean section after her heart rate dropped dangerously low. The surgery went well, Serena's husband Alexis cut the chord, and the couple's tiny newborn lay on Serena's chest for the first time.
"That was an amazing feeling," Serena recalled. "And then everything went bad." Shortly after her birth, Serena suffered from pulmonary embolism, which is a blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in the lungs. This led to multiple surgeries and complications.
Serena told Vogue she has a history of blood clots, which puts her at risk for more in the future. So when she felt short of breath while resting in the hospital, she knew she needed a CT scan of her lungs immediately. Doctors found several blood clots had settled in her lungs, and due to the coughing from the embolism, her C-section scar had ripped open. When she returned to surgery, doctors discovered blood had flooded her abdomen, which was caused by the blood-thinning medication she was taking for her blood clots.
Several surgeries later, Serena returned home. She was bedridden for six weeks and unable to care for her newborn daughter. The first couple of months were incredibly trying for Serena, who admits she still struggles with her new role. "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."
Despite her self doubts, and her serious medical complications, Serena and her husband, Alexis Ohanian, are considering more children. But they say they "are in no rush." Serena is also in hurry to return to competitive tennis. She was set to play at the 2018 Australian open, but pulled out before the competition began. She said she was not ready to return to compete at her best.
This post was written by Bettina Tyrrell. For more, check out our sister site Now to Love.