Serena Williams Opens Up About Emergency C-Section

Serena Williams baby Vogue
Instagram / Serena Williams

Whether or not you’re a tennis fan, chances are you know Serena Williams. If not, let me refresh your memory: This tennis phenom is a 23-time Grand Slam Singles and 14-time Grand Slam Doubles winner who won her most previous Australian Open title while eight weeks pregnant. Talk about being the best in the world, am I right?

Williams’ life became even more incredible when she gave birth to her first child, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. on Sept. 1, 2017:

Though she had a relatively easy pregnancy, in Vogue‘s February 2018 issue, Williams disclosed that giving birth caused some major health complications.

Her daughter, who Williams calls Olympia, was born by emergency C-section after her heart rate started diving during contractions. Thankfully, the surgery was successful and a beautiful, healthy baby emerged. Williams’ husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, cut the cord, and life was beautiful.

Unfortunately, the day after giving birth, Williams experienced shortness of breath and as a result of her history with blood clots, she assumed that this was due to another pulmonary embolism and alerted a nurse. Though the doctors were initially skeptical of Williams’ self-diagnosis, she was indeed correct about her condition.

So began a six-day battle with pulmonary embolism, which caused intense coughing that eventually led to her C-section popping open. This unraveled into further medical issues including a large hematoma found in her abdomen and hemorrhaging.

After a third surgery to insert a device into her vein to help prevent clotting, Williams returned home one week later, though she was immobile for six weeks. And the night nurse she had planned to hire had fallen through.

“I was happy to change diapers,” Ohanian explained to Vogue“But on top of everything she was going through, the feeling of not being able to help made it even harder. Consider for a moment that your body is one of the greatest things on this planet, and you’re trapped in it.”

For someone as courageous and strong as Williams, she’s admitted to feeling doubt when it comes to motherhood. So at least we know she’s human.

“Sometimes I get really down and feel like, man, I can’t do this,” says Williams in the interview. “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 a tough few months, Williams is excited about motherhood, ready to tackle new challenges and get back on the court. Not only is she gearing up to play competitively again (despite choosing to skip this year’s Australian Open noting that she doesn’t feel “prepared to go all the way”), but many of her tennis friends have been incredibly supportive in wishing her a speedy recovery and seeing her back on tour.

Tennis heavy hitters Caroline Wozniacki, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Angelique Kerber have all expressed how much she’s missed.

“To be honest, there’s something really attractive about the idea of moving to San Francisco and just being a mom,” she told Vogue. “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 (Grand Slams).”

She goes on to explain how 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.”

Parenthood is incredible, isn’t it?

RELATED: Serena and Ohanian tied the knot in a fairy tale-themed ceremony last year.

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About the Author
Chelsea Davis
Chelsea is a freelance journalist based in New York City whose passion revolves around traveling the world, immersing herself in foreign cultures, and of course, eating and drinking everything delicious. She covers all things food, drink and travel and is always up for an adventure, whether that means an adrenaline-pumping excursion or trying a new cuisine. Follow her on Instagram at @cheycheyfromthebay and keep up with her latest work at

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