The world has lapped up Serena Williams' regular social media updates about life as a new mum since giving birth to baby Olympia on September 1 last year. But other than to say there were "a lot of complications" after the birth, Serena didn't provide any further details about the birth. That is, until now.
In an interview with Vogue magazine, the popular tennis star, who had hoped to defend her Australian Open title this month but postponed her return to tennis until March, reveals for the first time that she could have died in the maternity ward. Her post-birth complications were life-threatening due to her history of blood clots, for which she takes anticoagulants.
Olympia was born by emergency C-section after her heart rate dropped dangerously low during contractions. In Vogue Serena shares that the surgery went well, with Alexis cutting the cord and wee Olympia falling silent the moment she was laid on her mother's chest.
But the worst was yet to come, with Serena revealing, "And then everything went bad."
The day after Olympia's birth, while recovering in hospital, Serena suddenly felt short of breath. She was off her daily anticoagulant regimen due to the surgery and knew one of the signs of blood clotting to be shortness of breath, so immediately alerted a nurse that she suspected she was having another pulmonary embolism.
A CT scan proved Serena right. Several small blood clots had settled in her lungs. Minutes later she was put on a blood thinner, delivered intravenously.
But this was just day one of what became a six-day drama.
Serena's C-section wound re-opened as a result of the intense coughing spells she'd been having, caused by the pulmonary embolism. When she went back into surgery to repair the wound, surgeons discovered that a large hematoma had flooded her abdomen. This had been caused by the blood thinner causing hemorrhaging at the site of her C-section - a medical catch 22 situation.
A filter needed to be inserted into a major vein to prevent more clots from dislodging and traveling into her lungs.
Almost a week after giving birth to Olympia Serena finally got to go home, but her first couple of months with her new daughter have been clouded by having to recover from major surgery, with no night nurse.
Serena told Vogue these early days have tested her in ways she never imagined.
"Sometimes I get really down and feel like, Man, I can't do this," she says.
"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."
Her mother, Oracene Price, has been staying in Florida to help out and, according to Vogue, making the case for Serena to adopt her strict parenting style.
"Obedience brings protection; that's what my mom told me," Serena says.
"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."
Serena also told Vogue that she hopes her daughter will not follow in her footsteps as a tennis great.
"I would hate her to have to deal with comparisons or expectations. It's so much work, and I've given up so much. I don't regret it, but it's like Sliding Doors: Go through a different door and lead a different life. I'd like her to have a normal life. I didn't have that."
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