She’s famously unflappable on the tennis court, but motherhood has thrown Serena Williams a few curveballs — and the star athlete is using her own experience to raise awareness about the struggles faced by new moms, particularly women of color.
Williams gave birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia, seven months ago, but the birth didn’t go as planned. When her baby’s heart rate began dropping, doctors told Williams they needed to perform an emergency C-section.
Although she took the news in stride, Williams told People, “I was still devastated. I think every woman, a part of them, wants to have birth naturally and [to] feel that… when you get a c-section it’s different.”
Shortly after Alexis’ birth, Williams was hospitalized due to multiple blood clots — including one in her lungs. She underwent surgery and had to spend the next six weeks in bed recovering. “My whole life I’ve been physically pushing my body to the limits,” Williams shared. “And this is the one time where I couldn’t control anything. I couldn’t push my body. My body pushed to its maximum. That was so hard.”
As she got back on her feet, Williams says her sister, Venus, husband Alexis Ohanian Sr. and friends have provided an invaluable support system. “It takes a village to raise a kid and it takes a village to get back on the court,” Williams told People.
As Williams bounces back and prepares to return to the tennis court, she’s using her platform to raise awareness about the struggles faced by Black women during pregnancy. Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy complications than white women, a statistic that Williams describes as “devastating.”
“If I wasn’t who I am, it could have been me — and that’s not fair. Class shouldn’t separate health, and it’s so frustrating to know that [it does],” Williams told Glamour. “And the reason I use the word class is because I’m able to afford this opportunity to speak up and say, ‘No, I need help now!’ and people will listen to me. But a lot of African-Americans — and people in Africa, India, or Brazil, to name a few — don’t have that opportunity. It’s completely devastating.”
We didn’t need any more evidence that Williams is a badass hero both on and off the tennis court, but she gave it to us anyway. Props to the tennis star for opening up about her own struggles and raising the important (and far-too-often overlooked) issue of the pregnancy risks experienced by Black women.