Serena Williams Shares the Harsh Realities of Motherhood, Even Her Near-Death Experience

6 months ago

Serena Williams considers becoming a mom her greatest achievement — as well as one of her biggest challenges. Since welcoming her first child, she has had to overcome a series of difficult moments, including a life-threatening condition and postpartum depression. Still, she’s always open about her struggles, and her honest accounts reveal how her motherhood journey, thus far, has been both emotional and inspiring.

Serena Williams is the proud mom of 2 daughters.

Early in Serena Williams’ tennis career she never considered having children and later even expressed having reservations about bringing kids into a world riddled with problems. Plus, she thought it was likely that others would end up taking care of her children, as she wasn’t particularly confident or comfortable around babies and kids then.

However, a lot changed as she grew older and found love. On September 1, 2017, she welcomed her first daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., alongside her husband, Alexis Ohanian (known for being Reddit’s co-founder). Then, 6 years later, in August 2023, their family grew even bigger after Williams gave birth to their second daughter, Adira River Ohanian.

But becoming a mom brought on new challenges.

She almost died after giving birth to her first child.

In a poignant essay for Elle magazine, Williams recounted her challenging childbirth experience, highlighting how her 11-year awareness of a high-risk tendency to blood clots saved her life. Having previously suffered a serious pulmonary embolism in 2011, she remained vigilant about her health. That’s why she immediately noticed symptoms of a clot emerge after childbirth.

In her harrowing account, she detailed how soon after giving birth by C-section she felt numbness in her legs and severe pain, and she realized she couldn’t move. Later on, she began breathing and coughing heavily (both symptoms of blood clotting), which caused her stitches to burst and sent her back to the operating room.

When she woke up, she felt like she was “dying.” Despite her fear of passing out, Williams summoned the strength to leave her bed and find a nurse to address her concerns, shielding her mother from unnecessary worry. From then on, she’s had to advocate for herself and overcome multiple dismissals from healthcare providers in order to get a CAT scan of her lungs done.

After strongly insisting, a doctor agreed to it and proved Williams right. Her medical condition was complex, as multiple clots were discovered, and they eventually required several surgeries to be fully treated. The experience left her exhausted, as she “just wanted to be with [her] baby,” and although it didn’t end tragically, the delay in her diagnosis led to her spending 7 days in the hospital and enduring 6 weeks of bed rest, taking an unimaginable emotional and physical toll on the new mom.

She struggled with postpartum feelings of guilt.

The 42-year-old opened up about dealing with negative emotions shortly after birth, something she avoids referring to as postpartum depression and instead calls “postpartum emotions.” In a podcast, she explained her careful choice of words, saying she wants to challenge the stigma associated with terms like “depression” and highlight that experiencing difficulties doesn’t necessarily equate to a clinical diagnosis.

In an Instagram post from August 2018, Williams shared a photo that captured an introspective moment at the top of a cliff during a sunset, and the caption provided a personal reflection on those “postpartum emotions.” She expressed difficulties in navigating personal issues and feeling like she was not a good mom. Emphasizing the importance of communication, she also stated that talking things through with her mom, sisters, and friends helped her realize that her feelings were normal.

She then went on to reassure fellow moms that it’s normal to feel like they’re not doing enough for their babies. Williams, who was balancing her tennis career with motherhood at the time, acknowledged the challenge of finding the right balance but pointed out that both stay-at-home and working moms face similar struggles.

This wasn’t the first time she addressed the downs in her emotional journey as a mother though. In July of the same year, she took to Twitter to share her frustration and sadness about missing her daughter’s first steps because she was training for Wimbledon. This incident highlights the sacrifices that athletes, particularly mothers, may face as they balance their careers with precious family moments.

She moved on from playing tennis to prioritize motherhood.

In a 2020 interview, Williams described rushing home from her tennis matches, eager to see her daughter. For her, it was an unparalleled joy hearing Olympia “squeal” with excitement upon seeing her. 2 years later, she announced she would be taking a break from the sport.

In February 2023, she reaffirmed her decision and stressed how content she was to be able to focus on family life. Although a return to tennis would be difficult now, she recognizes her skill and is aware that she could be playing at a high level still.

She doesn’t hold back from showing the less glamorous side of motherhood on social media.

The tennis legend is very active on social media and never misses an opportunity to give a candid glimpse into her real-life parenting experiences. In November 2023, she posted a lighthearted clip on TikTok that perfectly captured the daily routine of a mother.

The clip starts with Williams dressed in a glamorous black sequin gown, which she wore to her appearance at the 2023 CFDA Awards. The scene then humorously transitions to a relatable mom moment as the camera reveals her pumping breast milk and sighing deeply. In the captions, Williams acknowledged that her life isn’t as glamorous as it may seem.

In the comment section, the video didn’t lack support. Many felt it was very accurate and proved that motherhood isn’t for the “weak,” as one user wrote. Others were glad to see a famous person be down-to-earth enough to show the real behind-the-scenes, with someone saying, “If this isn’t real life, then I don’t know what is. So glad you show you’re in the trenches with us.”

Despite the struggles, she loves being a mom.

Williams frequently shares insights into motherhood on Instagram, including the joys of it. In a 2019 post, she reflected on the first 2 years of being a mom as her “greatest accomplishment.”

In a 2022 interview with Vogue, she highlighted her hands-on approach to motherhood, expressing how she enjoys being intensely involved in her daughter Olympia’s life. Her dedication is such that in 5 years, Olympia has only spent one 24-hour period away from her. Despite being a highly accomplished athlete, Williams expressed that nothing feels like a sacrifice when it comes to her daughter.

Family is important, and Nick Jonas knows this best. According to the singer, his own parents saved his life when he was just 13 years old. He talked about the emotional moment and how he now wants to help others in similar situations.


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