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Elle Magazine Story on Serena Williams and Women’s Health In Becoming A Mother

Black women are nearly three times more likely to die after childbirth than white women. Serena Williams was almost one of them. Here, in her own words, she tells her story in an exclusive adaption from Arrival Stories: Women Share Their Experiences of Becoming Mothers, an anthology collected by Amy Schumer and Christy Turlington Burns, out April 5

Serena Williams and daughter Olympia – Photo credit to Serena Williams Instagram

On how the stakes of the game have changed for her since having her daughter Olympia: “I have 23 Grand Slams to my name, more than any other active player. But winning is now a desire and no longer a need. I have a beautiful daughter at home; I still want the titles, the success, and the esteem, but it’s not my reason for waking up in the morning. There is more to teach her about this game than winning. I’ve learned to dust myself off after defeat, to stand up for what matters at any cost, to call out for what’s fair—even when it makes me unpopular. Giving birth to my baby, it turned out, was a test for how loud and how often I would have to call out before I was finally heard.”

On her delivery experience and knowing when to surrender: “Outside my birthing room, there were meetings going on without me—my husband was conferencing with the doctors. By this point, I was more than ready for the epidural, but after 20 minutes, the doctor walked in, looked at me, and said, “We’re giving you a C-section.” She made it clear that there wasn’t time for an epidural or more pushing. I loved her confidence; had she given me the choice between more pushing or surgery, I would have been ruined. I’m not good at making decisions. In that moment, what I needed most was that calm, affirmative direction. Since it was my first child, I really wanted to have the baby vaginally, but I thought to myself, “I’ve had so many surgeries, what’s another one?” Being an athlete is so often about controlling your body, wielding its power, but it’s also about knowing when to surrender. I was happy and relieved to let go; the energy in the room totally changed. We went from this intense, seemingly endless process to a clear plan for bringing this baby into the world.”

On her post birth experience and fighting to be heard when it came to her healthcare: “So much of what happened after that is still a blur. I may have passed out a few times. In my haze, I wondered if I should ask someone about my drip. In 2010, I learned I had blood clots in my lungs—clots that, had they not been caught in time, could have killed me. Ever since then, I’ve lived in fear of them returning. It wasn’t a one-off; I’m at high risk for blood clots. I asked a nurse, “When do I start my heparin drip? Shouldn’t I be on that now?”

“The response was, “Well, we don’t really know if that’s what you need to be on right now.” No one was really listening to what I was saying. The logic for not starting the blood thinners was that it could cause my C-section wound to bleed, which is true. Still, I felt it was important and kept pressing. All the while, I was in excruciating pain. I couldn’t move at all—not my legs, not my back, nothing.”

“I began to cough. The nurses warned me that coughing might burst my stitches, but I couldn’t help it. The coughs became racking, full-body ordeals. Every time I coughed, sharp pains shot through my wound.”

They were trying to talk to me, and all I could think was, “I’m dying, I’m dying. Oh my God.”

On finally finding blood clots in her lungs after advocating repeatedly for herself after multiple surgeries: “In the other room, I spoke to the nurse. I told her: “I need to have a CAT scan of my lungs bilaterally, and then I need to be on my heparin drip.” She said, “I think all this medicine is making you talk crazy.” I said, “No, I’m telling you what I need: I need the scan immediately. And I need it to be done with dye.” I guess I said the name of the dye wrong, and she told me I just needed to rest. But I persisted: “I’m telling you, this is what I need.” Finally, the nurse called my doctor, and she listened to me and insisted we check. I fought hard, and I ended up getting the CAT scan. I’m so grateful to her. Lo and behold, I had a blot clot in my lungs, and they needed to insert a filter into my veins to break up the clot before it reached my heart.

On how being heard and treated was the difference between life and death for her: “In the U.S., Black women are nearly three times more likely to die during or after childbirth than their white counterparts. Many of these deaths are considered by experts to be preventable. Being heard and appropriately treated was the difference between life or death for me; I know those statistics would be different if the medical establishment listened to every Black woman’s experience.”

CHECK OUT THE FULL STORY ON ELLE ( Follow the link) THIS WAS POSTED WITH ELLE’S PERMISSION: https://www.elle.com/life-love/a39586444/how-serena-williams-saved-her-own-life/