Serena Williams Opens Up About Nearly Dying During Childbirth, Struggles For Black Moms
Tennis star Serena Williams has penned an essay in which she discussed her horrific childbirth experience in 2017 giving birth to her daughter Olympia. “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 heard,” Williams wrote of the traumatizing ordeal.
She also candidly wrote about first feeling disconnected from the baby she was pregnant with while being pregnant. “I kept waiting to feel like I knew her during pregnancy, but the feeling never came. Some of my friends told me they didn’t feel the connection in the womb either, which made me feel better, but still, I longed for it,” Williams said.
Williams gave birth to Olympia via emergency C-section after her heart rate dropped during labor. Williams was able to hold her child and said, “I loved her right away,” but then In an experience especially common for black women in hospitals, Williams began experiencing concerning symptoms and had to frequently insist on receiving tests and treatments that could have easily been fatal for her if they weren’t carried out.
The tennis star has been paranoid about getting a blood clot because she caught a potentially fatal one in her lung in 2010, and when she asked a nurse about receiving a drip to help with clotting the response was unsure. “‘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,” she wrote.
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Williams ended up being correct and after she developed a cough that was so strong her c-section stitches burst. She wrote that they found out, “I wasn’t coughing for nothing; I was coughing because I had an embolism, a clot in one of my arteries.” Williams still had to frequently fight to receive a CAT Scan all while being in an out of multiple surgeries, to the point where she apparently “started to say, ‘I’m baaaaaaack!’ each time they wheeled me in.”
All in all, Williams went through four surgeries including her C-section, and left the hospital a week after her daughter was born. While she went through a difficult recovery process and has also been open about struggling with postpartum depression, Williams said that spending time with Olympia “was both the reward and the validation for all I’d been through. I went from not being able to really imagine her in the womb to us being inseparable.”
Williams also reminded us of a chilling fact, which is that Black women in the U.S. have a three-times higher chance of dying during childbirth than white women, with most causes being ruled as preventable. “Being heard and appropriately treated was the difference between life or death for me; I know those statistic would be different if the medical establishment listened to every Black woman’s experience,” said Williams.
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