Serena Williams is a survivor.
In a personal essay for Elle, the 23-time Grand Slam champion got candid about her traumatic experience with giving birth to her daughter Olympia, 4—who she shares with husband Alexis Ohanian—while also sharing that she did not have a "connection" with her baby throughout her pregnancy.
"I was nervous about meeting my baby," she said. "Throughout my pregnancy, I'd never felt a connection with her. While I loved being pregnant, I didn't have that amazing ‘Oh my God, this is my baby' moment, ever. It's something people don't usually talk about, because we're supposed to be in love from the first second."
While adding that she wasn't "gushing" over her daughter, Serena said that she kept waiting to feel like she knew her—even reaching out to her mom friends for advice—but that feeling never came, until she gave birth to Olympia in September 2017.
"When I finally saw her—and I just knew it was going to be a girl, that was one thing I knew about her before we even had it confirmed—I loved her right away," she shared with Elle. "It wasn't exactly instantaneous, but it was there, and from that seed, it grew. I couldn't stop staring at her, my Olympia."
Though Serena was finally able to hold her little one, things began to take a turn for the worse.
Aside from being rushed into an emergency C-section when the baby's heart rate kept dropping, the new mom also had to demand that she be given additional medical attention after her stitches were reopened due to an uncontrollable cough that started after she gave birth.
"I spoke to the nurse," the tennis star said. "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.'"
Due to Serena's persistence, the nurse called the doctor and they found that she had a blood clot in her lungs that needed to be broken up before it reached her heart.
After a total of four surgeries, Serena was finally able to leave the hospital a week after giving birth. Though the journey to motherhood was difficult, the tennis player said it was worth it.
"Despite my body's wreckage—and the fact that I couldn't get in much breastfeeding—connecting with Olympia at long last was amazing; it was both the reward and the validation for all I'd been through," she told Elle. "I went from not being able to really imagine her in the womb to us being completely inseparable. I still feel like I have to be around her for every day of her life, as much as possible. I'm anxious when I'm not around her. Honestly, it's a little much."