Serena Williams is revisiting her traumatic story about giving birth to her daughter Alexis Olympia—a beautiful experience and yet one that almost killed her.
"While I had a pretty easy pregnancy, my daughter was born by emergency C-section after her heart rate dropped dramatically during contractions," Serena explained. "The surgery went smoothly. Before I knew it, Olympia was in my arms. It was the most amazing feeling I've ever experienced in my life. But what followed just 24 hours after giving birth were six days of uncertainty."
Serena recalled how the complications began with a pulmonary embolism, which is a condition in which one or more arteries in the lungs gets blocked by a blood clot. This is something she's dealt with in the past, and therefore, when she realized she was becoming short of breath, she knew to alert the nurses immediately.
"This sparked a slew of health complications that I am lucky to have survived," Serena continued. "First my C-section wound popped open due to the intense coughing I endured as a result of the embolism. I returned to surgery, where the doctors found a large hematoma, a swelling of clotted blood, in my abdomen. And then I returned to the operating room for a procedure that prevents clots from traveling to my lungs. When I finally made it home to my family, I had to spend the first six weeks of motherhood in bed."
But instead of feeling down about everything she experienced, Serena admitted she felt "fortunate."
The tennis player went on to explain how she was treated by "an incredible medical team of doctors and nurses at a hospital with state-of-the-art equipment" who knew exactly how to handle her complications—all of them.
"If it weren't for their professional care, I wouldn't be here today," Serena revealed.
In fact, the experience opened her eyes to just how many women—particularly black women and women in poor countries—aren't fortunate enough to have the same kind of care.
"When they have complications like mine, there are often no drugs, health facilities or doctors to save them," she explained. "If they don't want to give birth at home, they have to travel great distances at the height of pregnancy. Before they even bring a new life into this world, the cards are already stacked against them."
She continued, "According to UNICEF, each year, 2.6 million newborns die, tragically before their lives even really get started. Over 80% die from preventable causes. We know simple solutions exist, like access to midwives and functional health facilities, along with breastfeeding, skin-to-skin contact, clean water, basic drugs and good nutrition. Yet we are not doing our part. We are not rising to the challenge to help the women of the world."
Thus, she encourages everyone to do what they can to help.
"You can demand governments, businesses and health care providers do more to save these precious lives," Serena stated. "You can donate to UNICEF and other organizations around the world working to make a difference for mothers and babies in need. In doing so, you become part of this narrative—making sure that one day, who you are or where you are from does not decide whether your baby gets to live or to die."
Serena concluded, "Together, we can make this change. Together, we can be the change."