In December, tennis superstar Serena Williams faced off against French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko at the Mubadala exhibition event in the United Arab Emirates. Williams lost the game, but on a personal level, that was a winning moment in so many ways.
See, the game was Williams's first match after giving birth three months prior and taking nearly a year-long break from the sport.
The 36-year-old and her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, welcomed a daughter, Alexis Olympia, on September 1, 2017, but apparently, Williams had a rough start at motherhood.
When the family first shared photos of their new addition with the public, Williams hinted at the fact that there were some complications after the baby's birth, and that they had to spend six additional days at St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.
“It’s been a long time, but we had a lot of complications, but look who we got — we got a baby girl!” Williams said in a video, which included a short montage of her journey to motherhood.
It's been four months since Alexis, made her debut, and she landed her first magazine cover alongside her mom. The pair are the cover stars of Vogue's February issue, and during their interview, Williams got very candid about the major health complications she suffered from during the birth process.
Williams explained that it all started even before the baby was born. She recalled her heart rate dropping to alarmingly low levels during contractions, so doctors had to perform an emergency c-section. Thankfully, it was successful and she finally got to meet her first child.
"That was an amazing feeling," Williams recalled. "And then everything went bad.”
Following the birth, Williams thought recovering from the surgery while nursing a newborn would've been the hardest part of the process, but she turned out to be wrong.
In the six days that followed, the new mom experienced a number of health scares, including sudden shortness of breath, which occurred right after holding her baby.
Williams, who had previously suffered from blood clots, knew that the shortness of breath she was experiencing was likely due to another pulmonary embolism (blocked artery in the lung often caused by a blood clot.)
As she started to grow more concerned, Williams asked the nurse for a CT scan and an IV heparin. Since she was under painkillers, she was thought to have been confused and instead, they performed an ultrasound of her legs, but nothing turned up.
They eventually went through with the CT scan, and found several small blood clots in Williams's lungs.
“I was like, 'Listen to Dr. Williams!'" Williams jokingly said.
Unfortunately, that wasn't even the worst of it.
Although she was given blood thinners, Williams still had coughing fits due to the pulmonary embolism. This caused her surgery wounds to open and she had to once again go under the knife.
During the procedure to repair the rip, doctors found a large hematoma in her abdomen caused by hemorrhaging. This meant she needed to return to the operating table for a third time in order to prevent more clots from getting into her lungs. Doctors inserted a filter into one of her major veins as a solution.
Williams was finally able to go home, but was ordered to remain on six weeks of bed rest. She was unable to care for her new baby to the capacity she would've liked, but Ohanian was more than happy to carry out his daddy duties.
“I was happy to change diapers,” Ohanian told Vogue. "But on top of everything she was going through, the feeling of not being able to help made it even harder. Consider for a moment that your body is one of the greatest things on this planet, and you’re trapped in it."
Williams recuperated just in time for the couple's Beauty and the Beast-inspired wedding, which took place on November 16 in New Orleans.
Williams admitted that although the situation isn't as awful as it was at the start, these last few months have been both rewarding and testing.
"Sometimes I get really down and feel like, man, I can’t do this,” Williams confessed. "It’s that same negative attitude I have on the court sometimes. I guess that’s just who I am. No one talks about the low moments — the pressure you feel, the incredible letdown every time you hear the baby cry."
She credits her strength for helping her carry through the hard times. She's also totally smitten by her daughter, whom she calls "Olympia," and jokes that they're "not spending a day apart until she's 18."
Williams may have only been half-joking because she recently withdrew from the Australian Open so she could focus on her baby and family a little longer.
We can't wait to see this adorable mother-daughter pair on more magazine covers.