Serena Williams seems like a supermom, and in many ways she is. The 37-year-old tennis champion also has her own fashion line, is an advocate and volunteer with a number of charities, and more.
Still, Serena finds it important to note all the ways that the experience of motherhood is similar across the spectrum. After a near-death experience from giving birth, Serena decided to speak up. Since then, she has been very outspoken about her experiences parenting. She recently opened up about her own struggle with postpartum depression in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar UK.
Like many moms, it was a mundane moment that turned into a revelation for Serena.
She told the magazine that one day, something as simple as being unable to find Olympia’s bottle turned into a breakdown. Rather than refer to it as postpartum depression, Serena refers to it as “postpartum emotions.” She hopes that her spin on the concept will help normalize it for the many women who experience it.
There’s no denying that Serena Williams is a very powerful woman. She’s proven that on tennis courts around the world, as well as in other areas of her career. She’s also proven it time and time again in the nearly two years since giving birth to daughter Alexis Olympia.
Serena had a very scary experience while giving birth to her daughter. She wrote an op-ed about it for CNN, discussing how Olympia was born via emergency C-section after Serena’s heart rate dropped drastically during labor.
The following day, Serena suffered a pulmonary embolism that caused doctors to reopen her C-section wound. Emergency surgery resulted in the discovery of a hematoma in her abdomen. She ended up spending six weeks recovering from the ordeal, all while caring for a newborn.
While Serena shared her story to raise awareness of maternal and infant mortality rates and encourage readers to support UNICEF, she was unaware of what would unfold next for her. After recovering from her traumatic birth experience, Serena found herself battling postpartum depression.
“Honestly, sometimes I still think I have to deal with it,” she told Harper’s Bazaar UK. Then she noted something that’s truly remarkable to think about. “I think people need to talk about it more because it’s almost like the fourth trimester, it’s part of the pregnancy.”
She realized what she was dealing with when, one day, a minor incident left her reeling. “I remember one day, I couldn’t find Olympia’s bottle and I got so upset I started crying … because I wanted to be perfect for her,” she recalled.
Serena continued to speak out about what she refers to as “postpartum emotions” on Instagram. In a post that she wrote just shy of Olympia turning 1, Serena explained: “Last week was not easy for me. Not only was I accepting some tough personal stuff, but I just was in a funk. Mostly, I felt like I was not a good mom.”
She continued by sharing facts with her followers. “I read several articles that said postpartum emotions can last up to 3 years if not dealt with,” she explained. “I like communication best. Talking things through with my mom, my sisters, my friends [lets] me know that my feelings are totally normal.“
Serena talked about the post on the Mamamia No Filter podcast. She explained her choice of words, noting, “I felt like it was really important to talk about because a lot of people feel like the word ‘depression’ is bad and just because you’re going through things, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s depression.”
Her viewpoint is also shared by medical professionals. Michael E. Silverman, PhD, associate clinical professor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, explained to Self, “From the clinical standpoint, research has shown that postpartum mood change is likely composed of several different psychiatric disorders, many of which do not share the same pathogenesis.”
Serena is using her platform to take a powerful stand by using a different choice of words. She’s opening up the conversation around the postpartum experience and how it can look and feel different for many women. Regardless, they are not alone in it.
One in seven women will experience postpartum emotions, but with more celebrities opening up about their own experiences, it doesn’t feel so taboo to discuss. This may seem like a small shift, but it can be lifesaving for women around the world.
Gwyneth Paltrow, Adele, and Drew Barrymore are among the many who have spoken out about their postpartum experiences. With Serena speaking out, not only is she helping women all over, but she’s bringing women of color into the mainstream conversation.
While Serena may have occasionally grappled with doubts that she wasn’t doing enough as a mom, one look at her daughter proves she’s doing everything just right. Olympia is a happy and healthy kid who clearly looks up to her strong, fierce mama.