Serena Williams made history when she beat her sister Venus at the Australian Open last year, winning a recording-breaking 23 grand slams. Little did we know she was eight-weeks pregnant at the time with her now four-month-old daughter Alexis Olympia.
However, the 36-year-old tennis champion has revealed, that while she had a relatively easy pregnancy carrying her daughter, her birth came with some life-threatening complications.
"I almost died after giving birth to my daughter, Olympia. Yet, I consider myself fortunate," Serena wrote in a recent column for CNN.
The tennis superstar is using her story to speak out about the importance of affordable health care for mothers and children.
"I am so grateful I had access to such an incredible medical team of doctors and nurses at a hospital with state-of-the-art equipment. They knew exactly how to handle this complicated turn of events. If it weren't for their professional care, I wouldn't be here today," penned Serena, who applauds UNICEF's commitment to mothers and children across the globe.
Previously, in the cover story of Vogue's February issue, Serena, 36, revealed that her daughter was born by emergency caesarean after her heart rate dropped dangerously low. The surgery went well, Serena's husband Alexis cut the chord and the couple's tiny newborn was laid on Serena's chest for the first time.
"That was an amazing feeling," Serena recalled. "And then everything went bad."
What followed was a traumatic six-day a pulmonary embolism (when arteries in the lungs become blocked by a blood clot) that led to multiple surgeries and complications.
Serena told the fashion bible she has a history of blood clots and lives in fear of them returning. So when she felt short of breath while resting in the hospital she knew she needed a CT scan of her lungs immediately.
Doctors found several blood clots had settled in her lungs. Furthermore, Serena's fresh C-section wound had popped open from her coughing fits caused by the pulmonary embolism, and when she returned to surgery, doctors discovered a large hematoma had flooded her abdomen - caused by the lifesaving blood-thinning medication she was taking for her blood clots.
Further surgeries later, Serena returned home, bedridden for six weeks and unable to care for her precious newborn daughter. Those first couple of months were incredibly trying for the new-mum who admits she still struggles with her new role.
"Sometimes I get really down and feel like, man, I can't do this," she said. "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."
Despite her self doubts, and her serious medical complications, Serena and Alexis are considering more children, yet say they "are in no rush."
Serena is also in hurry to return to competitive tennis. She was billed to play at the 2018 Australian open, but pulled out stating that she is not yet ready to return to competing at her best.