Serena Williams covers Vogue with baby daughter, opens up about post-birth health complications

Serena Williams is a maternal goddess on the cover of Vogue’s February issue! Dressed in a fitted cherry red number and holding her precious daughter, Alexis Olympia, in her arms, the 36-year-old tennis pro is the epitome of strength.

But shortly after her daughter’s birth in September, Williams faced one of the scariest medical complications of her life. She alluded to the tough time when sharing the first photos of her newborn daughter on social media, but in her new cover story, she laid out exactly what happened.

The now-4-month-old was born in an emergency C-section after her heart rate dropped dangerously low during Williams’ contractions. The athlete’s husband, Alexis Ohanian, cut the cord and placed his daughter on her mother’s chest.

“That was an amazing feeling,” Williams told Vogue. “And then everything went bad.”

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For the first dress When Anna Wintour asked me what I wanted to wear I said "a cape" I just want to wear a cape" she said: "well Sarah Burton with @alexandermcqueen is the one for you.” Thanks Anna. Thanks Sarah. I felt like a princess and superwoman all at once. 📸: @mistadubb @ericamelissa_
After tying the knot with @alexisohanian last night, @serenawilliams debuted her second dress of the evening, a dramatic beaded, feathered @versace_official moment that made her look like a fashion-forward superwoman. Tap the link our bio to see all the stunning photos. Photographed by @melbarlowandco and @allanzepedaphotography.
Official. 📸 @melbarlowandco @allanzepedaphotography
@serenawilliams married @alexisohanian in a stunning Sarah Burton for @alexandermcqueen princess gown. Tap the link in our bio for more exclusive photos from the star-studded celebration. Photographed by @mistadubb and @ericamelissa_.
I love you both and I'm so incredibly proud of you! Welcome to the club! ❤😍❤😍❤😍❤😍❤😍❤
“You are the greatest of all time, not just in sport. I’m talking about as a mother, and as a wife. I am so excited to write so many more chapters of our fairy tale together.” Congratulations to @serenawilliams and @alexisohanian, who exchanged vows last night. Tap the link in our bio to see the exclusive first photos from their fairytale wedding in New Orleans. Photographed by @melbarlowandco and @allanzepedaphotography.
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Squad....💙💛celebrating love❤️
@serenawilliams: You are the greatest of all time, not just in sport--I’m talking about as a mother and as a wife. I am so excited to write so many more chapters of our fairy tale together. And my whole life I didn’t even realize it, but I was waiting for this moment. And everything that I have done, everything that I am so proud of in my career, and in my life, for the last 34 years, pales in comparison to what we’re doing today. And I am so grateful, and I am so in love. 📸 @melbarlowandco @allanzepedaphotography
Alani & Kimmie❤️THE ROYAL BALL 👑🎩
Each one of my groomsmen is a best friend who also represents a different period of my life. Jon: childhood Huu: @uva Steve: @reddit Michael: my book & tour, Without Their Permission Garry: Initialized Capital To be rich with great friends is a privilege -- and it's no surprise that they all love my bride.
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Yaaaaaay!! So Happy! God is so Good! Love you @AlexisOhanian & @SerenaWilliams! Yallz Murrrred! 🙌🏽🥂💍❤️
Now i can say that i was at one of the most beautiful weddings ! That room was so filled with joy and love . Real Love with real folks. Congratulations to this amazing couple. Alex and Serena ❤️
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The next day Williams grew concerned by her shortness of breath, knowing it was a sign of blood clots. A CT scan showed she was right and that small blood clots had settled in her lungs. She later opened up her C-section wound after an intense coughing spell, and in the surgery to close up the wound, doctors found a large hematoma had flooded her abdomen.

Serena Williams and Olympia
Mario Testino/Vogue

When the couple finally returned home with their baby a week later, they learned their night nurse was no longer available. It was a difficult time for the new mom.

“I was happy to change diapers but on top of everything she was going through, the feeling of not being able to help made it even harder,” Ohanian said. “Consider for a moment that your body is one of the greatest things on this planet, and you’re trapped in it.”

Some of Williams’ frustrations affected her experience as a first-time mother.

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@vanityfair texture #annielebowitz Must read article. Link in bio
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My Dearest Baby, You gave me the strength I didn’t know I had. You taught me the true meaning of serenity and peace. I can't wait to meet you. I can't wait for you to join the players box next year. But most importantly, I am so happy to share being number one in the world with you.... once again today. On @alexisohanian bday. 😉 from the world's oldest number one to the world's youngest number one. -Your Mommy

“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. I’ve broken down I don’t know how many times. Or I’ll get angry about the crying, then sad about being angry, and then guilty, like, Why do I feel so sad when I have a beautiful baby? The emotions are insane.”

Serena Williams in 'Vogue'
Mario Testino/Vogue

But now that she’s become a parent, Williams noted that it’s changed her entire outlook on her life and her professional career.

“To be honest, there’s something really attractive about the idea of moving to San Francisco and just being a mom,” she said. “But not yet. Maybe this goes without saying, but it needs to be said in a powerful way: I absolutely want more Grand Slams. I’m well aware of the record books, unfortunately. It’s not a secret that I have my sights on [beating the record with] 25.”

Despite her ambition, Williams doesn’t let herself get consumed with the desire to win.

“I think having a baby might help. When I’m too anxious I lose matches, and I feel like a lot of that anxiety disappeared when Olympia was born,” she said. “Knowing I’ve got this beautiful baby to go home to makes me feel like I don’t have to play another match. I don’t need the money or the titles or the prestige. I want them, but I don’t need them. That’s a different feeling for me.”

Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian
Mario Testino/Vogue

She knows that there’s an expiration date on her life as a professional athlete, but that just drives her to work harder.

“I’ve been playing tennis since before my memories started,” she said. “At my age, I see the finish line. And when you see the finish line, you don’t slow down. You speed up.”

Williams recently had to drop out of the Australian Open, telling fans she wasn’t where she wanted to be physically.

For more from the tennis pro, watch the clip below!


Serena Williams Pulls Out of Australia Open: ‘I’m Not Where I Personally Want to Be’

Serena Williams Shares Her 10 Favorite Videos of Daughter Alexis Olympia

Serena Williams Shares Gorgeous Behind-the-Scenes Pics From Her Wedding Dress Fittings

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