The past year has been one of many transitions for Serena Williams. By now, everyone knows the famed tennis champion recently welcomed her first child with her husband Alexis Ohanian. Of course, she’s in love with her little bundle of joy, but Williams has admitted the journey was, indeed challenging. Now, she wants to raise awareness about the dark side of pregnancy and the startling statistics about black women and childbirth.
The Dark Side Of Childbirth:
On Monday, March 5, Serena Williams appeared in New York City for a tennis exhibition. When she spoke with the BBC she expressed concern about the startling facts regarding African-American women and how they are three times more likely to die while pregnant or giving birth. So, what is the reason for this disturbing statistic? Williams believes many doctors aren’t really listening to the concerns of their patients. “Doctors aren’t listening to us, just to be quite frank,” she told the publication. “It may be time for women to be comfortable with having uncomfortable conversations.”
Although Williams faced complications, she credits her doctor for taking the time to listen to her. “I was in a really fortunate situation where I know my body well, and I am who I am, and I told the doctor, ‘I don’t feel right, something’s wrong,'” she immediately listened.” Williams continued, “She was great. I had a wonderful, wonderful doctor. Unfortunately, a lot of African Americans and black people don’t have the same experience that I’ve had. Also, there are some things we are genetically pre-disposed to that some people aren’t. So knowing that going in, or some doctors not caring as much for us is heartbreaking. Because of what I went through, it would be really difficult if I didn’t have the healthcare that I have – and to imagine all the other women that do go through that without the same healthcare, without the same response, it’s upsetting.”
For those who don’t know, the statistics regarding African-American mothers in the United States are quite disturbing. In the United States, black women are 2 to 6 times more likely to die from complications of pregnancy than white women, depending on where they live (American Medical Association, 1999). Total maternal mortality rates ranged from 1.9 deaths per 100,000 in New Hampshire to 22.8 in the District of Columbia. When data from 1979 to 1992 were analyzed, the overall pregnancy-related mortality ratio was 25.1 deaths per 100,000 for black women,
Now, that number has nearly doubled to a disturbing 44 deaths per 100,000 black women. Williams admitted the experience was enlightening for her and her heart goes out to all of the women have faced complications during pregnancy and childbirth. “Because of what I went through, it would be really difficult if I didn’t have the health care that I have ― and to imagine all the other women that do go through that without the same health care, without the same response, it’s upsetting,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of pre-judging, absolutely, that definitely goes on. And it needs to be addressed.”
Williams believes the statistics are another example of inequality and the situation needs to be corrected as soon as possible. “I think it’s important to speak up loud and clear and say: ‘No, this isn’t right. Treat me the same way that you’re treating [someone else],” she said.
The Good Outweighs The Bad:
Despite the challenges Williams faced during her pregnancy, she’s admitted the good definitely outweighs the bad which is why she’s willing to do it all over again. During an interview with Entertainment Tonight earlier this week, Williams shared her take on motherhood. “It’s been amazing,” said Williams, who welcomed her daughter Alexis Olympia, last September. “I’ve always wanted to be a mom but I never seemed to have time with my career. Then, it just happened, and I was like, ‘I don’t know.’ I just dove right in.”
“It’s so natural for me,” she continued. “I love it. I love her so much. We have a great little family going on.”
Williams went on to discuss what it’s like juggling her career and motherhood. “Working motherhood is real. It’s so real,” she quipped. “But I have my priorities and Olympia is that. And Alexis [co-founder of Reddit] works all the time as well. He’s not even here right now, he’s working on his new VC fund. So, that’s great! But I’m never a day without Olympia. She’s my priority and every day I need to be home with her. I don’t wanna miss any moments with her.”
Although Williams and her husband have very demanding careers, she even revealed their desire to have another child “I definitely want two [kids], God willing. But right now, I want tennis as well. So, I’m going to wait and see what happens.” Congratulations to Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian. Hopefully, they’re able to welcome another new addition to their beautiful family!