‘Mommy needs to get her body back’: Serena Williams reveals ‘conversation’ she had with Olympia when she gave up nursing – as she shares struggle to balance tennis with motherhood
Serena Williams amazed the world when she made it to the Wimbledon final just nine months after giving birth.
But the 36-year-old mother and tennis great admits in a new Time cover story that it has been anything but easy to juggle the two roles. A 23-time Grand Slam title winner, Serena knows the time and dedication it takes to be the best — but she’s never before had a little one to rush home to.
‘I didn’t think I’d be this attached,’ she said of Olympia, who turns one in September. ‘It’s difficult to leave her.’
Serena welcomed Olympia with her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, last year, but went back to months later. It’s been tough.
‘Sometimes she just wants Mommy, she doesn’t want anyone else,’ Serena said. ‘I still have to learn a balance of being there for her, and being there for me. I’m working on it.
‘I never understood women before, when they put themselves in second or third place. And it’s so easy to do. It’s so easy to do.’
Still, she admitted, she has doubts. ‘I don’t think I’m doing it right,’ she said.
At one point during her interview, the reporter from Time watched as Serena headed out to train, catching her struggle to say goodbye to her daughter.
‘Momma’s going to make you very sad right now,’ she told her. ‘Momma has to go to the gym. But it hurts me more than it hurts you.’
And it’s not just the time away from Olympia that’s hard on the new mom, since Serena’s job has different demands than others.
Finding time to breastfeed and pump is a strain for any working mother, but there are added difficulties when your body need to functioning a certain way for your career.
Serena breastfed Olympia for eight months, but said she thinks it made it more difficult for her to get in good shape for tennis.
‘You have the power to sustain the life that God gave her,’ she said. ‘You have the power to make her happy, to calm her. At any other time in your life, you don’t have this magical superpower.’
When she started to train for the French Open earlier this year, her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, told her she should finally stop — advice she didn’t take kindly to, but ultimately followed.
‘It’s absolutely hard to take from a guy. He’s not a woman, he doesn’t understand that connection, that the best time of the day for me was when I tried to feed her,’ she said. ‘I’ve spent my whole life making everyone happy, just servicing it seems like everyone. And this is something I wanted to do.’
Still, she realized she would need to give it up to play as well as she could, so she took a moment to explain the reasoning to her baby.
‘I looked at Olympia, and I was like, “Listen, Mommy needs to get her body back, so Mommy’s going to stop now.” We had a really good conversation. We talked it out,’ she said.
Since then, she’s suffered several losses, but also made it to the finals at Wimbledon. wowing fans.
‘I dedicated that to all the moms out there who’ve been through a lot,’ she said. ‘Some days, I cry. I’m really sad. I’ve had meltdowns. It’s been a really tough 11 months. If I can do it, you guys can do it too.’
She did, in fact, have an especially rough time of it after giving birth via emergency C-section last year.
Though Olympia was healthy, Serena suffered a life-threatening pulmonary embolism — and while it was being treated, doctors discovered a hematoma.
She had multiple surgeries, and went on to spend six weeks in bed, during which time her husband had to lift her out in the morning. Her mom came to live with them to help.
Once she was healthy again, she faced problems of the emotional kind when she let comments about her post-pregnancy body on Instagram get her down.
‘I hated that I fell victim to that,’ she said. ‘It puts a lot of pressure on women, young and old.’
These days, she’s enjoying her daughter, who likes to wash her hands in the dog bowl and squash avocado in her hair.
She also loves the little girl’s ‘little bowlegged strut,’ which she attributes to the cockiness of knowing she’s a Grand Slam champion — since Serena was two months pregnant with her when she beat her sister, Venus, in the 2017 Australian Open final.