Part 2 of "Being Serena," the five-part documentary miniseries on the life of WTA Legend Serena Williams, aired on Wednesday night on HBO. Subtitled "Strength," this episode went through the medical ordeals Serena faced during and after the birth of her daughter, Olympia, and returning home with her new family to take on the twin challenges of a wedding, and a comeback to tennis.
Following the events of the premiere episode, where it was determined that a caesarean section was the only option for Serena, the surgery occurred, and Olympia was born.
"When I first saw Olympia for the first time, she had her arms out like this," said Serena, stretching out her arms to the sky, "and she just still does it. And she was screaming and screaming, and they gave her to me, and I put her on my chest, and she immediately stopped screaming. It was just a really special moment. Being a first-time mom, you feel this different kind of love. It’s more of a protective kind of love."
Directly after the birth, everyone was in good spirits. Serena's then-boyfriend, now-husband, Alexis Ohanian asked the new mother, "What did you say when someone said that our little girl was going to win Wimbledon in 15 or 20 years?"
Without missing a beat, Serena replied, "Not if I’m still on tour," to the laughter of the room.
But Serena had more trials to overcome. "I just remember getting up, and I couldn’t breathe," said the 23-time Grand Slam champion. "I couldn’t take a deep breath."
"I remember I was in the bathroom with my mom," Serena continued, "and I was just crying and crying, and she was crying, and she was like, ‘You just gotta breathe,’ and I was like, ‘I can’t. I can’t breathe.’"
Serena suspected she was suffering from a pulmonary embolism, which she had survived before. She insisted she be given a CAT scan -- and the results proved her right. "I was grateful that she had the wherewithal to speak up," said Ohanian, "because she knew her body better than any of us."
"When she’s old enough, I don’t know what I’ll tell her about the way she came into this world," said Serena. "Maybe the craziest thing is that, after all that insanity, we were all home just a week after she was born. And it felt like it was was supposed to."
"Olympia means ‘strength,’ and we want her to be strong more than anything else," continued Serena.
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While Serena got her wedding dress fitted and dealt with cold feet -- "When I stop to think about it, I get excited, but I definitely get a little more nervous because I’m not the commitment-type person," she conceded -- she got cleared to hit balls by her doctors after her recovery went smoothly.
"I was really excited about that -- I haven’t hit a serve since the Australian Open, match point, so that has me a little super-rattled," admitted Serena. "I want to come out of this more relaxed than I usually am. Usually I’m so uptight because I just want to do well, and I want to win everything, and I want to be the best, and you know, that’s just who I am. For me, there’s always another mountain to climb."
"This comeback isn’t going to be the first time someone questions what I’m doing on a tennis court," explained Serena. "Early in my career, when Venus and I didn’t take the paths that everyone thought we should take, we were questioned. About our motives, our motivation, our dedication to the game."
"And then I got my first pulmonary embolism, and it almost ended my life. Forget about my career. I missed nine months, and then when I came back, I struggled. I didn’t just win all the majors right away. But the struggle was important, I think, because it was just another way to build strength. Losing as much as winning, having to battle for every match, every game, every point -- that made me stronger."
"I’ve won almost half of my Grand Slams after that time, all after my 30th birthday. So that’s a standard for a comeback that I’m setting myself. Now, just because I’m 36, and I have a baby, am I supposed to lower my expectations? That’s not something I’m used to doing."
"Being Serena" airs every Wednesday night on HBO and HBO Go.