'Being Serena': HBO shows Williams' first moments with baby Olympia

Alex Butler
Tennis star Serena Williams speaks at the Miami Dolphins' Hard Rock Stadium during the groundbreaking ceremony for the future site of the Miami Open tennis tournament. Photo by Erik S. Lesser/EPA-EFE
Tennis star Serena Williams speaks at the Miami Dolphins' Hard Rock Stadium during the groundbreaking ceremony for the future site of the Miami Open tennis tournament. Photo by Erik S. Lesser/EPA-EFE

May 9 (UPI) -- The second episode of Being Serena aired Wednesday on HBO, giving a behind-the-scenes look at Serena Williams giving birth to daughter Alexis Olympia.

The episode -- titled Strength -- began in September with Williams in the hospital, hearing that she needed to have a C-section because her baby was in distress.


"I've had plenty of moments in my life when I didn't know what was going to happen," Williams said. "But this one feels different. I'm trying to stay calm ... Trying to find control somewhere somehow. Trying to be strong.

"A C-section is not how I wanted to have my baby. But I also want the first thing my baby sees when she looks up at her mom to be a strong woman."

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Mama bear and baby cub #beingSerena @hbo


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The risk factors of a blood clot were potentially life-threatening for Williams at the time.

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Her husband, Alexis Ohanian, cheered on Williams during the birth, standing by her side.

The episode showed Williams seeing her 6-pound, 13-ounce newborn for the first time, before Olympia was rested on her chest. Williams' family and friends surrounded her as she rested with the newborn in the hospital. But that was just the start of what would prove to be a scary night for the tennis icon.

Williams' father, Richard Willliams, also made a cameo in the episode, walking into the hospital room and saying that he was happy for his daughter, before thanking her and calling her "magic."

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The new mother was putting on makeup for photos when Ohanian asked her about what she would say if peopled asked her if Olympia would win Wimbledon in 15 to 20 years.

"Not if I'm still on tour," Williams said.


Then the day turned more difficult for Williams. She got up from bed and had trouble breathing. She put on an oxygen mask and started coughing. The coughing broke her stitches. Williams broke down crying talking about the experience and reliving the fear.

Doctors reopened Williams' C-section and checked for blood clots. Williams requested a CT scan so the medical staff could check for a pulmonary embolism in her lungs.

"She was undoubtedly battling for her life and I was terrified that she might die," Ohanian said. "But I was grateful that she had the wherewithal to speak up because she knew her body better than any of us."

Williams developed another blood clot in her leg. She had a third surgery to install a filter that would stop blood clots from going to her heart.

"I was so healthy, my pregnancy was so easy, I didn't have any problems," Williams said. "Unfortunately, once I had the C-section, everything from there was pretty much a nightmare."

After finally leaving the hospital, Williams explained the reason behind her daughter's name.

"When she's old enough, I don't know what I'll tell her about how she came into this world," Williams said. "Maybe the craziest thing is that after all the insanity, we were all home just a week after she was born. And it felt like it was supposed to. Ms. Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. Why can't a girl be a jr., named after her dad?


"And Olympia, which is what we will call her. Olympia means strength. We want her to be strong more than anything else."

Williams also gave an insight into her comeback, saying that this wouldn't be the first time others question what she is doing on a tennis court.

"Early in my career, when Venus and I didn't take the paths that everyone thought we should take, we were questioned," she said. "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."

Williams missed nine months after that health scare. She struggled when she came back, but learned a powerful lesson in the process.

"The struggle was important I think," she said. "Because it was just another way to build strength. Losing as much as winning, having to battle every match, every game, every point. That made me stronger. I've won almost half of my Grand Slams since that time. All after my 30th birthday. So that's the 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."


The episode concluded with Williams getting fitted for her wedding dress and talking about her nerves before the big day.

She was also cleared to hit for the first time seven weeks after having Alexis Olympia. It was the first time she hit a ball since match point at the Australian Open, when she beat Venus Williams for her 23rd Grand Slam.

"For me, there is always another mountain to climb," she said.

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