She might be a tennis superstar but Serena Williams did not find the early days of motherhood easy. Now the first-time mum has spoken about her experience with postnatal depression following the birth of her baby Alexis Olympia.
In an interview with Harper's Bazaar, Williams who made her grand slam comeback at the French Open this week, said: "Honestly, sometimes I still think I have to deal with it." Williams, who has previously shared details of Olympia's traumatic birth, believes that perinatal mental health is something women need to be discussing.
"I think people need to talk about it more because it's almost like the fourth trimester, it's part of the pregnancy," she said. "I remember one day, I couldn't find Olympia's bottle and I got so upset I started crying... because I wanted to be perfect for her."
Centre of Perinatal Excellence (COPE) Founder and Executive Director, Dr. Nicole Highet says it's powerful when high profile women like Serena Williams come forward to talk openly and honestly about their struggles. "Not only does it gain attention in the media and raise the profile of the issue, but importantly it also reminds us that these conditions can happen to anyone. It reminds us that even the most successful, well respected members in our in our communities can be affected, and that it is not your fault and you are not a failure as a person or as a mother," she notes.
According to Dr Highet, shame is still preventing women from speaking up and getting the help they need. "Unfortunately there is still a lot of shame and stigma when if comes to struggling in pregnancy and after having a baby," she explains. "We often hold high expectations that this is going to be such a wonderful experience (just as all the TV ads and marketing tells us), and so when this experience does not match our reality, women feel that they are failing as individuals and as mothers."
Williams, who is married to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, also explained that life - and her priorities - have changed since the pair welcomed their baby in September 2017.
"It's definitely family before tennis for me," she said. "When I'm training, I have to be done at 1pm, because I've got to be with Olympia. I haven't gone a day without seeing her."
And despite crediting her daughter with her Australian Open win, "I couldn't have done it without her, it's her win", she doesn't necessarily want Olympia to follow in her famous footsteps. "I don't know any player who would say they want their kid to play tennis," she noted.
Instead, the mama plans to let her little girl do whatever she wants to do "as long as it's positive".
"Outside of the Mandarin tutor and the French tutor, which I'm really serious about, and of course ballet, I have no dreams for her," Williams joked. "Always try to be an addition to society, not a subtraction."
If you need help urgently, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
You can also contact the PANDA Helpline on 1300 726 306, (Monday to Friday 9am - 7:30pm).
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