Being considered one of the greatest of all time creates no room for belief that Serena Williams was ever worried about being a mother.
Giving birth to your first child is like stepping blindly, openly, into the unknown. It's a new pressure: to be the guiding light for a new being who is so innocent in their placement in the world. To learn someone new is to learn yourself all over again, and sometimes, that is the biggest match in the world. As the latest cover story for Vogue, the new mother of a beautiful daughter, named Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., vulnerably opened up about giving birth and what it's like learning how to be a champion in the arena of motherhood.
Serena always knew she wanted to be a mother. Before tennis, before trophies, and before championship titles, dolls came first. It was a love that transcended; it was confirmation for her desire to one day be a mother. Now that her daughter (whom she calls Olympia) is here, there is no doubt that Serena was meant to hold this new title.
"We're not spending a day apart until she's eighteen. Now that I'm 36 and I look at my baby, I remember that this was also one of my goals when I was little, before tennis took over, when I was still kind of a normal girl who played with dolls. Oh, my God, I loved my dolls."
Olympia's grand entrance into the world is both enchantment and reality check. Serena is existing between the two worlds of enjoying being a mom and also going back for the 25th record-breaking win. Winning is no longer for the titles or the privilege, but because the competitive sport is natural for Serena. Olympia's birth has given rest to the tennis player's anxiety, and gives her another purpose that no longer is rooted in competition.
"When I'm too anxious, I lose matches, and I feel like a lot of that anxiety disappeared when Olympia was born. Knowing I've got this beautiful baby to go home to makes me feel like I don't have to play another match. I don't need the money or the titles or the prestige. I want them, but I don't need them. That's a different feeling for me."
Olympia, a name that derives from "strong" in the Greek language, is a reminder of Serena's own strength when the days flip inside out. The presence of a new love that you created inside of you is the most wonderful mirror to look into.
"Sometimes I get really down and feel like, Man, I can't do this. That's that same negative attitude I have on the court sometimes. I guess that's just who I am. No one talks about the low moments—the pressure you feel, the incredible letdown every time you hear the baby cry. I've broken down I don't know how many times. Or I'll get angry about the crying, then sad about being angry, and then guilty, like, Why do I feel so sad when I have a beautiful baby? The emotions are insane."
Olympia's birth was a test of Serena's strength. After giving birth by an emergency C-section, Serena overcame the trials of blood clots, her C-section wound popping open from coughing fits, and a filter inserted into a major vein.
Those who are brought into your life are mirrors to look into; her daughter's name is not only a characteristic that she is passing on, but a reflection of her own endurance.
Going forward as a mother, Serena wants to instill the idea that anything is possible for her daughter. We know that just by witnessing Serena's own light that her journey as a mother will provide Olympia with the knowledge that strength is knowing that limits do not exist.
"I think sometimes women limit themselves. I'm not sure why we think that way, but I know that we're sometimes taught to not dream as big as men, not to believe we can be a president or a CEO, when in the same household, a male child is told he can be anything he wants. I'm so glad I had a daughter. I want to teach her that there are no limits."
Read Serena's full Vogue cover story here.