Everyone is talking about the new Vogue cover story that details Serena Williams’ six-day ordeal after giving birth to baby Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. Williams had a c-section and afterward felt short of breath. The tennis star assumed her continued issues with blood clotting were at play. She told her nurse about her thoughts and her nurse thought the pain medications were “making her confused” in her thoughts.
But “Dr. Williams” was right. She needed a heparin drip to help dissolve the pulmonary embolism in her lungs. She wound up having three surgeries to correct the issues and when she finally got home to be with baby, was too exhausted to do anything but stay in bed. The ordeal sounds horrific. It also sounds like Williams, because she knows her body very well, was able to articulate what she needed and push for what she needed even though she initially wasn’t believed.
What does this mean for mothers who are about to give birth or just a few days beyond labor? It means that you are your best advocate. If the world’s greatest tennis star -who is in great health and has the money to pay for the best doctors – has to remind hospital staff how to take care of her how much more important is it for the rest of us to speak up when something is wrong?
Doctors and nurses are certainly the experts. But if you suspect something is not right, you absolutely have to speak up. In the United States, black women are three to four more times likely to die after childbirth than any other race. Also, generally speaking, women in the United States are more likely to die from childbirth- or pregnancy-related causes than other women in the developed world. Half of those deaths could be preventable, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To be clear, the excessive rate that affects black women in the U.S. is not new. It’s been known about for decades but is making headlines right now.
But back to Williams. Here’s how the Twitterverse responded to the story.
it’s appalling & terrifying what Serena Williams went through post-delivery. i tweetstormed the other day about how women’s pain (esp for birth) isn’t taken seriously – and that’s so compounded for black women. listen. to. women. pic.twitter.com/8EpMt9QHoW
— Elaine Filadelfo (@ElaineF) January 10, 2018
This happened to Serena Williams.
Remember, she’s a world famous multimillionaire.
This happens to black women EVERY single day. This is one reason our #MaternalMortality rates are ridiculously & disproportionately high.
Please pay attention. https://t.co/mTJad6PFr8
— Kim Love (@kimmaytube) January 10, 2018
It’s more important than ever to be your own advocate, and to show your partner and friends these stories so that they can advocate for you if you cannot. Mamas are selfless and put everyone else first but us. But these stories are worth contemplating when it comes time to remember that we all have to fight as hard for ourselves as we fight for our babies.