Serena Williams shows strength in her vulnerability

Dan Wetzel
Serena Williams opened up about her postpartum journey in a social media post Monday. (AP Foto/Tony Avelar)

Last week in San Jose, California, Serena Williams suffered the worst loss of her professional career, 6-1, 6-0. No offense to Johanna Konta, who should forever be proud of the victory, but it was clear there was more going on with Serena than just tennis. Days later she withdrew from the upcoming Rogers Cup.

On Monday, Serena revealed she is struggling with “postpartum emotions.” Last September, the 23-time Grand Slam champion gave birth to her and her husband’s daughter, Olympia.

“Last week was not easy for me,” Serena wrote in a social media post. “Not only was I accepting some tough personal stuff, but I was just in a funk. Mostly, I felt like I was not a good mom.

“I read several articles that said postpartum emotions can last up to 3 years if not dealt with. I like communication the best. Talking things through with my mom, my sisters, my friends let me know that my feelings are totally normal.

“It’s totally normal to feel like I’m not doing enough for my baby,” she continued. “We have all been there.”

As great as Serena has been on the court – and there have been none greater – some of her best work has been in relating and leading people struggling through life by sharing her personal hurdles.

She’s fabulously wealthy and internationally famous, but she’s never shied away from acknowledging the challenges in her life.

She’s been open about battling depression and anxiety. She’s discussed dealing with pressure in both her professional and personal life. She publicly suffered through having a sister murdered – her half sister, Yetunde, was mistakenly killed in 2003 when a SUV she was riding in was hit by a hail of bullets. Serena and her sister Venus opened the Yetunde Price Resource Center in Compton, California, which, in part, is there to aid families in similar situations.

And Serena has been willing to share both her pregnancy and the complicated birth of Olympia – which included Serena needing emergency surgery for blood clots in her lungs. She even filmed a multi-part, all-access show for HBO that showed her at her most vulnerable and uncertain.

Now this … someone with seemingly everything trying to show everyone else who might be struggling that they aren’t alone.

Serena Williams was cheered on by husband Alexis Ohanian and daughter Olympia at the Fed Cup in February. (Getty)

“Although I have been with her every day of her life, I’m not around as much as I would like to be,” Serena wrote. “Most of you moms deal with the same thing. Whether stay-at-home or working, finding that balance with kids is a true art. You are the true heroes.”

Who knows how many people this reaches. Who knows how many it helps. Who knows how many it comforts.

That Serena is willing to try is what matters. So many celebrities, especially athletes who have built auras of invincibility, understandably shy away from sharing such vulnerability. That’s what makes this so important. If someone as undeniably powerful as Serena Williams is willing to say she felt like an inadequate mom, that she couldn’t just brush it off, that it is “totally normal” for it to linger, then maybe someone else experiencing the same thing won’t feel such despair.

“I’m here to say: if you are having a rough day or week – it’s OK – I am too!!” Serena wrote. “There’s always [tomorrow]!”

At 36, Serena may not be the week-in-week-out force in tennis. She reached a Wimbledon final, but lost in a first round while winning just one game.

That didn’t happen when she was younger, single and without child. Back then it was tennis, tennis, tennis.

Now it’s so much more, though, for Olympia and her fans.

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