And she doesn’t have time for judgment about that.
Here’s the truth: No matter how it unfolds, labor is hard work. It’s the very meaning of the word, after all! Unfortunately, some people wrongly stigmatize the different options on the delivery room table for moms—with choices such as a planned c-section or epidural viewed as “weaker” routes than unmedicated labor. But, as Serena Williams’ birth plan demonstrates, the tennis champ and all-around icon doesn’t have time for that nonsense.
“The one thing I really want is an epidural, which I know a lot of people are against, but I’ve had surgeries galore, and I don’t need to experience any more pain if I can avoid it,” Williams said for the September issue of Vogue, playfully adding she’s “not a spring chicken.”
According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, that isn’t just a valid choice, but actually one they endorse for parents who are interested: As stated in their formal recommendations, “There are no other circumstances in which it is considered acceptable for an individual to experience untreated severe pain, amenable to safe intervention, while under a physician’s care.”
Therefore, laboring women should feel ZERO guilt for getting an epidural or other pain-mitigating treatment.
And for the roughly 60 percent of American women who receive epidurals during labor, Williams’ comment is probably getting a big “hallelijah.” Just as with any of the millions of choices we make throughout the journey of parenthood—starting the pregnancy and delivery—the more we can have people destigmatize entirely legitimate options, the better. After all, these are personal experiences and there’s no medal for who does it any one “right” way. ?
Besides, Williams already has real medals on her mind.
As she told Vogue, Williams has her sights sets on defending her Australian Open title this winter, even though the tournament takes place just months after she will have the baby. Although she admitted it is “the most outrageous plan,” Williams said she’s motivated by the desire to tie Margaret Court’s record for 24 Grand Slam titles—as well as the desire to maintain that significant aspect of herself after she becomes a mother.
“I used to think I’d want to retire when I have kids, but no,” she said. “I’m definitely coming back. Walking out there and hearing the crowd, it may seem like nothing. But there’s no better feeling in the world.”
Although I can’t say for sure, I’d be willing to bet there is one better feeling: Walking out there, hearing the crowd and seeing your own child in the stands. That’s just another thing Williams has to look forward to this winter.