Lacey Hittson was home in Midland, Texas, last month, two-year-old son Charlie in her arms and her unborn baby kicking away, when she caught a glimpse of Serena Williams on TV.
“I watched her Fed Cup doubles match and every time she moved, I could feel it because I had a C-Section, too,” said the 28-year-old mom. “You completely lose all your stomach muscles and I could tell it affected her serve. It definitely affected mine.”
Hittson was with her family attending the BNP Paribas Open on Thursday afternoon, and one of several moms who are rooting on new mom Williams, who marks her return to the tour with a first-round singles match Thursday night after giving birth to daughter Alexis Olympia in September.
Thursday night also marks the return, after an eight-month layoff, of mom Victoria Azarenka, who has a 14-month-old son, Leo.
“It’s not easy,” said Jill Stockman, 43, of Wilmington, N.C., who has eight- and 13-year-old sons. “When you’re down in the weeds, dealing with the flu and stomach viruses, even if you want to push off the baby and their germs, you can’t. And are they doing nights?”
Stockman’s friend, Peggy Baumgartner, 60, of Knoxville, Tenn., said she still remembers when she returned to work 12 weeks after her now-36-year-old daughter was born. Well, sort of remembers.
“I feel like you’re in a fog, this baby fog,” Baumgartner said. “I’m not sure how good I was at doing my job. When I was at home, I was thinking about work and when I was at work, I was thinking about the baby. It’s the first dawning recognition that life will never be the same.”
Laura Yednorowicz, 35, mom of 10-year-old Stella and three-year-old Dutch, said she returned to work just four weeks after the birth of her son, and said fans need to be patient with both Serena and Vika.
“The pumping was the worst,” Yednorowicz said with a laugh. “I threw in the towel a little early with both of them.”
In early December with her daughter three months old, Serena tweeted: “Fellow moms: How long did you breastfeed? Is it weird that I get emotional when I even just think about when it’s time to stop?”
How long did you breastfeed? Is it weird that I get emotional when I even just think about when it's time to stop? pic.twitter.com/YOz4oeIajH
— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) December 6, 2017
It is not weird, say the moms at Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
“Since it’s the first child for both of them, if anything it’s not so much physical as mental,” Yednorowicz said. “I suffered from some post-partum and anything could make me cry. Your hormones are all over the place. I am curious how they’re going to do with that.”
As far as those sleepless nights, Williams has spoken about loving the 3 a.m. feedings with her new baby and the moms remembered feeling the same way.
“It’s the perfect cuddle time,” Hittson said.
While cynics may pipe up that Williams and Azarenka can afford to hire nannies to help with their children, no amount of money, the moms agreed, can compensate for the physical and emotional connection a mother feels to her newborn.
“For them, leaving the babies with anyone to watch them, even family, will be difficult,” said Michelle Vecsernyes, 37, and mother of eight-year-old Kai and two-year-old Savannah. “As a mom, your mind is always on them. You’re always worried. Nobody can take care of a baby the way the mom does.”
At the same time, Vecsernyes said, she got through rehab following a recent car accident by focusing on her children as motivation, and that Williams and Azarenka can do the same.
“They’re on your mind non-stop. They’re your inspiration,” she said.
“I think Serena can win another Grand Slam and I hope she does,” Hittson said. “I think she has enough drive and if she wants it enough, she will.”