Breanna Stewart is a two-time WNBA champion and WNBA Finals MVP and won four straight NCAA titles with UConn from 2013 to ’16. She is also a new mother, as her and her wife, former professional basketball player Marta Xargay, welcomed daughter Ruby into the world in August of last year.
Stewart recently spoke about motherhood, her overall health after two Achilles surgeries with SI Swim during her photo shoot in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
The 2022 Swimsuit Issue will be available at newsstands on May 19 and launches at swimsuit.si.com on May 16.
[Editor’s note: This interview was edited for length and clarity.]
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SI Swim: You are a new mother, so how has life changed for you, and what are a few of the things she’s doing that you love the most?
Breanna Stewart: Um, the sleep adjustment was interesting. I no longer go to sleep late. I go to sleep at around 10 p.m. because she wakes up at 5 a.m.. But she's the best thing that's happened to us. … She has this happy screen, where she is screaming and she just loves it because she's just hearing herself. It's hard to be annoyed when she's waking up because she's smiley and giggly, and you’re like, “It’s 5 a.m.!,” but she’s so happy. … What's so funny now is, she’ll just see her hand or something and realize, “This is my arm, I'm moving here!”
SI Swim: You and Marta have been really open about your fertility journey. You said there's no right or wrong way to have a baby. What was the thought process in being so vulnerable and open about something so personal?
Stewart: The thought process for us was just the fact that, you know, you want to be as vulnerable as possible with the world and your audience, especially because a lot of people are going through similar situations. They would’ve never known if we didn't say anything. So, for us, [we wanted to] share our journey about welcoming Ruby into this world via surrogate. We definitely chose a different path, but there's no right or wrong way to do things. We were just ready to take the next step with our family and bring Ruby into the world, And then, representation and seeing those conversations we talked about is so important. Growing up, it just wasn't talked about, that wasn't a thing.
We wanted to start a family, but I want to keep playing. And, just because Marta is newly retired, doesn't mean she needed to get pregnant right away. A surrogate was the best option for us. … I froze my eggs after I ruptured my Achilles, so someone brought it up to me [when I was in rehab] and said, “Hey, would you like to freeze your eggs?” And [I thought] sure, as long as I don't have to worry about my workouts right now.
SI Swim: What advice would you pass along to other moms that you wish had been passed on to you?
Stewart: Why can't I talk about this all the time?! Some things we wish we would've known were, first of all, if you're using formula, there's a formula machine—it’s life-changing—you just press a button and it makes the bottle instead of scooping and this and that. But I think the biggest thing was just the fact that, being new parents and bringing Ruby home for the first time, we were scared of everything—you know, I don't want to hurt her. I don't want to break her. I don't want to kill her. How do I do all these things and make it so she's OK?
But babies are a lot stronger than you think, and Ruby guided us and what she’s needed and we just figured it out from there. I have been around little itty-bitty newborns, and when it's yours … in the beginning, you're like, “Well, how are we going to wake up?”
SI Swim: Throughout your journey and career and accomplishments, what are a few things you are most proud of?
Stewart: The fact I was able to come in as a 17-year-old freshman and really learn so much. I was a little bit, I am a little bit stubborn and hardheaded. [UConn coach Geno Auriemma] was sometimes difficult, but he helped me become a better person and a better player over those four years and showed me what [how to work hard] and about life lessons I could take to the next level that helped me make sure I was constantly being better than everybody else.
SI Swim: We talked a little bit about injuries—going from college to the pros, to playing in the Olympics, it's a lot. And mental health is [part of the] conversation now, which is great. What's your mental health journey?
Stewart: I always try and keep things in perspective. My toughest battle with mental health most recently was going through my rehab journey with my Achilles and now even doing it again because I had surgery on my other Achilles in October. I’ve come to the understanding that everything happens for a reason, and sometimes we don't know the reason. That was the biggest thing I learned in 2019—there's no way to know why I ruptured my Achilles, but just to get through it and focus on the next day. The most important thing was preserving and making sure [I was] in a good headspace and [you need to] have a good group of people around you where you can always rely on them and realize that some days are going to be good and some days are going to be bad.
I was going through a crazy injury, but there are people struggling with so much more than I am—people fighting homelessness, or look at the current situation in Ukraine. I can't complain about my injury when there's all this other s--- happening in the world.
SI Swim: You've said previously how there is a lack of coverage on women’s sports. Why is that media coverage so important and how you have been a voice and an activist in that area.
Stewart: Media coverage is so important for women in sports. We're continuing to trend in the right direction [in women’s basketball] but we need to be seen and heard and be highlighted on a daily. I think that’s what we're missing, the next step where people are like constantly seeing us all the time in the spotlight, out of the spotlight, what are we doing. It's continuing to grow, even from when I came in the WNBA in 2016. We have a long way to go, but it's definitely positive news.