What a memorable year it’s been for Breanna Stewart.
In addition to a lengthy list of basketball accomplishments, including winning the EuroLeague championship, a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics and the WNBA Commissioner’s Cup championship, the 26-year-old Storm superstar married her fiancée, Marta Xargay Casademont, last month during a small, private ceremony atop their downtown Seattle condominium.
And Monday, the couple announced via social media the birth of their first child, daughter Ruby Mae Stewart Xargay, who was born via surrogate Aug. 9, just two days after Stewart captured the FIBA tournament MVP award at the Olympics for leading Team USA to a seventh consecutive gold medal.
“The best part of this year has been becoming a mother and growing a family with my incredible wife, @martaxargay,” Stewart said on her Instagram account. “Excited to introduce Ruby, born on 8/9/21, to the world.”
Stewart and Xargay, a professional basketball player from Spain who spent two seasons (2015-16) with the Phoenix Mercury, chronicled their relationship and journey toward parenthood in a YouTube documentary by TOGETHXR and Bleacher Report.
The nearly 13-minute film begins with Stewart saying: “People are definitely going to be shocked. We kept this a secret for like 40 weeks. … I hope this continues to kind of show people there’s no perfect way to find love or have a family or create a family.
“We’re just looking forward to continuing to write our story, but with a baby.”
In retrospect, Stewart said the night she ruptured her right Achilles tendon on April 14, 2019 while playing for the Russian team Dynamo Kursk in the Euro League championship was a blessing in disguise.
The injury forced Stewart, who led the Storm to a 2018 WNBA championship while winning the regular-season and Finals MVP, to miss the 2019 season due to a nine-month recovery.
During her rehabilitation, Stewart underwent a 10-day egg freezing procedure that required multiple doctor visits and daily hormone medication, which prohibited extensive exercise or competition.
“When I decided to freeze my eggs, I really didn’t know why I was doing it,” Stewart said in the documentary. “If I’m going to be honest, it was just the fact that I’m injured, I can’t play (and) this is the perfect opportunity because when else am I going to get a two-week period where I’m not playing? It was probably one of the best decisions that I’ve made really in my life because you’re setting yourself up for the future.”
“I always felt I wanted to start a family when I was younger. But as a women’s basketball player, it’s like OK, how do you do that? How do you plan that perfectly so the baby comes in the summer.”
Using Stewart’s frozen eggs, the couple found a surrogate in Idaho and kept the news to themselves for months, with the exception of telling a few family members and close friends.
Ruby’s impending arrival created a fair amount of anxiety for Stewart, who was half a world away in Japan.
“I went from one emotion to the next,” Stewart told The New York Times. “From winning a gold medal to realizing, OK, I’m going home, and my daughter is going to be born in less than 24 hours.”
Stewart and Xargay welcomed their baby girl, who weighed 9 pounds and 4 ounces, into the world at the Birkeland Maternity Center in Nampa, Idaho. Stewart cut the umbilical cord.
“I had this idea where I was like, her middle name should be Tokyo,” Stewart said, smiling in the documentary.
Xargay countered: “First of all, we don’t have middle names in Spain. So it’s like that’s another thing where I was like, just something easy. We’re not going to put Ruby Tokyo. I’m like, that doesn’t go together. … Just choose another one.”
“So now the next dog will be Tokyo,” Stewart added.
Stewart’s pathway to parenthood is a trailblazing template for female sports stars who attempt to balance fame, fortune and family.
“Why can’t I be the best player and also have a baby?” she said in the film. “Why can’t we do both?”
The former Connecticut Huskies star, who won an unprecedented four NCAA championships with four awards for most outstanding player, has regained her status as arguably the best women’s basketball player on the planet following her 2019 Achilles injury.
Last year, the 6-foot-4 forward returned from a year hiatus and led the Storm to a WNBA championship while winning the Finals MVP during the shortened season played entirely at the IMG Academy in Florida due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In April, Stewart led the Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg to an undefeated season, a EuroLeague championship and the Final Four MVP award.
Nine days later, she carried UMMC to a 3-0 series sweep over Russian heavyweight Dynamo Kursk in the Russian Premier League Finals for another championship and another finals MVP trophy.
This season, the Storm is tied for the best record in the WNBA with Las Vegas at 16-6 thanks to Stewart, who is a MVP candidate while averaging 20.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.1 steals.
Three days after Ruby’s birth, Stewart flew to Phoenix for the inaugural Commissioner’s Cup championship game and led Seattle to a 79-57 victory last Thursday over the Connecticut Sun.
The Storm star scored a game-high 17 points to secure the first-ever Commissioner’s Cup MVP, which included a $5,000 prize as well as $30,000 for each player on the championship team.
Stewart returned to Seattle to spend time with her new family and missed the Storm’s 87-85 defeat at Chicago on Sunday. She’ll also skip Seattle’s game at New York on Wednesday and plans to rejoin the team for the rematch Friday against the Liberty.
Off the court, Stewart has been a pioneer during her relatively short six-year professional career.
In 2017, she wrote an essay that accounted the sexual abuse she experienced as a child. Stewart has been actively involved in the WNBA’s activist efforts as a member of the WNBPA’s Social Justice Council and has used her platform to advocate for social justice on behalf of Black women in America.
“Obviously, I’m white (and) I cannot relate to the Black community,” Stewart said during a June 2020 rally in Renton organized by Washington Huskies men’s basketball assistant Will Conroy. “I know that what I’m feeling, you guys are feeling a thousand times more. I’m going to just continue to do my best to create change. Create change from within because that’s where it first starts.
“I’m going to educate my family and my friends. I’m going to have the uncomfortable conversations. Do the things we’ve put off, to be honest. It’s really time to create a change that really lasts. Black lives are important. And Black Lives Matter obviously. … I stand with the Black community and continue to fight for equality.”
And earlier this year, Stewart signed a blockbuster endorsement deal with Puma, which includes her own signature shoe — the first for a WNBA player since Candace Parker in 2010.
“It’s been an incredible year so far and there’s more big things on the horizon,” Stewart told The Seattle Times in May. “In my mind, this is just the start or the continuation of where my career and my life is going.
“If things go as planned, it could be a really, really special year.”