Earlier this month, Brittney Griner returned home to the U.S. following a high-profile prisoner exchange. The basketball star spent nearly 10 months in detention in Russia after being convicted on drug charges. She landed at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas on Dec. 9 and was reunited with her loved ones shortly afterward.

In a new interview by PEOPLE, published earlier today (Dec. 27), Cherelle Griner, Brittney’s wife, opened up about what her experience was like as she anxiously waited for her partner’s return. “It was almost as if somebody just punched you in the stomach and you inhaled,” said Cherelle. “You never get to breathe out.”

She also shared that it was very difficult to remain confident at times. “I was hopeless a lot of days,” the 30-year-old law school graduate continued. “You try and stay grounded, but I’m human. Still, I would never completely give up hope on my wife’s life.”

After spending many months away from her significant other, she also thought about their reunion very often. “I had thought about that moment a thousand times, and I thought I would be full of tears. But I was overwhelmingly happy. It was the first time I was able to finally exhale, and I’m like, ‘Oh, thank God, this is such a great day,'” Cherelle said.

As previously reported by REVOLT, Brittney has shared a message since she returned home, in which she thanked her wife, President Joe Biden, and many others for their unwavering support during her hardships. “From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone for your help. I am grateful to each person who advocated for me, especially my wife, Cherelle Griner… President Biden, you brought me home, and I know you are committed to bringing Paul Whelan and all Americans home too. I will use my platform to do whatever I can to help you,” she said.