Having a baby is a life-changing event – but while it can be a moment of joy, it can also be really difficult.
The thought of even playing football again seems to be out of reach, but Samoan players and roommates Shontelle Stevens and Alisa Osborn proved it was possible by bouncing back to compete at the OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2022 that ran through July this year.
Their achievements also fulfil a pillar of the ALL IN: OFC Women’s Football Strategy 2027, raising the awareness of possibilities and increasing visibility for all mothers and women in the Pacific.
Stevens returned to the playing field for her third appearance for Samoa after giving birth to her 3-year-old daughter Kyla. But it wasn’t easy an easy journey as she battled postnatal depression which forced her to step away from competitive football the past two years.
It’s normal for new mothers to experience a range of different emotions, they can feel excited then anxious, confused or down. However, some women can feel down for much longer which develops into postnatal depression, it can occur at any time, particularly in their child’s first year.
“I had a difficult pregnancy and put on about 20kgs afterwards, I couldn’t move like I used to, I was battling depression and I didn’t think I’d ever play competitively again,” Stevens said.
But a casual kick around with friends when her daughter Kyla was almost two revived her love for football.
“I remember going down to the park, laughing and having fun, it reminded me of how much I love football and what it had given me,” Stevens said.
“That’s when my focus shifted. I think football saved me.”
In the OFC Women’s Nations Cup, Stevens was awarded Player of the Match after her team finished in fourth place against the Solomon Islands.
“I feel very emotional, it’s not the result we wanted but do feel my team put everything out there and we’re going home happy,” Stevens said during her post-match interview.
“I want to make a shout out to my daughter Kyla who is watching at home, I’m pretty proud that I’m out here showing her that she can do it.”
Osborn, 28, is based in Hawaii. She has held a long desire of over eight years to represent Samoa, where her father is from. Osborn then gave birth to her son Ezekiel 18 months ago and thought that was it.
“I was told that I would be too old, too big as an islander to play football again,” Osborn said.
“I didn’t think I’d be able to do it – everyone said it was motherhood or football. I thought if anyone were to tell my son that he couldn’t do something, I’d tell him to prove them wrong.
“That became my motivation and by April this year I decided I’d do everything to make this team.”
Following her dream, Osborn made the sacrifice of paying her own return flights from Hawaii to New Zealand for Samoa’s talent identification camp held at the OFC Home of Football in Auckland with no guarantee she would make the final squad.
But on July 13, Osborn donned the blue and white jersey and debuted against Tonga in the Women’s Nations Cup opening match.
“I can’t believe I gave birth to Ezekiel a year and a half ago, he’s grown so fast and yet I played 18 months later and am still doing my postnatal pelvic floor exercises,” Osborn said.
“It hasn’t been easy but I wanted to leave a legacy behind for my son and the next generation of Pacific Island players.”