Playing in a Cricket World Cup on home soil is always a special moment, but for White Ferns stars Amy Satterthwaite and Lea Tahuhu, it means even more as their two-year-old daughter Grace will be one of the fans cheering them on from the stands.
"I take moments during the game to look up and find her in the crowd, and it just brings a smile to my face," says Lea. "It's pretty cool at the end of the game to be able to go and see Grace, and have a hug because she doesn't care what happens on the field."
When the Weekly speaks to Lea and Amy at their home in Christchurch via Zoom in the lead up to the 2022 Women's Cricket World Cup, Grace has only just woken up from a nap, but is already alert and playful, waving through the camera and happily babbling away in the background. Even over video, it is easy to see how she steals the hearts of everyone she meets.
As Canterbury locals and life-long cricket fanatics, Amy, 35, and Lea, 31, have known each other for most of their lives. They both played together at St Albans club when they were growing up, but it wasn't until 2009, when they were teammates at the Canterbury Magicians, that their friendship turned into something more.
"We kept it to ourselves initially just because of that team dynamic, but we got to a point where it was like, this is who we are. If you make it a big deal, then it is a big deal. So, we wanted to normalise it," Amy shares.
They've now been a couple for 13 years and were married in an intimate, romantic ceremony in Hanmer Springs in 2017.
Since the start of their relationship, Amy and Lea both knew they wanted to grow their family, but as two of Aotearoa's brightest cricket stars – Amy is the second most-capped player in White Ferns history and Lea is one of the team's best bowlers – it was difficult to find the right time to take a break.
"I battled a little accepting that I was going to miss cricket; it has been such a huge part of my life for a long time," says vice-captain Amy, who has been playing cricket professionally since she was 16.
"You hear stories of it taking people a long, long time to get pregnant and I was certainly not getting any younger. We wanted to give ourselves every chance to be able to fulfil our dream of having a family and we were really fortunate that I fell pregnant pretty quickly."
On January 13, 2020, Amy gave birth to their beautiful baby girl Grace Marie Satterthwaite, and Amy and Lea's lives changed forever in the best way possible. "She brings us so much happiness and joy," enthuses Amy.
"It has been amazing to watch her grow from this little baby that you take complete care of to an individual, strong-minded little girl. It makes me worried about what she will be like in another two years," laughs Lea.
Only nine months after welcoming Grace, Amy was back on the pitch, playing her first match, but she says training to get her body back into shape and navigating breastfeeding while returning to cricket was a difficult journey.
"It was unknown territory. I didn't know what my body was going to be like," admits Amy. "Starting back training, it was a little bit trial and error, which is a really strange thing for an athlete because you normally know the formula that you follow."
It isn't just Grace's parents who are besotted with her, as the first White Ferns baby, she is a hit with the whole team.
"She can get the White Ferns crew up singing and dancing in no time at all – there are not many people who can say that," says Lea, who recently survived a cancer scare after undergoing multiple surgeries to remove a suspicious mole from her foot.
And though Lea says everyone loves having Grace around, she admits that she hasn't sparked baby fever at the White Ferns camp just yet.
"There's always a bit of talk about who will have the next one, but then it always falls back to Amy, so I don't think anyone else is quite ready yet," jokes Lea.
Amy and Lea hope they can show their teammates, and other sportswomen around the world, that starting a family doesn't have to mean the end of a successful sporting career.
"I've been around a long time now, and I've seen a lot of people retire at a relatively young age to go and have kids," says Amy. "It was right for those people at the time, but if they had the support around them that we have now, they could have kept playing for longer.
"In day-to-day life, people have been able to have children and go back to their work, so to think we can do that in sport as well is pretty cool."
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