In February 2021, professional soccer players and all-around power duo Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris announced to the world that they were taking on entirely new roles: becoming first-time moms to their adopted daughter, Sloane Phillips.
The couple, who got married in December 2019, said they always knew they wanted to adopt one day. “It was a no-brainer when COVID hit,” Harris told ELLE.com “We had some time to sit back and reflect. The Olympics were postponed. We said, ‘You know what? It’s a good time to do it now.’” In just three weeks, they were matched with a birth mom.
But there was one part of their adoption story they declined to share publicly—until now. “Every adoption is different, and we had some turbulent, challenging moments,” Harris started. She explained that at the time, Sloane’s birth mother was experiencing homelessness and unemployment with limited access to health care. When Harris and Krieger entered the picture, they said Sloane was underweight, and they were unsure what her health would be like when she was born. “Luckily everything was okay,” Krieger told ELLE.com. “But a lot of pregnant women don’t have that access.”
The experience inspired them to partner with the non-profit Vitamin Angels, which works to provide 70 million underserved pregnant people, new mothers, and babies with essential vitamins and minerals across the U.S. and in 65 countries. By partnering with local organizations and governments, Vitamin Angels distributes products like prenatal multivitamins and vitamin A supplements, with the goal of helping people have healthy pregnancies and reducing preventable morbidity and mortality connected to micronutrient deficiencies in young children, per its website. “It’s not a privilege to have these things,” Harris said. “It should be a right.”
As part of their work together, this International Women’s Day, the couple will be advocating for maternal health equity and sharing educational resources on their respective Instagrams about Vitamin Angels’s work. “Across the United States and around the world, biases block women’s access to health care, to education, resources, and opportunities,” Krieger said. “This has long-term consequences not just for a woman’s health, but for the family and communities they come from.”
Now, a year into being moms themselves, the two said it’s the “toughest job we’ve ever had.” “Definitely tougher than playing in a World Cup every day for the rest of my life,” Krieger said, laughing. (The lack of sleep, especially, was a smack-you-in-the-face reality check, especially for two athletes who rely on sleep for recovery.) But Krieger said Sloane has “brought the best out of each of us,” sharing that Harris is “the best mom, really engaging and present.” Harris, for her part, said that over the last year she learned Krieger is “a freaking superhero.”
They still often get ignorant questions about a “father figure” in their family, one of the biases the couple says they face as two moms. “It makes you feel like you’re not going to be able to provide the same things for your child that a ‘normal,’ whatever society views [as] normal, home looks like,” Harris said. “But what we know and what we lean into is that we’re creating such a loving environment for Sloane every single day. She is going to know love in its best form.”
In their house, that often means breaking out into song and dance (“I feel like that’s how we interact and talk,” Harris said) and learning to enjoy every single moment—while also occasionally letting go and accepting help. “That’s been hard, because we’re so competitive and so driven at being good at what we do that we also want to be excellent moms,” Krieger said. “We’ve grown so much in our relationship and as mothers and as individuals in order to be the best for her.”
They’re also taking cues from Vitamin Angels’s mission and holding each other accountable to focus on their own nutrition, both to play well on the field and have Sloane see their habits from an early age. “Vitamin Angels is not only about having healthy moms but also setting your kids up for success in their future lives,” Krieger said. “Sloane is soaking everything in, and she’s such a sponge—she watches what we eat and drink and how we fuel our body.”
In terms of being open about the highs and lows of parenthood, they hope to be a source of comfort for anyone who might be going through something similar. “Support in this journey as a mom is really needed,” Krieger said. “If everyone’s super honest about who they are and how they are as moms, others can take a breath, because it’s like, okay, someone else is going through that, too.”
By Madison Feller