Abby Bishop was in the prime of her basketball career when she faced the biggest decision of her life – and only seconds to make it.
Her sister Chloe had just given birth but was ill and unable to raise the child, who had to be cared for by Department of Human Services employees.
Bishop was a star basketball player for the Canberra Capitals and Australian Opals, just 24 years old and with the world at her feet, but knew her responsibility to her family was more important than her sporting career.
So she stepped up to take on the role of little Zala’s guardian, and hours later found herself huddled in a motel room with a newborn, wondering what to do next.
“I still remember the moment when there were two DHS officers standing with clipboards — I said, ‘No, she’s not going to foster, she’s coming with me,’ I definitely didn’t think twice, she’s family,” Bishop told the Announce sun.
“I had nothing for a baby, literally had to go to the Kmart to get bottles and I bought a cheap stroller and some blankets and clothes and diapers.
“Mum used to own a motel in Darwin, so I got a room for free and here I was alone in a hotel with a two-day-old baby.”
Bishop is now back in Australia playing for the Southside Flyers in the WNBL – and her daughter Zala (pictured together) is her biggest fan
Bishop (pictured playing for the Australian Opals in 2012) was a rising basketball star but had to make the huge decision to withdraw from the 2014 World Championships to prioritize caring for her daughter
Since Bishop made the life-changing decision to adopt her niece, the couple have traveled the world and forged a bond that can’t be broken
Bishop didn’t have much time to collect her thoughts and was immediately thrust into the role of both parent and professional basketball player.
“I was in my basketball days, playing well and I was thinking to myself about how the club would react,” she said.
Amazingly, Bishop was back on the field just two days later with her new baby on the sidelines.
The pair were set to travel the world together, but they faced major hurdles that saw Bishop about to end her international career.
“Zala wasn’t allowed to be around while I was with the Opals,” Bishop said.
“That was really disturbing.
“It surprised me to the point where I took a stand and decided to quit.
“I couldn’t understand why Basketball Australia wouldn’t support and help me; basketball was my life for years.”
Bishop withdrew from the 2014 World Championships, but her bold stance forced Basketball Australia to rethink and facilities for players with children were significantly improved.
“I didn’t do it for recognition, I don’t get recognition, but I look at all the mothers who reap the benefits of my sacrifice and it makes me happy,” she said.
“If I hadn’t taken that position and left the national team, things probably wouldn’t have changed.”
But the biggest challenge came the day Zala got old enough for Google – and discovered the true story of her birth and birth mother.
“You’re not my real mother,” she declared.
It was a question Bishop knew would come at some point, but he was never really prepared for.
“I played for Bologna in Italy and Zala went to an Italian school and she didn’t know yet — I was still just a mom,” Bishop said.
“I’d talked to quite a few people about when it’s the right time to tell her, but everyone had said to me ‘you know when to do it, if your guts tell you.’
“But I didn’t get a chance to plan it. My first instinct was to say ‘no, no, no, that’s not true’ because I didn’t know what to do, it was just so sudden.
Bishop enjoys family time with her daughter Zala and her mother, who has been a huge support for the past 10 years
Bishop is still playing professional basketball 10 years later in a career that has included an Olympic bronze medal and three WNBL championships
Bishop celebrates her 34th birthday with Zala, 10 years after split-second decision to adopt her niece
‘The next day I said ‘Zaaals’ and then we sat down and had a good talk and I explained everything to her.
“She’s always been pretty mature, but she went quiet for a while and you could see her little brain ticking.
“She asked a few questions and that was it, she didn’t really talk about it again.
“I’m just mom and I think she only said ‘You’re not my real mom’ once when she was in trouble.
‘I’m glad it turned out this way. It didn’t change anything between us and I could tell her the whole story.’