Echoing through the corridor of the Alex Hotel, we could hear Aoife Walsh and her mum giggling as they made towards us. “You wouldn’t believe the kick she just gave me walking in there. It nearly knocked me for six,” Aoife laughs, of course referring to the tiny little girl growing inside her.
Just a few short weeks from her due date, the model made a trip from her family home in Tipperary to Dublin, joining us for a gorgeous pregnancy shoot with her biggest supporters and the best role models she could ask for; her mum Philomena and dad Liam. After spending the day laughing and sharing tales, we feel like we know Aoife’s parents as well as our own. Warm and kind, they’re the sort of people you just want to spend time with. It’s no surprise she looks up to them and hopes they’ll be there to guide her as she begins this new chapter of her life as a mum, when her daughter arrives all going well, next month (the excitement, the nerves!).
Shortly after the shoot, we sat down with Aoife to discuss fresh starts, her experience of pregnancy during a global pandemic, thoughts on becoming a mum and how the Government really could do more to support women during these unusual times.
Aoife, how are you and the bump doing?
We’re really, really well! I’m in my third trimester now and I feel good. I’ve really enjoyed my pregnancy. I’ve been very lucky in the sense that so far my symptoms have been mild except for my first trimester, which I found really difficult. Once I hit the second, I felt like I hit my stride. I felt more comfortable and confident in myself as a first-time mum and once I started to feel the kicks it relaxed me a lot knowing she’s ok in there.
It’s such a rollercoaster of a journey. It’s such a special time and I’m trying to make the most of it. It’s crazy to think in a couple of weeks time, it won’t just be me anymore. It’s never just going to be me, it’ll be me and my little girl. I’m excited to have a little pal. She’ll be my little friend for life, and the best one I’ll ever have. I’m really excited to meet her.
How did you feel when you first found out you were expecting?
I was super excited! With everything going on with Covid it was very difficult to plan anything so it put the wedding on the backburner. I had always wanted to be a mom and a baby was always on the cards. We started planning last summer and I was able to conceive the baby straight away, but I know that’s not the case for everybody. I couldn’t believe my luck that it had happened so quickly. I was absolutely thrilled. It’s lovely to be on such an exciting journey.
Who was the first person you told, after the daddy, of course?!
My mum! She was absolutely delighted. I’m so close with my parents that I really wanted to tell them early on and told my sister Aisling and brother-in-law on Christmas Day. They were over the moon. My sister has two kids herself, Joey and Indie. They’ll be quite close in age to my baby so it’ll be wonderful for her to have those cousins and friends around – as well as the best granny and grandad going!
That’ll be so nice. And tell us, what’s the best thing you’ve learned from your parents over the years?
My parents are great. They’re the nicest people you’ll ever meet and I’m so lucky to have them in my life and to have them as such an amazing support system. If I can be anything like them when I’m a mum, I’ll be doing well. My mum is super kind and compassionate and would do anything for you. I think that’s the type of mom I’d want to be to my little girl. I always want to be there for her. My parents are amazing role models for me and I hope I can be half as good as they are.
You recently shared an adorable gender reveal video with them. Were you surprised when you discovered you were having a little girl?
I was genuinely so surprised! From very early on I was just convinced I was having a boy. There was no particular reason, I just thought it, so did my sister and my mom. Even when I was looking at baby clothes online, I was only browsing the boy’s section. When we were doing the gender reveal, I was expecting a burst of blue confetti so when the pink came out, I was shocked. I really convinced myself I was having a boy, but now we’re having a little missus and there’ll be a little lady in the family! I’m such a girly-girl myself in terms of style so I can’t wait to do some mommy-daughter matching outfits. I feel really blessed. She’s really been minding me and looking after me. She’s been so good to me all these weeks, so I just know we’re going to be best friends.
Tell us, have you had any unusual cravings over the last few months?
During my first trimester I was very unwell. I was quite sickly, wasn’t feeling myself. I was very hormonal and tired too. I only wanted to eat bland carbs; crackers, bread, toast and noodles. When I got into the second trimester, it was around week 14 when her skeleton started to fuse together and I couldn’t get enough milk into me. I loved a nice cold glass of milk. Another thing was apples. They’re pretty healthy cravings. Now, all I want is chocolate! I’m mad for it. I’ve been eating Time-Outs for my breakfast and putting Nutella on everything. I need to relax on that!
Your due date is fast approaching. Have you started nesting and picking up everything you need?
I’ve been testing paint all week. We’re making a corner in the home for her things. We’ve gone into nesting mode for sure! I’ve been doing lots of clear-outs and preparing things for charity donations. I’ve been making room for her! It’s a new beginning and a fresh start with a new baby. We’re flat out! She’s well anticipated in this house and deserves it all.
What has it been like being pregnant in a pandemic?
It’s really hard and I underestimated it when we planned to have a baby. It can be quite a lonely experience. Being pregnant during the terrible Covid surge in January was frightening. Everyone was on edge and there was a level of anxiety. Unfortunately, so many people were ill and sadly passed away due to Covid then, and being pregnant, you’re in mammy mode and super protective of yourself, the baby and everyone around you because you don’t want the child to be at risk. I found it very tough. It’s an added layer of stress. Thankfully things have settled down a bit, people are being very cautious and we’ve been in lockdown for a long time, plus a lot more people have been vaccinated. My parents have been vaccinated and it brings such peace of mind knowing my family is safe.
As a first time mum, how do you feel about attending the appointments by yourself?
Going into the hospital and to appointments alone is tough. But I’m attending the Rotunda and so far I’ve had such a great experience with them. The midwives, doctors and consultants are superheroes. They’re unreal. They couldn’t have done enough for me so far and I can’t say enough about how kind they’ve been. I have two friends who are nearly at the same stage of their pregnancy as me and we’re constantly texting and chatting about pains, aches and meltdowns. You feel ok.
Drawing from other women is wonderful, it gives you support in your journey. At the end of the day, we’re doing the best we can do. The whole experience has made me realise how amazing women are. We’re unreal! What we go through in pregnancy is miraculous. I’m talking to you here, having a chat, and I’m growing a person. It’s wild. It’s so empowering. It makes you feel really proud of yourself and your body.
You mentioned women supporting women, but do you think the Government should be doing more to support women too so they don’t have to do all this alone?
Oh yes! Nobody wants to put anyone else at risk so you just have to get on with it, but at this stage in the game, maternity hospitals and the Government have to work a little bit better to relax some elements of restrictions, especially now that things are opening up. At the end of the day, bringing a baby and new life into the world is such an overwhelming experience and having that specific restriction in place so partners or your nominated person can’t be there with you until a certain time, is very restrictive.
During the lockdown you moved back to Tipperary. How have you been finding life there compared to Dublin?
I love both. But right now it’s great to be in Tipp because I have such an amazing support system here with my parents, and all of my best friends live in Clonmel in Tipperary so it’s great to know you have loved-ones close by. I’ve also been enjoying the slower pace of life.
The pandemic also caused you to push the wedding back. Are you still planning ahead or are you going to wait now until your daughter is a little bit older so she can be more involved too?
At the moment I’m just putting all the focus on the baby. She’s the number one priority and everything else has been put on the back burner.
What is it about motherhood you’re most looking forward to?
The outfits…I can’t wait to dress her up. [Laughs] No, seriously, I’m looking forward to some snuggles, cuddles and the unconditional love between a mum and her child. I know there’ll be plenty of sleepless nights and tears, but at the moment, I’m really looking forward to the joy she’s going to bring into my life. It’s such a special thing and I really believe she’ll be my best friend; it’s me and her forever. It’s really exciting. She’s going to be so special and so spoiled!
INTERVIEW: Michelle Dardis
PHOTOGRAPHY: Lili Forberg
MAKEUP: Sue Brophy
HAIR: Suzie Dowling, Peter Mark
STYLING: Megan Fox
LOCATION: The Alex Hotel, Dublin