As she cradles her baby bump and the jaw-dropping aquamarine engagement ring on her finger glitters in the sunlight, former Silver Ferns star Storm Purvis laughs as she tries to sum up how crazy 2023 has been.
"Everything has been so zero to 100," she tells Woman's Day. "It's funny how that happens – but this whole year has been a whirlwind."
Things were not supposed to be quite as speedy for the Sky Sport commentator and Crowd Goes Wild presenter, 30, and her fiancé, lawyer Dan Hilton-Jones, 29, but as fate would have it, the couple, who have been together for almost six years, are due to welcome their little girl in the new year.
"I guess there's no right time to have a baby or try to plan for one and you can't count on the timing falling into place," she says. "I figured it would take a little bit longer because I have polycystic ovary syndrome. I was diagnosed super-young and played my whole netball career not really thinking about it or worrying about it.
"But when I retired and wasn't focused on being a high-performance athlete, I was proactive about catching up with my endocrinologist and figuring out what I needed to do to get ready to have a baby."
Taking medication to get her body back on track, Storm still thought that falling pregnant would take a while after she and Dan first began to try.
"We had a happy-go-lucky, let's-just-see-what-happens approach, and I guess thanks to the steps we'd taken before with the advice and medication I'd been given from Fertility Associates, it happened very easily – and quickly! Which I then felt almost guilty about because I know it can be such a struggle for so many people. But mostly I was just so, so grateful."
Storm, who is now in her third trimester, has also been lucky with morning sickness and has had a "cruisy" run.
But their impending arrival has meant the pair, who met at the gym when Storm was playing netball for the Northern Mystics and Dan was playing rugby for North Harbour, have pushed their wedding back a little bit.
"I fell pregnant maybe a month after our engagement in April, so at the time, when people asked us when we were getting married and we said, 'Oh, probably not until 2025', they'd question why, but it was too early to say!"
While getting pregnant might have happened quickly, after more than five years together, it was high time Dan put a ring on it, laughs Storm. He finally did it on Good Friday – and in style too!
Taking advantage of the fact the pair were in Storm's favourite place in the world – Kinloch, by Lake Taupō – it was during an early morning kayak trip that Dan popped the question. "I was thinking over the summer that it might be the summer he proposes, but then we got to April and I was like, 'Oh, OK, not now!'
"But then we were driving down from Auckland and Dan mentioned he wanted to go for an early morning bike ride or kayak. Normally I'm the one who pushes to do activities like that and he kind of just comes along!"
Despite the fact she was feeling a bit poorly, Storm agreed to the kayaking trip – "It was the last thing I felt like doing!" – but as they approached a little hidden beach, Storm wondered if this could be the moment.
"I remember thinking, 'Ooh, how weird would it be if it was!'" she laughs. "And then I turned around and he was down on one knee. It was so sweet and so lovely. And after we kayaked back to the main beach, my parents ran down with a bottle of Champagne and Dan's parents were driving down from Auckland. Before I knew it, we were surrounded by family and friends. It was perfect."
And, of course, the cherry on top of the whole experience is Storm's stunning ring, which Dan designed himself using a piece of aquamarine that Storm's dad had bought in India years ago.
"Well, that was another giveaway too because I knew he had the aquamarine," shares Storm. "I knew Dad had given it to him, but it was so long ago, so it was still a surprise. Dad had brought back a few from a trip, including this big one, then Dan had taken it into Louis the Goldsmith in Parnell.
He'd been getting the ring made for a few months and I'd had no idea.
"I love it so much. It's very me, which is great. It's still a little bit different but still kind of classic. He nailed it."
And even though wedding plans are on hold for a little bit, Storm and Dan have plenty to keep them busy as they prepare to become parents.
"It's funny how life works," she muses. "Last year was such an amazing year too – we moved into our house finally, got to go to Birmingham for the Commonwealth Games and Dan started a new role too.
"It was very career-focused, which was great, and now this year it's been all relationship-focused. Not that work has taken a backseat – I've been super-lucky I've been able to work all the way through and we've done some really cool things. But it's funny how your focus can shift so quickly.
"Now I'm catching myself thinking, 'What is she going to be like? Will she get Dan's brains?' Hopefully! It's crazy how much you think about it.
"One thing I am thinking about is the little netball team that me and some of the other netball girls are making – Jane Watson has a girl, Phoenix Karaka has a girl and Kayla Johnson has two girls. Everyone seems to be having girls at the moment, so I'm excited about that little team in 10 years' time!"
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