Pregnancy & Birth

Kiwi actress Aidee Walker on being a new mum and attending coffee groups with Jacinda Ardern

''Sometimes I get up in the middle of the night and can’t believe I have to be awake. Thank God she’s cute!'' the sleep-deprived new mum says.

Born exactly eight weeks before "first baby" Neve Gayford, she attends the same coffee group as Jacinda Ardern and her daughter, but little Te Awaroa Wikohika isn't overly fussed by her high-profile playmates.

"Bless her, she doesn't really know what's happening and slept through most of their first meeting," confesses the gorgeous wee girl's proud mum, actress and director Aidee Walker. "But then Neve was a sleeping beauty when I first met her too!"

The Hamilton-born, Auckland-based star, 37 – best known for playing Draska Doslic on Outrageous Fortune and Lee-Anne Cartier in The Black Widow – met the future prime minister at a friend's wedding about 10 years ago and the pair bonded over growing up in the Waikato.

They've been buddies ever since, with Aidee gifting Jacinda nipple compresses and a te reo Maori version of the classic children's book Where the Wild Things Are before she gave birth.

"I was concerned for her boobs after my experience!" laughs the actress, who is engaged to filmmaker Talor Wikohika.

Aidee had an "awesome" pregnancy and was directing episodes of Westside up until the seven-month mark. However, Awa's arrival into the world wasn't quite so perfect, with the star in labour for 40 hours before her dream of a natural delivery was dashed.

"It was just gnarly," she remembers. "It wasn't about my pain threshold, but the lack of sleep. When you have a long labour, you lose all perspective. At one point, the doctor was examining me and she said, 'I can feel the baby's head,' and I was like, 'Oh, that's right – there's a baby!'

"I didn't want that epidural needle going through my spine, but it was the only way I could have a couple of hours of rest to get the energy for pushing. They needed four people to hold me down because I was vomiting and having contractions every minute.

"Then just as she was about to come out, the baby pooed and the doctors were worried about her eating it, which would've resulted in lots of complications. In the end, I had an emergency Caesarean."

Though Aidee hadn't cried throughout her labour, when Awa was finally held up in front of her, "like Simba in The Lion King", the new mum burst into tears.

"She was so beautiful, I lost it," the actress recalls. "After Talor cut the cord, I couldn't do the skin-to-skin thing on my chest, so they held her against my cheek and she gave us this inquisitive little frown, which she still does."

Te Awaroa's name means "the long river" in te reo and refers to the Waikato River, which links Aidee's home-town of Hamilton with Talor's native Taupo.

The "very supportive, hands-on" dad is of Ngati Tuwharetoa and Tainui descent but didn't grow up speaking Maori, so they're both learning the language and plan to send their daughter to kohanga reo so she'll be fluent.

The new family spent two nights in hospital, with a further three nights in Birthcare maternity hospital, which Aidee says was key to recovering from her Caesarean and learning to breastfeed her baby.

"Those first few days are intense because you've been pumped full of drugs and can't even stand up to change a nappy," she says. "I found breastfeeding really painful – I wanted to scream sometimes – but I was determined to push through. It really wasn't pain-free until eight weeks, but it's finally a joy.

"I love the bond that comes with feeding my baby, but it's also the convenience – and the fact it's free! When we're out, I can just put her on me and we don't need to worry about any other paraphernalia. And at night, I can simply pick her up and I don't need to get up to warm a bottle."

Aidee has already been back at work, writing scripts, doing voiceovers, auditioning and filming an episode of The Brokenwood Mysteries, with her parents bringing Awa on set so she could breastfeed her daughter.

With Talor away overseas and in the South Island for weeks at a time with his film work, it's been "a challenging juggle", but the actress has help from both sets of grandparents and an army of "mum friends", including actress Renee Lyons, singer Anna Coddington and radio star Kara Rickard, who have cooked, babysat and even cleaned the bathroom for her.

Aidee tells, "A lot of my friends are super-busy with their own children, but they understand what it's like having a first baby. Their support has been so over-whelming and important during such an emotional time. It really does take a village."

Grinning, she concludes, "Although we're spending a lot of time on the couch at home, I'm really enjoying being a mum. Awa's such a cute, giggly, smiley, chilled-out baby, and while I'm feeling slightly crazy and tired, I also feel the most love I've ever felt. I can literally feel the chambers of my heart filling up with joy."

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