'Gordon's beard will frighten the baby!' - Aoife Cogan reveals her bump
As Ireland take on France in the Six Nations today, model, entrepreneur and rugby wife Aoife Cogan D'Arcy reveals her baby bump - and tells Gillian FitzPatrick about the curiously Gallic name her nephews have given it! Photographs by Patrick Bolger
'Trying to model with a bump definitely requires a different skill set," Aoife Cogan D'Arcy laughs as she expertly takes direction from the photographer. "But it's nice to have the two of us on the job too. It will be really special to look back on the pictures."
Now, more than six months into her first pregnancy - and looking radiant and without a hint of exhaustion - the former model is enjoying a flirtation with her previous profession for Weekend.
Though clearly brimming with excitement about their impending arrival, she remains adamant that she and her rugby-star husband Gordon D'Arcy won't be finding out the child's sex in advance.
"There are so few surprises left in life and I love all the guessing; the old wives' tales and everyone having a theory about whether it's a boy or a girl because of the way you're carrying the baby and the shape of the bump," she says. "But overall I just think it's a lovely a surprise, especially on your first."
Still, their decision raises a conundrum - namely coming up with a gender-neutral moniker for the child until he or she makes their appearance. On this occasion, Aoife's two nephews, six-year old Alex and Elijah (4), have happily tackled the issue on her behalf.
"They're very sweet and have been really interested in the baby, asking loads of questions and touching my belly," she explains. "But over Christmas we were at my parents' house and we asked them casually what they thought would be a good name. 'Ooh la la,' the elder guy answered without a blink. We were all in fits of laughter - but now it's just stuck. Little Ooh la la Cogan D'Arcy!"
This will be a first child for 31-year-old Aoife and Gordon - who celebrated their wedding at Castle Leslie in July 2012 - though in many ways she already considers herself something of a parenting expert. "I actually have three babies," she laughs. "There's our fur baby, Albert, the six-month old Leonberger puppy; my business, Form School, and then the human baby-in-waiting. So our hands are already full!"
Added to that, the couple is racing against the clock to finish an impressive home they're constructing from scratch in south Dublin. And yet, somehow, Aoife - who has thankfully been morning-sickness free for the duration of her pregnancy - comes across as entirely relaxed. "I think a baby is one of those things that you have to learn on the job because you can't prepare for everything," she explains. "One day at a time, that's my attitude. And I am quite laid back as a person."
She adds that she is lucky to have the best possible role-model on hand for practical advice: "Myself and my mum are incredibly close - if I can be half the mother she was, I'll be doing very well. I think once you've got your mum, you've got the best possible source of information and knowledge. My brother has his two adorable sons and excitingly Gordon's brother, Ian, and his wife are due any day now so they'll have the first grandchild on that side. His parents are getting two grandchildren in the space of a few months! The extended family is really beginning to grow now."
In terms of support, Aoife is quick to heap praise on her "unbelievable husband", who celebrated his 35th birthday this week. "I'm so lucky. Gordon is amazing. He's so looking forward to the baby and I know, as parents, we'll very much work as a team. He's great with cooking and everything else around the house so I'm not worried at all that I'll be overwhelmed."
And when the child does make its appearance - on a date sometime in early May when the rugby season is drawing to a close - is Wexford-man Gordon prepared to make a Brian O'Driscoll-like dash from the pitch to the hospital? "You just can't time these things, especially on the first one," says Aoife. "You have to roll with it. I'm married to a professional rugby player; it's part and parcel of the gig. But hopefully it all works out well; fingers crossed."
At least Aoife and Gordon's new business venture, fitness centre Form School, is right across the road from Holles Street, where she will be having her baby.
"It's open a year now, which is hard to believe," she continues. "It's really daunting to leave modelling behind and move out of your comfort zone: being a model for 14 years and starting a whole new life is intimidating. But I really love every minute of it and, anyway, I was ready to retire from modelling. I'd achieved everything I wanted. And I had a good innings too, which is wonderful, because it's not really a career known for its longevity."
From Castleknock in Dublin, Aoife began modelling while still at school. In 2005 she was crowned Miss Ireland and spent much of the next decade in front of the cameras. Aoife says that it's only now that she is recognising how modelling prepared her for the demands of setting up and running her own business.
"People might scoff, but modelling is very difficult mentally. Walking up and down a catwalk might not be the most taxing job in the world but mentally it's really tough. There is a constant cycle of rejection and you have no choice but to pick yourself up again and keep going - but that ability has never come naturally to me. Because whatever way you look at it, being judged on your appearance all the time isn't pleasant.
"Starting at such a young age - I was just 16 - and being brought into this industry that is solely about how you look can give you a bit of a skewed view of the world. Ireland is a lot nicer than most places, but that side of it is still harsh."
She continues: "I never really considered it before but someone said to me recently that to be a successful model, you have to be competitive and you have to want to push yourself. I definitely have that drive, and I need it now with Form School. It's been petrifying getting it all off the ground; the first day opening the doors was scary. I remember exactly the moment the builders told me that their work was done and that it was over to me. I just thought 'this is really it'."
Aoife says that it was her own "obsession" with reformer Pilates - which uses bed-like resistance machines combined with traditional Pilates poses - that ultimately drove her to set up the business. "I'd be the first person to admit that I'm not a big gym bunny at all. But being a model, I needed to stay fit. Once I started reformer Pilates, I was hooked straight away because of what it does for your body - the difference it makes is huge. It lengthens, tones and strengthens. And if you're going to sell something, you have to believe in it yourself.
"Gordon used it as part of his rugby career for years and he saw huge improvements too. He actually started using reformer beds years ago over in Australia when he was on tour. He returned to Leinster and told them that they needed to get these beds. Ever since then it's been integrated into their training schedules." At the moment, the school is playing host to the Irish Six Nations squad as they prepare for big games like today's face-off with France. It also offers yoga and ballet barre classes, the latter of which is a "challenging hybrid of ballet and Pilates".
One of the biggest draws of the business for Aoife - especially now that she's pregnant - is the routine. "It's something that I haven't had in 14 years. It's a bit odd living your life day-to-day and never knowing what's around the corner. You could be sitting at home and you'd get the phonecall telling you that you had to be in Cork that following morning for a shoot or a show. I could never arrange to meet anyone because you never knew where you were going to be. You'd make plans and then have to change them at the last minute. Last year, I was even able to plan Christmas! So I am enjoying that."
For now, as she enters the final weeks of her pregnancy, Aoife is focusing on her own fitness: "We have a pre-natal class at Form School which is incredibly informative as well as everything else. Our instructor, Emma, is amazing. She is teaching me so much about my body and the importance of working on your pelvic floor. I've had clients do pre-natal classes up until 38 or 39 weeks so I'll keep going for as long as I can."
Modelling may have been back on the cards for Aoife today, but she's confident that another feature of her past won't be making reappearance: her husband's monstrous beard which he grew for the 2013-14 season, only finally shaving it off in Paris when Ireland won the Six Nations.
"I actually really liked the beard," she laughs. "It got pretty wild towards the end, mind. But it's gone for good now and Gordon says that it was a once-off thing only. It won't be returning.
"Which is maybe for the best," she adds with a smile. "He'd probably only frighten the baby."
Photographs: Patrick Bolger, patrickbolger.com.
Styling: Blanaid Hennessy.
Clothing: All clothes and accessories from Folkster, Temple Bar, Dublin and Kilkenny, folkster.com.
Hair: Ciara Farrell, Lunatic Fringe, Liffey Street, Dublin 1, lunaticfringe.ie.
Make-up: Paula Callan using the Callanberry range, callanberry.com.
Shot on location: Kellys Hotel, South Great George's Street, Dublin 2, (01) 648 0010, kellysdublin.com