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Amy Walsh on how she met EastEnders villain boyfriend and ‘struggles’ of motherhood

Amy Walsh, 34, plays Tracy Metcalfe in Emmerdale , met Toby-Alexander Smith, 30, who plays EastEnders villain Gray Atkins, on the set of Strictly two years ago

Amy Walsh and Toby-Alexander Smith couldn’t look more smitten as they show off their baby girl, Bonnie Mae, who arrived on 27 December.

Amy, 34, who plays Tracy Metcalfe in Emmerdale, met Toby, 30, who plays EastEnders villain Gray Atkins, on the set of Strictly two years ago, while cheering on friends.

And Toby tells us having a baby has now cemented their relationship. “We’ve always been a good team anyway and I think Bonnie coming along has shown we’re meant to be parents together, as we’re finding our roles,” he tells us.

Although Amy says the birth wasn’t the most straightforward due to being induced, having two epidurals and a 20-hour labour, her sisters – Sally and Girls Aloud star Kimberley – were on hand with some sound advice. “Both my sisters said to trust your journey and ask for what you need, don’t try to be a hero,” Amy explains.

Here, the couple share their birth story and open up about being a mum and dad…

Hi, both, and congratulations! How does it feel to be parents?

Toby: It’s exceeded every expectation. It’s just amazing and really special. We’re smitten.

Amy: We both look at her and cry! All she has to do is open her eyes and look up at you and it sets you off.

Are you both exhausted?

Amy: We’re tired. She’s been a good baby. Feeding was hard at first as she was tongue-tied. But we took her to a specialist and it was seen to. We also saw a breastfeeding specialist, which was invaluable. After that she’s been really good and I’m recovering OK too.

Tell us about the name Bonnie…

Toby: We’d go on walks where Amy used to live in Leeds during lockdown and talk about names. Bonnie was one that came up even before Amy was pregnant.

Amy: Whenever we talked hypothetically about our family, we always said “our little Bonnie”. When she came, she couldn’t have been more of a Bonnie.

Is it a family name?

Toby: My parents had two King Charles spaniels, one was called Bonnie – but that had no part in it!

Amy: Her middle name is Mae. We wanted something with one syllable that went with her first name and surname.

Toby: We’ve got a few Maes in my family but spelt differently.

Does she look like either of you yet?

Amy: As soon as she came out, we’ve got a video of me saying, “She looks like Daddy”. She has loads of dark hair.

Toby: Her face has changed so much already. Everyone in the family is examining her to see who they think she looks like.

Have your first few weeks as parents been harder or easier than you expected?

Toby: I’ve not been around babies before so it’s a whole new world. It took me a few days but I think I’ve got my head round it well. I just try to make life as easy as possible for Amy.

Amy: It’s hard for men when you’re breastfeeding as it’s a lot on the mother. But Toby is so good with her. He comes in from work and they have their bonding time so I can rest. He’s been good around the house too. He’s been making me a cup of tea in a flask before he goes to work, so when I’m ready I can drink it. It’s so sweet. He’s been keeping on top of the washing too, which there’s so much of!

Is parenthood different from what you expected?

Amy: I thought I might struggle more. I’ve got seven nephews, but when I got pregnant I panicked that I wouldn’t find it as easy as I thought. I had a few months of thinking, “Can I do this?” When you’re pregnant, you get so tired you worry how you’re going to have the energy to look after a baby. But now my needs don’t even occur to me. It’s been a nice surprise how right it feels. It’s not easy at all, but this early stage has been so enjoyable.

What was her arrival date?

Amy: 27 December. Her due date was Christmas Eve. A few weeks prior to that, we got Covid. We had two weeks of worrying I’d go into labour with it, meaning Toby wouldn’t have been able to be there.

Toby: Isolating at home was hard. Every minute felt like an hour, so to get to the other side of that felt like a relief.

Were you out of isolation on Christmas Day?

Amy: Yes. We went over to Kimberley’s. The whole family was there. Our hospital was just five minutes from Kimberley’s.

Did your sisters give you any final words of advice?

Amy: They’ve given me so much advice throughout. Both said, “Trust your journey and ask for what you need, don’t try to be a hero.” They’ve both done labours with and without pain relief, and inductions, and there is no perfect way of getting them here apart from being safe. Justin, Kimberley’s husband, told Toby to take ownership of the epidural and top-up because no one else can be as on it as you.

When did you go into labour?

Amy: On Boxing Day, I woke up and thought my waters had broken. It was just like a trickle, so I couldn’t really tell. I had tested positive for Group B strep, which is an infection we carry as adults, but with pregnancy it can affect the baby. After your waters break you have to go on antibiotics and I needed to be induced due to the risk of infection. So it wasn’t the natural labour I’d have chosen. I was joking in the hospital, texting my family that I was sad to miss out on my Boxing Day meal, then my sister dropped off a pack-up while we waited for the pessary induction to kick in! So me and Toby ate my mum’s Christmas ham in the hospital bay.

How did the induction go?

Amy: We did the pessary but changed to the drip to get things moving faster. It was an intense induction – the pain was strong but I wasn’t dilating. We had 12 hours of that and I had to have an epidural for the pain. Then I was on gas and air, and I was laughing.

Toby: She was coming out with some corkers.

Amy: We’ve got a video of me going, “Just make me a cocktail!” I felt drunk – I loved it!

Did you have a birth plan?

Amy: We didn’t make a full plan, as I was aware how different it can go to what you want. But I read a lot, did hypnobirthing courses. Tamsyn, our midwife, was great. She put fairy lights up and Toby did a playlist with all the classics we love. There’s one song that was playing when Bonnie was born – I won’t tell you what as we’d love to have it as our wedding song if we get married.

What time did she arrive?

Amy: At 3.40pm the next day. It was about 22 hours from start to finish and I was labouring for about 20. In the night, they realised the epidural had come out so I hadn’t had any pain relief for hours. They weren’t able to put it back in, so I had to have another one.

Was it all smooth after that?

Amy: The pushing was harder than I thought it would be. Every contraction, we’d get a bit closer, then she’d go back. Toby had been calm and suddenly was like, “Push really hard”. He’d heard them discussing alternative methods of getting her out – forceps or a C-section. So I found some strength for one final push.

And she finally arrived…

Amy: Yes! You feel like you’re going to explode. There was no hypnobirthing or breathing her out – just pushing with all your might.

What was your reaction when you found out it was a girl?

Amy: We burst into tears of joy.

Toby: I’ve got a clip of her seconds after she was born, just lying on Amy with her eyes wide open and looking around the room. It was so lovely.

Did you cut the cord, Toby?

Amy Walsh LINK TO PAGE: https://www.instagram.com/amyvwalsh/

Toby: I did. Amy was able to have skin-to-skin straight away too.

Amy: She cried straight away when she came out. All the pain was worth seeing her arrive healthy, she was 7lb 4oz.

How did your families react to her being a girl?

Toby: I messaged saying, “Bonnie can’t wait to meet you” with a pink heart emoji and a picture. They were all so happy and excited.

Amy: My family were still at Kim’s and the house apparently erupted as soon as they saw the news.

How long were you in hospital for after she arrived?

Amy: I stayed overnight and by midday the next day I was discharged. We dropped by Kimberley’s to pick up a Christmas sandwich she’d made with leftovers. We went in with Bonnie as everyone was desperate to see her.

What are your hopes for Bonnie now?

Amy: Just that she’ll be happy and healthy.