Ellie Walker opens up about what family means to her and husband, Crows legend Taylor Walker, and their gorgeous boys, Hugo and Louis.
Tex and Ellie: It’s team work
When Ellie Walker looked at the positive pregnancy test, she was in disbelief. She did another test just to be sure – positive again. Then she called her obstetrician for reassurance.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” Ellie says. “I thought, ‘This can’t be real.’ I was just so excited.”
Next, Ellie phoned her husband, Crows champion Taylor Walker, who was on his way home from football training.
“I never call him to find out when he’ll be home, he usually calls me when he’s on his way, but I was so excited,” Ellie says.
“I left the tests in the bathroom because I thought he’d go in there at some stage. He went in there straight away and came out and said, ‘What is that? Is that real?’ It was amazing.”
The couple’s elation was also tinged with nerves, as the memory of losing their first child was still raw. Six months earlier, in November 2018, Ellie had suffered a miscarriage at 25 weeks. It was a crippling loss and the 30-year-old says, while she and Taylor supported each other through the heartbreak, she also sought professional support as she grieved for their precious baby boy, Ollie.
“It was a tough time,” she says. “Taylor and I just hid away for a long time.”
Ellie also turned to her close friend Belinda Sloane, married to Crows captain Rory Sloane. Just three months earlier, Belinda had also experienced the heartbreaking loss of a baby when their first son, Leo, was stillborn.
The two families are extremely close and Ellie says it was enormously helpful to be able to talk to someone who understood her grief.
“Belinda is someone you can always talk to about what you’re going through,” Ellie says.
“Going through what we both went through – you can’t talk to everyone about that. Belinda was a huge support.”
While thrilled to be expecting a baby again, Ellie and Taylor decided to keep the exciting news under wraps, even from family and friends, until they had passed the 25-week stage.
“For me, I needed to get past that stage, just for my mental state. But I was really nervous during the entire pregnancy,” Ellie says.
Thankfully, everything went well and Ellie was 34 weeks pregnant when the news went public and she was photographed at the Adelaide Football Club’s 2019 best and fairest awards.
“By then I felt comfortable for people to know, but there’s still that thought in the back of your mind that you won’t really relax until this baby is in your arms,” she says.
On the day of her caesarean section, Ellie says Taylor was a typical first-time dad, “nervously pacing around in his scrubs and hat”.
Then, at 8.35am on November 7, 2019, baby Hugo James Walker arrived – perfect in every way.
“When I held him in my arms I couldn’t speak,” Ellie says. “I was just so overwhelmed. It was amazing and I was just so relieved and happy.
“Taylor was thrilled; just in tears. We were so happy. We also realised that as Hugo came out, they were playing a song in the operating theatre – Ed Sheeran’s song Perfect – which was our wedding song. It was just so emotional.”
Ellie says she was overjoyed that close friend Belinda had given birth to a healthy baby boy, Sonny Leo, just six weeks before Hugo arrived. In fact, the Crows club provided an instant mother’s group for Ellie, with a rush of babies arriving within 15 weeks.
Daniel Talia and wife Megan welcomed baby Ivy Grace, Bryce and Lauren Gibbs had daughter Madison, Kyle and Emily Hartigan had baby Hazel, and David Mackay and wife Sarah welcomed baby William Alexander.
“We used to do a catch-up at least once a month for the babies, but mostly for us, although that got more difficult with COVID,” Ellie says.
“We are all so close and it’s so beautiful to be able to go through such an amazing time in life with girls who you have such a strong bond with. It’s such a beautiful club, family, organisation to be part of because we are all in the same stage of our lives.”
Rather than host a number of birthday parties a year later, the families all got together in a local park and held one big first birthday bash for all the Crows babies.
Ellie admits she wasn’t really into the footy and knew almost nothing about the Crows when she first met Taylor at Adelaide Oval in 2013. She was at the cricket with a friend who introduced her to the high-profile Crows player affectionately known as “Tex”.
“I had no idea who he was. He was playing footy then but I didn’t pay much attention,” Ellie says. “He had the mullet and everything and I thought, ‘Who is this guy?’”
The couple bumped into each other a few more times, but then Ellie went to Europe for six months after completing her architecture degree. She had just returned to Adelaide in 2014 and was working for Channel Seven when she ran into Taylor again at the Clipsal 500 and romance blossomed.
“He was very charming and quite funny, but also sweet and very down to earth,” Ellie says.
“Taylor was a bit more serious initially than I was; I would have loved to live in London or something. But once I met Taylor I thought, I actually like him.
“I didn’t tell anyone for a very long time that we were dating. I mean, I didn’t like him because of what he did, I liked him because of who he was. I guess some people can be a bit footy-crazy and it was just nice the two of us doing our own thing, nice to be in our own little bubble.”
The couple moved in together at the end of 2015 and Taylor popped the question at the end of 2018. They got engaged at the Victoria Racecourse where they had run into each other at Clipsal.
“I remember Taylor wanted to go for a walk, but I’d had my 10-year school reunion the night before, and it was a really hot day… But he said, ‘Come on, let’s take the dogs out’,” Ellie says.
“He was being so bizarre and he kept stopping and starting and I was like, ‘It’s 9am and 35 degrees, can we just get this over with so we can go home and get organised for Christmas’.
“We walked past a golf buggy and I thought it was random, someone must have stolen a golf buggy at their Christmas party and left it there. Then I turned back and Taylor was on
“The golf buggy idea was because I had driven Taylor in a golf buggy at Clipsal.”
Ellie’s father Rob Brown, a respected long-serving Channel Seven cameraman, was in on the proposal and was hiding in the bushes, filming it all.
“I cried and said yes but I was in so much shock, I thought he was joking,” Ellie says.
The couple held a surprise wedding in front of just 35 close family and friends on March 10, 2019, at Marble Hill. No one knew it was a wedding until they arrived, except for a few guests such as Ellie’s parents, Rob and Vicky, and sister Alex, and Taylor’s mother, Marg, and brother Ayrton.
Following the intimate ceremony, the couple held a bigger reception at Whistle & Flute Cafe in Unley.
“With everything that had happened with our first pregnancy, we didn’t want to do the big wedding,” Ellie says.
“We just wanted to have a fun day with our friends. People stress so much about weddings, wanting to make everything perfect, but there is so much more to life. I had learnt that.”
The wedding was organised by Ellie’s close friend Lucy Temme, owner of Hygge Studio, who pulled it all together in just four weeks. Guests at the nuptials included immediate family, school friends, Broken Hill mates (where Taylor grew up) and a few footy friends, too.
Taylor and Ellie then headed to Noosa for their honeymoon where the groom, unfortunately, spent most of the week sick with food poisoning. It was just a week after their wedding that Ellie discovered she was pregnant with baby Hugo.
While she was open to advice from other parents during her pregnancy, Ellie strongly believes that only the potential mother and father can decide what kind of parents they want to be. However, Ellie admits that becoming a first-time mum also requires adjustment and she initially struggled with knowing what to do.
“As a new mum, how are you meant to know how to get your baby to sleep and how long they should sleep for, or what activities you should be doing for their development and what food should you be feeding them?” she says. “Google’s great, but advice from a mum who is in the same stage of their life is so much better. I can ask my mum but she can’t remember, because you don’t remember what you did 30 years ago. So, I think it’s really important to ask for advice and be open to taking it; I think there’s a difference between asking and being told.”
The couple also turned to their good friends Lucy and James Frearson-Lea for parenting advice. Ellie used to babysit the couple’s three daughters and both she and Taylor were impressed with how the family lived their lives.
“We thought they were such a lovely family and we aspired to be like that because they have so much fun and lead a beautiful life.”
Lucy and James lent the Walkers a book called Becoming Babywise, which Ellie says taught her the importance of creating a routine with babies.
“I know not everyone is into it but, for me, just doing a bit of reading around routines was really helpful,” she says.
“There are very strict rules and more flexible ones but at least it gives you some idea of what the hell you’re meant to do.
“People say, ‘You’re so lucky, Hugo sleeps all night and naps well’ but I’ve put in so much hard work to achieve that. They don’t just sleep, it’s about doing the same thing every day, getting into that routine. Hugo is like clockwork now.”
However, Ellie says she can also get a little too glued to the routine – and that’s when Taylor steps in.
“I’ll be like, ‘Hugo only slept for an hour and 55 minutes, he usually sleeps for two hours,’ and Taylor says, ‘You can’t worry about that, you can’t do everything by the book, Ellie’,” she says.
“Taylor has taught me patience in general, actually. I feel like he’s this old soul and he teaches me how to be more patient or how not to freak out about things.”
When it came to trying for another baby after Hugo, they had realistic expectations about how long it might take, or whether it would happen at all. However, it happened faster than expected – just five months after Hugo’s arrival, Ellie was thrilled to discover she was pregnant again. She and Hugo delivered the news to Taylor by making a card which read, ‘Hi Dad, I love you and I can’t wait to be a big brother’.
Again, the couple waited until they had passed the 25-week mark before they made the news public.
Baby Louis arrived safely on January 28, 2021, just a day after Belinda Sloane gave birth to their third baby, Bodhi Leo. The women were both in Ashford Hospital, in rooms across the hall from each other.
“We didn’t plan that,” Ellie laughs.
Close mates Taylor and Rory enjoyed a glass of bubbles together as they cuddled their newborn boys at the hospital, born just hours apart.
Ellie says Taylor is a natural, hands-on dad who delights in the everyday routine of his gorgeous boys.
“As soon as he gets home from training, he’s straight into it,” she says. “He’ll do Hugo’s baths and night-time bottle. Especially because he’s not here during the day, he loves to make the most of his time with the kids when he’s home. He loves taking Hugo to the park and for bike rides. Hugo can only say the word, ‘dad’.
“I actually think Taylor has made me the mum that I am, because he is such an amazing dad.”
As with all new parents, there have been a few bumps along the way, like the time Taylor gave Hugo banana bread when he was just 12 weeks old.
“I came home and said, ‘You did what? He can’t eat solids. Oh my god!’ Now it’s a bit of a running joke,” she says.
Little Hugo has adapted well to being a big brother, and loves sharing books with nine-week-old Louis and giving him lots of cuddles.
“He just doesn’t know how heavy he is sometimes and he’ll try to lie on top of him,” Ellie says.
“And when it’s bedtime we’ll say, ‘Come on Hugo, bedtime, and he’ll go over and give Louis a kiss goodnight. It’s very cute.”
Ellie says she finds motherhood incredibly rewarding and is mindful to make every moment count.
“I just love every age and stage. Things are so much fun,” she says. “And they’re little sponges as well – you think they have no idea but they take everything in.”
While he couldn’t run out onto the oval to commemorate his dad’s 200th game last year, due to COVID restrictions, Hugo was able to attend the game and watch from the stands. He still doesn’t really understand what his dad does for a living, but Ellie thinks he might be more aware of his dad on the field this year.
Whether Hugo or Louis follow in their famous dad’s footsteps or not isn’t important to Ellie or Taylor, who simply want their boys to do what they enjoy.
“They may be more academic or into a different sport but, whatever it is, we’ll support them through that,” Ellie says.
Ellie was working as a home stylist before having her children and has no plans yet to return to work, keen to dedicate the next few years to raising her boys.
Taylor, who part-owns the Alma Hotel, has completed a Bachelor of Business and also has regular media commitments, positioning himself well for a career post-footy.
Whether the couple goes for baby number three is yet to be decided. For now, they’re loving adjusting to being a family of four, mindful that every moment is precious.
“No matter how hard something is, you can always get through it because you’re doing it for these amazing little boys, or girls, and you want to teach them that they can do whatever they put their minds to,” Ellie says.
“Now I think, ‘What did I do before them; what did I spend all my time doing?’ Especially when I was in the hospital having Louis, I missed Hugo so much. They just consume your every thought, but it’s all good, it’s for all the right reasons. We know how lucky we are.”
This story first appeared in the April 2021 issue of SALIFE magazine.
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