Jennifer Lopez emerges from her bedroom looking glam in full makeup–and a bathrobe. She’s getting ready for her first date night with her husband, singer Marc Anthony, after three months of seclusion at their Long Island estate, where the pair have been holed up since giving birth on Feb. 22 to twins Maximilian David and Emme Maribel by C-section. Jennifer, Marc and their babies (who will have their father’s given last name, Muñiz) have just finished an all-day PEOPLE photo shoot when a handler realizes the star has been without her wedding rings all day. “Do you have a problem appearing in pictures without them?” she asks. “No,” says Jennifer, 38, who has shed most of the nearly 50 lbs. she gained during pregnancy. “They don’t fit. I think it’s pretty obvious that I’m married with kids.”
She’s right. The family’s redbrick mansion is kid country, with his and her rocking ducks from FAO Schwarz, a pink pedal car for Emme and a yellow one for Max, and two baby nurses on round-the-clock duty–despite the parents’ insistence on doing most of the child care themselves. “It’ll be 3 in the morning,” says Marc, 39, and we’ll be like, ‘Next feeding in 30 minutes! Okay, cool!'” The couple can’t hide such enthusiasm during a chat in their trophy room, filled with Grammys, platinum records and other assorted hardware. But right now those trappings of stardom are taking a backseat. “No offense,” says Marc as the interview winds down, “but I’m dying to get back to the kids.”
PEOPLE: Is this the happiest time of your life right now?
JENNIFER: Absolutely. Having children is the biggest thing that can happen, I think, to a woman. You win an Oscar, get nominated for a Golden Globe–you know, whatever things you think are big–I can’t even think of anything that can match the actual miracle of giving birth and having your own child. It’s beyond anything you could ever imagine.
PEOPLE: What have you learned about being a mom?
JENNIFER: I knew I’d be protective. I knew I’d love them intensely and passionately enough to stay up for the first three days after giving birth, because I just wanted to keep staring at them. [But] I’ve been very career-oriented my whole life and very focused on my own world and my own life, and all of a sudden the focus just shifts. It’s like, “Whoosh!” I want to do everything for them.
PEOPLE: Okay, it’s 4 o’ clock in the morning, and the babies start crying. Who gets up?
JENNIFER: I do. Marc does too.
MARC: I don’t go to sleep!
JENNIFER: We don’t go to sleep until 6 a.m. now. We’re still in the first month, of course!
PEOPLE: Can you set the record straight about how challenging it was to conceive?
JENNIFER: Sure. It was natural. We didn’t do in vitro, which I know was reported. Everybody assumed that because we had twins. I wanted to have a baby, but I’ve always said exactly what I said all those years they asked us since we’ve been married: “Well, when are you guys gonna have some kids?” “When it happens naturally, I guess!” And that’s when it happened. It was a surprise to us.
PEOPLE: Were you ever worried it might not happen?
JENNIFER: You start getting older, you think to yourself, maybe [having kids] is just not meant for me. I knew there was nothing wrong with me. I knew that I could. Deep down, I really wanted it badly.
MARC: It never even entered my mind that it would never happen.
JENNIFER: [turning to Marc] Really? Even after one year, two years, three years . . . You know, you start thinking to yourself, “Well, maybe . . .”
MARC: No! When you think about it, you only have a small amount of time each month when you can. So you try, and you have 12 shots a year.
PEOPLE: So how did you find out you were expecting?
JENNIFER: I was in Portugal, performing and dancing my a– off . . .
MARC: We were on the phone, and I said, “Baby, I have a sense!”
JENNIFER: I said, “You think I am?” because it had been so long. When I came back, I took a test. I couldn’t believe it! I was like, “Can we get another test, please?”
PEOPLE: Why didn’t you believe it?
JENNIFER: I think I really got to a point where I was like, “This is not gonna happen for me.” [But by the third test I took] it was right there in my face. At that point I looked and I said, “Marc, could this be me?” I had tears in my eyes.
PEOPLE: And it was twins!
JENNIFER: I was in denial until I went to the doctor [for a sonogram several weeks later] and she said, ‘Oh my God! There’s one baby, see the heart beating? And there’s the other one!” Marc started crying again, and I started giggling.
MARC: One person said, “Everything with you is a production! ”
JENNIFER: I knew twins ran in my family, and we always joked, “Who do you think is going to have the twins?” So, of course, all my sisters were like, “It’s you! It’s you!”
MARC: My grandfather was a twin too.
PEOPLE: Morning sickness?
MARC: No cravings.
JENNIFER: I had one of the best pregnancies ever. And, I have to say, one of the best husbands, who helped me through every emotional moment. Because you’re very hormonal! Even though I feel I behaved pretty well through the whole thing.
PEOPLE: Well, let’s ask Marc . . .
MARC: Read my book! Just kidding! It was splendid.
JENNIFER: I told Marc, I don’t know if this will happen to me again. I want us to share this together. And we went on tour until I was 6 1⁄2 months.
PEOPLE: Jennifer, you revealed the pregnancy onstage at your last show. Why didn’t you make a public announcement before that?
JENNIFER: We didn’t confirm it because I didn’t want people coming to our show and everything being about that. I just didn’t want that to be a focus.
MARC: My philosophy was: When you issue a statement, who are you talking to? Our families know. Our friends . . .
JENNIFER: People were like, “You’re keeping a secret!” We’re like, “Everybody knows. We just haven’t confirmed it in the press.”
PEOPLE: Tell us about the birth.
MARC: I kept a video diary, and we filmed everything. I wanted to do a little time capsule for the babies.
PEOPLE: So, no complications?
JENNIFER: No. It went very fast. There’s this intense fear and intense anticipation. [Then] they showed us the babies. We look to the right, and there’s Emme, screaming with her arms up. They’re holding her around her chest.
MARC: One minute later . . .
JENNIFER: There’s Max! To me, they both looked like Marc. I think that’s the first thing I said: “She looks like you! He looks like you, too!” My doctor said, “Did Jennifer get a gene in here or what?”
MARC: And from that moment, the love affair started.
JENNIFER: All I could say was “Thank you, God.” I just kept saying it over and over and over.
PEOPLE: During your pregnancy, did you worry about losing your Jenny from the Block body?
JENNIFER: I gained a good amount of weight, which I was focused on because twins can sometimes have low birth weight. I gained 45-50 lbs., a lot for my frame, but for twins it’s right on.
PEOPLE: And after they’re born, you lose a lot of that.
JENNIFER: So much. It’s amazing how your stomach just goes ‘Boop,’ and it’s this jiggly mass. It’s funny!
PEOPLE: Do you care about getting your old shape back?
JENNIFER: Not right now. I even play with my little leftover belly, you know? I had to lie in bed towards the end, for four hours a day to put my feet up. But I was very active through the pregnancy.
MARC: An hour before we go to the hospital, she’s decorating the bedroom downstairs, making sure that the carpet is in, rearranging the furniture. I said, “Honey, you’re going to give birth in about two hours.” And she’s like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, but that chair in the corner . . .” I said, “Baby, we have to go!”
JENNIFER: That’s my way. Even while I was doing that I was thinking, “What could I do this year to give me a great feeling of accomplishment?” I want my babies to be proud of me. “Maybe I’ll do a triathlon.”
MARC: An underachiever over here. “Oh, maybe I’ll do a triathlon because I’ve never done that before!”
JENNIFER: I want the babies to be proud of their mom.
PEOPLE: Are you actually going to do a triathlon?
JENNIFER: Yeah, probably in October. September, October.
PEOPLE: Had you not been blessed with these babies, would adoption have been an option?
JENNIFER: You know, I have three stepchildren [Arianna, 13, Cristian, 7, and Ryan, 4] too. We were really enjoying our lives, and we have Marc’s kids that we get to enjoy. They’re angels. But I would never rule out adoption.
PEOPLE: How is Marc on diaper duty?
JENNIFER: He’s the best. He puts the help that we have to shame.
PEOPLE: With the diapers, does he really say, “Here’s what you do”?
JENNIFER: Yes! I have no ego about learning. I never have.
PEOPLE: What are you still having trouble with?
MARC: The quick draw when Max needs to pee! I was like, when a little boy gets a little shiver, he might do a little squirt action. So you keep the Pamper on until you get the other one under, and then you do the little flap.
JENNIFER: I haven’t mastered that one yet.
PEOPLE: Has he squirted you?
MARC: Only her.
PEOPLE How are Max and Emme different?
JENNIFER: Emme is a total girl. You take off her clothes and she covers up, and her hands are very feminine. And she has more hair than him. And he is like a tank, with these little arms . . .
PEOPLE: Will you baptize them?
JENNIFER: Yes–for sure.
PEOPLE: Private school or public school?
JENNIFER: We haven’t decided yet. We have a few years before they have to be in school all the time. If we’re traveling a lot, then obviously I’m not going to want to be away from them. They’ll have to be homeschooled. If we’re in one place and doing something different and we can be in one place . . .
MARC: We can do both.
JENNIFER: It’s decisions that we’ll make depending on our lifestyle so that the family unit is always together. I think that is the most important thing to me.
PEOPLE: Last question: Can you put into words what you’re going through as parents to these lovely babies?
JENNIFER: I think I’ve had a pretty great life so far, but there are moments of magic in your life. And I think this is going to always be remembered by me as the most magical time.