“I looooooove you!” Britney Spears hardly notices the team of assorted stylists fussing about her amid a People photo shoot. Instead, she snuggles in closer to her 11-month-old son Sean Preston. “I loooooooove you!” she drawls again. Sean Preston dissolves into giggles. “He’s about to start walking,” says his proud mom. “He’ll take three or four steps and once he realizes he’s doing it, I think he scares himself, and he’ll just plop down. It doesn’t help that I’m going, ‘aaaah!'”
Of course, the little guy can always hitch a ride on his favorite perch – Mom’s left hip, atop her growing belly. “He does have a spot,” says Spears, looking sleek in maternity jeans and a sheer white blouse. “It is just now starting to get a little tiring, holding him, but the whole pregnancy I’ve done it a lot because he’s very attached. It makes me feel needed and wanted, so I like it too.” Needed, wanted, exhausted, excited: Yes, Spears is clearly in the inner circle of the mommy zone – a place where stretch marks are a badge of honor, the Wiggles are in constant play, and foot rubs are a must. At eight months pregnant – she says she’s due “in a month” – the 24-year-old singer is about to become a mom for the second time – “in one year. And no, this pregnancy wasn’t planned. “It just kind of happened,” says Spears, who insists she and husband Kevin Federline, 28, don’t know the baby’s gender. Either way, she says with a laugh, “I’m going to wait a while for the next [one]!”
The timing of baby No. 2’s arrival may have been a surprise, but expanding her brood was never a question for the domesticity-craving pop star. Sean Preston “is going to be traveling on the road with me, so I think it will be good to have [a sibling] there with him,” says Spears, who has dodged the morning sickness that plagued her the first go-round. As for the prospect of double diaper duty, she is taking it in stride using her mom Lynne’s advice: “It’s one day at a time.”
With her upbeat outlook – childbirth “will be a piece of cake,” she says cheerfully of her scheduled C-section, the same as her first – this is a more relaxed, less visibly stressed Britney than the one who broke down in tears during a June interview with Matt Lauer. Of the media scrutiny following that appearance, she says, “They’ve said some hurtful things, but you just try to ignore it and keep moving on.” Now in the home stretch, she is relying on support from her husband (“He’s awesome. He rubs my feet. I’m like, ‘Rub my damn feet, they hurt!'”) and Sean Preston’s grandmothers. “It’s really good because Kevin’s mom is here now, so she’s able to help. My mom is home [in Louisiana] but she’ll be back next week.” Having her family around will be even more important when Spears – whose last original album was 2003’s In the Zone – makes her postponed return to the music world with a new album due next year that she describes as “cooler than ever – fun, upbeat and sexy.” “I’ve been going to the studio lately, and we’ve been trying out different nannies, but it’s hard,” she says of leaving Sean Preston. “It’s personal because this person is with your child every day. I’m so torn right now.”
She’s far less conflicted about nearing the end of her back-to-back pregnancies. Having been in one trimester or another for nearly 18 months out of the past 21, “I feel like I’ve been pregnant for 10 years!” she says. The performer who was once renowned for her 3,000-sit-ups-a-week abs can’t wait to get back to fighting form. “I’m so excited to really be able to sweat like I used to – now I can’t because you’re always kind of scared, just kind of protective,” she says. As soon as her doctor gives the okay – likely six weeks after her C-section – Spears plans to hit the gym daily and stick to a low-carb diet: “I’m definitely going to start working out in a huge way.” For now, though, she is content to indulge her pregnancy cravings. With Sean Preston it was pickles and ice cream; this time “ice is the main thing. Crunching ice and chocolate – oh my God,” she says. “I’ll get up in the middle of the night and I’ll get a Hershey’s bar, the real big ones, and I’ll put it in the microwave and melt it and eat it. It sounds disgusting, but it’s so satisfying.” How much has she gained? “This one I think probably 40 lbs. With Sean, I gained so much. So much,” says Spears, cringing. “Probably like 50, 60! Agghhh!”
By now life with “Poo-Poo,” as she affectionately calls her son (“Boo-Boo, Poo-Poo, it changes all the time”), has settled into a happy routine. On a typical day at their Malibu home, “he gets up around 7 or 8, and we’ll play in his room and then go for a walk,” says Spears. “My backyard is like Disneyland! I have the kiddie playhouse and sand box, the pool and his miniature pool.” Sean Preston’s favorites? “He loves books. He likes choo-choo trains, anything with wheels. He loves Baby Einstein and the Wiggles.” At bedtime, around 10, “sometimes I’ll sing to him,” she says. “I make up stories, too.” The milestones are coming fast. “He’ll say, ‘Mama, dada, nana, baba,'” says Spears. “He makes faces like a big boy. It’s that guy thing. He looks just like Kevin when Kevin was little, but he looks like my baby pictures, too. His mom says that when Kevin was little, she couldn’t leave his side, and he’s the same way. Like the fact that he’s not crying right now is crazy,” says Spears, motioning to the nearby room, where Kevin’s mom is looking after Sean Preston.
Like many second-time mothers, she worries about having enough love to go around. “That’s the thing when I got pregnant again – I was like, ‘Oh my God, how can I love something as much [as Sean Preston]?'” she says. “I’ve seen a bunch of women do it. I went home to Louisiana to visit my cousin, and she had a friend who had two little girls born back-to-back. I was like, ‘How are you doing that?’ And she said, ‘You just manage.'” Sean Preston and the new baby “are going to be so close together, it’s going to be weird,” she says with a smile. “But I love it.”
• By Michelle Tauber. Julie Jordan in Los Angeles