By Jill Smolowe
November 11, 2002 12:00 PM

Around 10 p.m. on the evening of Oct. 27, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick slipped into Indochine, a favorite Manhattan haunt near their Greenwich Village brownstone, for a late-night bite. Three days earlier, at a fashion awards dinner, a very pregnant Parker had confided to Candace Bushnell, author of Sex and the City, on which Parker’s hit HBO comedy is based, that she was due on Oct. 25. Now, two days late and counting, “She was delightful as usual and radiant,” says an employee at the French-Vietnamese restaurant. “She seemed very relaxed and in good spirits.” A mere five hours later, Parker’s spirits soared higher when she gave birth at Manhattan’s Lenox Hill Hospital to a 6-lb. 8-oz. baby boy. “Mother and baby are doing well, and everyone is healthy,” her spokeswoman declared.

The birth of the couple’s first child—as PEOPLE went to press, the baby was still unnamed—has been one of the entertainment season’s most eagerly anticipated productions. Parker, 37, and Broderick, 40, upped the suspense factor by waiting along with their fans to learn the baby’s gender. “We don’t want to know what we’re having,” Parker said in early October. “We want to be surprised.” Then there’s been the “hey, girlfriend” fun of Parker’s pregnancy, an open secret shared by millions of Sex fans. During the show’s fifth season, avid viewers stopped obsessing over Carrie Bradshaw’s Manolo Blahnik footwear and focused instead on trying to spot Parker’s swelling proportions beneath her carefully unrevealing costumes.

Fans even felt a personal investment, having been deprived, as they were last summer, of the usual 13 Sex episodes when the season was shortened to just eight in order to accommodate Parker’s and costar Cynthia Nixon’s pregnancies. (Nixon’s second child, a boy, is due in December.) Parker recently pledged that when the show resumes next summer, it will be “a nice long season to make up for the short season.”

By then, perhaps, Parker will have the juggling thing down. She first encountered the demands on a working mom’s time and body last April, when morning sickness reportedly left her so enervated that Sex was forced to go on a month-long hiatus. After that uncomfortable period passed, she relaxed into her pregnancy and its attendant cravings with all the delighted indulgence of a first-time mother. One spring night, recalls Cady Huffman, 37, who costarred on Broadway in The Producers with Broderick before he bowed out last March, “Sarah wanted Popeye’s chicken, but Popeye’s had just closed. So Matthew and I drove around looking for pizza. This girl eats, man, she eats!”

Despite that appetite, Huffman predicts that Parker will snap back into shape quickly. “She didn’t gain an ounce of fat,” Huffman says. “It’s all baby. She has this great belly and nothing else.” If that’s not depressing enough for new mothers everywhere, try this: Because Parker rubbed “a lot of cocoa butter on her tummy,” Huffman also prophesies, “there won’t be any stretch marks.”

Parker did, however, notice changes in her self-image. “I’ve actually stopped looking [in a mirror], because I think it’s so odd to see a shape like this,” Parker confessed in an Oct. 16 appearance on Today. “But I didn’t realize how odd it was until my husband walked into the bathroom the other day, and he got a really stunned expression on his face. He almost blanched. And he just said, ‘My God, you’re huge.'”

Fortunately, Broderick—who, according to Huffman, was willing to “do whatever Sarah asked him to do” throughout her entire pregnancy—can be sensitive too. In June, at a time when Parker’s back ached and she often had to sleep braced by pillows, she told PEOPLE, “I have to switch sleeping positions with Matthew almost every night. Poor Matthew. He’s been great.”

Both actors have approached their child’s birth with an infectious joy, born, perhaps, of their mutually longstanding desire to become parents. In 1992, the year they began dating, Parker (the fourth of eight children) spoke of wanting to have kids; in ’97, the year they married, she sharpened her vision to “two boys and a girl.” Two years ago Broderick, the youngest of three, said, “I like kids. We’d like to have them.” Throughout his yearlong run in The Producers, he also spoke of his desire to become a dad. But while high living never posed an obstacle—unlike Carrie Bradshaw, Sarah “is a real homebody,” according to her sister-in-law Kim Parker—the couple’s work schedules did. “Matthew and I were never in the same place in the two-day window that is best for getting pregnant,” Parker told Elle in September.

Since going public with their happy news in April, the pair have been unapologetically giddy. On Oct. 3 Parker and Nixon spent two hours at a Manhattan Barnes & Noble signing Amy Sohn’s new book Sex and the City: Kiss and Tell, an insider’s guide to the making of the show. Parker, clad in a low-cut sundress that showcased her newly ample bosom, modeled her swollen belly for some two dozen photographers and engaged in pre-baby girl talk with fawning fans. “You look amazing!” gushed advertising executive Tina Allan, 34, of Long Island when she reached the front of the two-block-long line. “That’s so sweet of you,” Parker responded, then raised her hand above her belly. “But don’t look from here down. Honey, you don’t know what’s going on from here down!” To others, she confided, “I’m very excited.” Asked if she was ready for the baby, she allowed with a nervous giggle, “I think so…” Even the more reticent Broderick fessed up in a June TV interview with Entertainment Tonight, “I am excited about the baby.”

“They’re going to be fantastic parents,” says Kristin Chenoweth, 34, Broderick’s costar in a remake of The Music Man that will air on ABC in February. “The kid’ll be in stitches all the time.” During the film’s three-month shoot in Toronto, Chenoweth witnessed Broderick’s deft touch with the younger members of the cast. “Kids love him,” she says. “He makes them laugh. He treats them like little adults.”

Broderick has had ample practice with his two nieces and two nephews, who range in age from 5 to 16. His sister Janet Broderick Kraft, 46, an Episcopal minister who officiated at the couple’s wedding, recalls how, when she was trying to decide between two nursery schools for her 5-year-old daughter Hannah, Matthew took the time to visit both before weighing in with an opinion. “He is so loving with the children and so caring when the kids are sick,” she told PEOPLE in April. “He loves to play with them.”

As for Parker, if her pregnancy is any guide, her baby will have to keep up with her—not the other way around. “She is the most fantastic pregnant woman I’ve ever seen,” says Huffman. “She’s going to be a highly energetic mother.” To illustrate, Huffman trots out the Labor Day party that the celebrity duo hosted at their new house in Bridgehampton, N.Y. While Broderick flipped burgers, Parker attended to their eight guests. “She was hugely pregnant and didn’t need any help,” says Huffman. “She had the energy of five people.”

Like her husband, Parker has an easy, relaxed manner around children. “She’s always loved kids, and kids react,” her oldest brother, Pippin Parker, 42, said shortly after the couple went public with their pregnancy. “She’ll be down on all fours, rolling around the floor with her kid, for sure. She’ll be endlessly entertained by and entertaining to her baby.”

Since the July wrap of both Sex and The Music Man, Parker and Broderick have kicked back a bit career-wise and turned their attentions to preparing for the baby’s arrival. That month they packed up their Greenwich Village townhouse and moved to their new brownstone in another part of the area. Over the summer the two hard-core New Yorkers (Broderick’s a native; Parker moved to the area from Ohio at age 9) also enjoyed their Hamptons home. Clad in her standard pregnancy attire—a tiny T-shirt and hot pants or sweatpants—Parker cycled around town with Broderick. At a local supermarket they shopped side by side. “They were very down to earth,” says clerk Elaine Spinelli. “They don’t have any celebrity attitude, unlike some stars who come in here looking to hide under their hats.” After Sex costar Kristin Davis stopped by (leaving behind an orange-and-yellow sundress for Parker), the couple visited Calypso, a shop in nearby East Hampton, to swap the dress for its purple-and-pink tie-dyed twin. Spotting actress Ellen Barkin, they settled into chairs and schmoozed with her for 20 minutes.

The days of leisurely chats have now ended. Baby is officially on board—and the family is ready. “We already have a lot of stuff,” says Broderick. The shiny new clutter includes a $2,100 Silver Stream baby carriage, which caught Parker’s eye during a Sex shoot. “She fell in love with it and said, ‘I want it,'” says a Silver Cross rep. Parker was sent her very own black buggy in June, courtesy of the 125-year-old British company, which once upon a time provided Prince Charles’s stroller. Two months later a $699 Dutch-produced Bugaboo Frog Stroller was used in another Sex episode. The same story: After Parker expressed interest, the company, which does not yet retail through stores, made her a gift of a shiny new black stroller.

Meanwhile, friends and family have been adding to the baby booty. Though Parker and Broderick have not registered at any New York City shops, Z’Baby Company, a tony baby store with branches on both the Upper East and Upper West Sides, has already logged a trove of purchases, including a rocking dragon and leopard-print booties. Z’Baby personal shopper Tara Rowntree said in October, “People have been calling up, saying, ‘We need a gift for Sarah Jessica!'”

While some friends were waiting to learn the sex of this city baby, others chose gifts without an eye to what the stork might bring. At Parker’s last public outing, on Oct. 24, a fashion awards dinner at which she was introduced as the “thespian and patron saint of shoe-aholics,” honoree Blahnik, her favorite footwear designer, promised “a lot of gifts for her when the baby comes.” Such as? “I’ll surprise her,” he said. “Maybe some shoes—who knows?”

Sex costar Kim Cattrall says she has been stalling on the gift front because she cannot think of something “this baby doesn’t already have.” But when she recently took off for Europe, she had Parker on her mind. “I’m going to do some intense shopping there and try to find something that is unique,” she says. Not that it really matters, she adds with the fervent well-wishing sweetness that Parker and Broderick seem to inspire in all their friends. “The baby already has the most important thing of all: a great mom and dad.”

Jill Smolowe

Natasha Stoynoff, Liza Hamm, Rebecca Paley, Elizabeth McNeil, Rachel Felder and Sharon Cotliar in New York City, Diane Herbst in East Hampton and Nancy Matsumoto in Toronto