By Alex Tresniowski
January 21, 2008 12:00 PM

For a while there, it was the national sport of Australia: bump-hunting. Wasn’t that Nicole Kidman buying baby toys in the Sydney children’s shop Circus Bizircus Dec. 15? You bet. And didn’t she politely decline a glass of champagne the next day at the Sydney premiere of The Golden Compass? Absolutely. But then again, wasn’t that also her at a Christmas party in her Darling Point home wearing a curve-hugging white number in which, says one guest, “she didn’t look remotely pregnant”? So does the Academy Award winner have a baby on board or what?

Get ready for a little wonder from Down Under—Kidman and her husband, country star Keith Urban, 40, are indeed expecting. It’s been a painfully long journey for the 40-year-old actress, who suffered two failed pregnancies during her decade-long marriage to Tom Cruise (the couple adopted two children, Connor, now 12, and Bella, 15). But on Jan. 7 Kidman confirmed she is pregnant, and has told friends and family that she’s three months along. “Nicole is over the moon,” says a close pal. “You can’t tell she’s pregnant because she’s still so svelte. She looks amazing. We’re all so happy for her!” Country singer LeAnn Rimes, who is friends with the couple, told PEOPLE the day after Kidman’s announcement, “I just texted Keith this morning to say congratulations. They’ve both really wanted this for a long time and it’s the perfect time in their lives. Nicole is such a nurturing person and she’s already got mom experience, so I think she’s completely prepared. They are going to be great parents!”

The pregnancy comes at an ideal moment: Kidman has increasingly talked of stepping away from Hollywood and beginning a new chapter in her life, one set in both Tennessee and her beloved Australia. Just last month she wrapped production on the romantic epic Australia, costarring fellow Aussie Hugh Jackman. But rather than heading to Berlin for another planned project, The Reader, Kidman begged off the movie and stayed put in Sydney (filmmakers tapped Kate Winslet to step in). Kidman still spends quality time in Los Angeles with Bella and Connor (see box), and last year she and Urban bought a 36-acre farm near Leipers Fork, Tenn., 40 minutes outside Urban’s career home base in Nashville. But friends say the couple will likely have the baby in Sydney, close to her parents and sister Antonia, 37, who last year gave birth to her fourth child, daughter Sybella. “This being their first child together at this new stage of her life,” says Rimes, “is just such a romantic thing.”

Motherhood has long been at the center of Kidman’s life. Her 1990 marriage to Cruise made her a global celebrity, but even then having a family was a cherished goal. “From the minute Tom and I were married, I wanted to have babies,” Kidman told Vanity Fair in September. But early on she suffered an ectopic pregnancy (in which the fertilized egg attaches itself outside the uterus and is unable to be carried to term) and a decade later had a miscarriage during the couple’s painful 2001 split (for more on Cruise, see page 19). Kidman dated several men after the divorce, most notably musician Lenny Kravitz, before meeting Urban at a 2005 tribute in Los Angeles—a moment both have said felt fated. “It was just a divine coming together,” Urban told PEOPLE in 2007. “We both met each other exactly at the right time.”

Their 2006 wedding was out of a storybook: 1,000 flickering candles inside a stone chapel near Sydney and “the longest, most passionate kiss” ever, according to one of the 220 guests. But just four months later their love was tested, and Kidman was shocked, when Urban suffered a relapse. With her support, he checked into the Betty Ford Center for 90 days to treat his alcohol abuse. She stayed by his side, and the two seemed happier than ever after his stint in rehab. For Kidman, only one thing could make it better. “I think I would be very sad if I wasn’t able to have a baby,” she told Vanity Fair. “Keith knows I want one, and he has been getting there slowly.” But not too slowly. That same month, Urban told PEOPLE, “I would love to. I mean, we’re not not trying. If that comes, that will be a real blessing.” Now that Kidman is expecting, those who know the couple are sending their congratulations. “I’m thrilled for her,” says George Clooney, her costar in 1997’s The Peacemaker. “She’ll be a perfect mother. And a tall mother.”

Last year Kidman and Urban got a preview of what’s ahead. They spent a perfect Sunday afternoon with Kidman’s family aboard a yacht in Sydney Harbour, not far from where they were married. The couple enjoyed the sea air—and cuddling their infant niece. “They were looking at the baby as if to say they wanted one of their own,” says an observer. “They were looking into each other’s eyes, smiling.” If all goes well, more such magical moments await. For Kidman, someone who has braved her share of rough spots in the road, this is finally a bump she can celebrate.