By Kate Coyne
November 16, 2009 12:00 PM

CHARLOTTE GRACE PRINZE

Sept. 19, 2009

Sarah Michelle Gellar is feeling pretty proud of herself. Just six weeks ago, she and her husband, Freddie Prinze Jr., welcomed their first child, daughter Charlotte Grace. But that little bundle, currently napping upstairs in their serene and spacious Los Angeles home, is merely one of Gellar’s recent accomplishments. “Honey, guess what I did today?” she asks Prinze as she walks into the living room. “Let’s see,” says Prinze. “Did you . . . turn lead into gold?” Gellar mock pouts and replies, “Okay, guess what I did in addition to that? I remembered to eat lunch!” Prinze smiles. “Honey, for you, turning lead into gold would probably have been easier,” he says. Though she is struggling with a case of mommy brain–“I forget everything now unless I write it down,” she says–the star is savoring every exhausting moment. Gellar, 32, was a teen icon from 1997 to 2003 thanks to her title role in the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and has since become a scream queen in horror films ranging from I Know What You Did Last Summer (during which she met Prinze) to The Grudge. Prinze Jr., 33, is best known for his work in teen flicks including She’s All That and will be a regular on the new season of 24. But their careers now take a backseat to their new roles as mom and dad. Married since 2002, the couple sat down and, in between playful banter, revealed why they waited so long to add to their family and how Charlotte has already changed them completely.

What was Charlotte’s delivery like?

SMG: I went into labor at the gym! I didn’t really believe it. I just felt a little nauseous, and my trainer said to me, “Um, isn’t your baby coming next week? Maybe it’s time now?” I said “Oh, no, I doubt it. . . .” You see on TV these scenes where the women are threatening to kill their husbands because the pain is so overwhelming. I went home, and I said to Freddie, “This can’t be labor.” He kept saying, “Sarah, are you sure?”

FPJ: She was like, “No, I think it’s the spicy dinner I had. I’m sure I’ll be fine.” Then later that night, she was like, “Okay, I think I might be in labor, but you should get some more sleep.” She was very calm, very centered, very prepared. I’m telling you, this girl is like Gandhi. She doesn’t let anything rattle her.

SMG: Here’s the other thing about the delivery: The epidural is fantastic. No one tells you that with the epidural, there just is no pain. It was a very peaceful delivery.

FPJ: It was, like, three pushes, and the baby was out.

SMG: But it was incredible. I felt like, “Oh my God, that’s mine!” I still almost can’t believe that just a few weeks ago, she was inside of me. Every day I look at her and I am in awe.

What kind of baby is Charlotte?

SMG: She smiles all day long, and she is loving and cuddly. And now people are really going to hate me: She doesn’t cry. She will just go, “Wah.” Once.

FPJ: Really. “Wah.” That’s it. Like she just wants to get your attention for a minute.

How has parenthood changed you?

SMG: Well, as Freddie can tell you, I’m definitely a type A personality. I’m a New Yorker, so I’m more high-strung than most. But everything about becoming a mother just centered me.

FPJ: Sarah was a little nuts before. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the nuts that she was. But now she’s got it all under control. Impressive is the only word.

You have been married for seven years–an eternity by Hollywood standards. Why did you wait so long before having a child?

SMG: Becoming a parent is the most selfless act, and you need to be at a point in your life where you can give up anything and everything for a child. I don’t know if you know how to do that when you’re in your 20s. You’re still growing and figuring out who you are. For us, we wanted to make sure that we could give our child everything that we had. When we got married I was still just 26; I met Freddie when I was 23 years old. That is really young. The solid base that we have now, you don’t have that when you have been with someone for two years. We have already weathered all these storms. We know this is it; we are a team.

FPJ: I’m so happy we didn’t have kids in our 20s–I just didn’t know a thing. You have so much more patience in your 30s, and I feel like I appreciate this so much more. In your 20s, you’re still waking up and going, “Oh my God, I can’t believe I did that last night.” You’ve got to wait until you stop having those nights. It’s so easy to be selfish in your 20s and not want to sacrifice. But now, I know I would do anything for Charlotte.

Freddie, having lost your father at such a young age [comedian Freddie Prinze committed suicide before Freddie Jr. was a year old], what did becoming a father mean to you?

FPJ: I always appreciated that connection between a parent and a kid because I yearned for it so much. Growing up, I wanted a father, and because I’ve had this idea of what a father should be, it’s exciting to finally have the opportunity to try and be that guy, to see if I can actually do it.

How did you feel when you learned you were having a little girl?

SMG: We found out on my birthday, actually. I was stunned, because for some reason I had been convinced she was going to be a boy. I said to Freddie, “Thanks for the dress-up doll for my birthday!” As an only child raised by my mom, the mother-daughter bond is all I know. Now my mom comes over every Sunday morning, and to see the three generations of women, it’s pretty spectacular.

FPJ: A lot of guys want sons, but that would have been a lot of pressure. I know throughout my childhood, there were many times I couldn’t stand being a “Jr.” I wouldn’t want anybody else to go through that. If we’d had a boy, he wouldn’t have been another Freddie Prinze. To have a girl, I almost felt like, “Whew!” I know how to do that. I know how to protect her and keep her away from the kind of kid I was. I know I can shower a little girl with love. A little boy comes home one day, and he needs to learn how to fight. That’s all macho stuff, dealing with ego and pride, and I don’t want to have to deal with that. I’d rather deal with a broken heart than a broken nose.

How did you choose the name Charlotte?

SMG: We both wanted something that was traditional, but that you didn’t hear every day. I was one of four Sarahs in my class growing up. It was, for us, about looking for something that fit into that classical vein but was still special.

FPJ: It’s almost weirder for her to be called Charlotte. She’s going to be in school with a Magic Appleseed, or something, and it’s going to be weird that she’s Charlotte. At least we kept it to two names: Charlotte Grace. The Latinos were doing the five-name thing long before celebrities made it cool. We’ve been doing things like Antonio Ricardo Luis Raoul Hector Rivera for a while now. But Charlotte, hopefully, that’s a name that no one will have any reason to talk about.

Sarah, you already seem to be in amazing shape.

SMG: There is pressure to bounce back quickly. People are looking at you to see how it goes. But I was in really good shape during my pregnancy, exercising throughout, which made a big difference. They say that breast-feeding helps, and that’s true, and I push her in her stroller for long walks in the hills around our house. High-waisted jeans are also back in style, which I truly appreciate.

What are your hopes for your daughter’s future?

FPJ: As she grows up, I just want to make sure she experiences a lot. If she wants to be an accountant or a singer or an astronaut, I want to make sure she gets every shot to do it. I want her to be a well-rounded kid, who will travel and see other countries and understand there are other ways to do things. I want her to know that there is no such thing as an entertainment emergency, even though out here, people seem to think we have them every day. We’ve got a lot of love here, and for me that’s what family is all about. It feels good. I feel lucky. I keep saying it’s been “rewarding,” but maybe that’s not the word. Maybe it’s “lucky.”

SMG: We’re just taking it one day at a time. I’m such a cliche right now, but she is the greatest gift that anyone has ever given me, and I will spend the rest of my life doing everything I can to do right by her. What still overwhelms me is the reality that we created this life together, and now we are responsible for her. She is here; she is ours. I’d say that makes us pretty lucky, indeed.

FOR MORE, GO TO PEOPLE.COM/SARAH_MICHELLE_GELLAR

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