Nicole “Coco” Austin is ready for motherhood.
“I can’t say how much I loved being pregnant, and I’m still pregnant,” Austin tells PEOPLE.
“I joke that, I never thought I would feel this way because me being into fitness my whole life, I didn’t know how my body was going to react. I was feeling like, ‘Oh man, how am I going to like blowing up like a whale and not liking my body?’ “
“When you become pregnant you totally honor the fact that you’re pregnant and you love the bump, and you love the feeling of something growing inside of you. You could care less about your body,” she explains. “I say to this day, I could be pregnant for the rest of my life. Believe it or not.”
And the model and TV host, 36, shares she’s had a pretty smooth pregnancy.
“I haven’t gone through anything major. I didn’t get morning sickness and no nauseated feeling,” she says.
As for cravings, Austin has “craved the healthy stuff” like fruit, especially watermelon.
“It wasn’t until recently where I’ve started getting more of a sweet tooth,” she admits. “Which is odd for me because I don’t really like sweets all that much.”
She adds, “I might have a bite or two of ice cream every now and then, but I’m really not into sweets. Now, every single night I want something sweet in my mouth.”
The mama-to-be’s go-to? Frozen yogurt. “That’s on the top of my list,” Austin, who adds ice cream is another favorite, says. “I guess that’s still healthy and I like little mini muffins — strange things like that — [and] cookies!”
But even with her sudden sweet tooth, Austin says her husband hasn’t had to go out on any craving-runs for her.
“I think if you ask him, I’ve been a pretty awesome pregnant woman around him,” she says. “I haven’t had any new problems since I’ve been [pregnant].”
She adds: “I’ve been a little bit more sensitive. Like when I watch something on TV, I start crying and I’ve never done that before.”
As for what kind of parents the pair will be, Austin admits, “I think I’m going to be the hardcore one.”
“I’m going to be very protective. I think he’s going to be the cool parent, believe it or not, because he’s like that already with his kids,” she explains. “He wants to be their friend and be cool. I’m more like the ‘put your foot down and be a parent type.’ “
Still, Austin says, the rapper turned actor and TV host will be a very hands-on dad.
“I believe since his children didn’t really live in the same house as him because the parents were separated [and] this is the first time they’ll actually live in the same house, he’ll be putting the father-ness on her,” Austin says of Ice-T, who’s already dad to Tracy and Letesha, his two adult children from a previous relationship.
But one aspect of parenting Austin doesn’t mind if the SVU: Law & Order actor does or not? Diaper duty.
“I have OCD. I love cleaning so I’m not even planning on him having to change one diaper,” she explains. “That’s not even a big issue to me. As a matter of fact, since I’m OCD I’ll probably be changing the diaper more than I should.”
And the mommy-to-be has been busy preparing the couple’s home for their baby girl‘s arrival.
“We know she’s going to be in our room for the first year [so] we’ve got a bassinet for her right next to [our] bed,” Austin says. “But we’re not really putting her nursery together until she’s older.”
She adds: “We definitely want her by us and … we have one guest room, and a lot of family stay with us, so we’re not turning our guest room into her room until the last minute.”
Not-to-mention, “she’s got all kinds of toys around the whole house,” Austin shares. “She doesn’t really need her toys in a room, the toys will be spread everywhere.”
But Austin says, that she’s already completed one very essential part of Chanel’s nursery: her closet.
“I feel like that was the most important thing, to have her closet set up [and] to have her shoes in order because she’s a shoe freak already,” Austin jokes with a laugh. “She has a vast collection of shoes. It’s pretty amazing.”
“I just think Mom has a nice closet, why not Chanel have a nice closet?” Austin explains. “She’s already got her little ready-made heels [to be] walked out the hospital with.”
“People get on me because I’ve posted [about them] before — they’re called Pee Wee Pumps — and they’re little heels for babies. People are like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe you would put that on your child.’ “
But rest assured, Austin explains, “they’re socks that look like heels.”
“They’re not actually shoes and it’s more for [the] funniness,” she says with a laugh.
Along with a ready-to-go closet, Austin says she and Ice-T came up with baby Chanel’s name 10 years ago.
“Ice wanted to name her ‘Little Coco’ because that’s what he did for his son ‘Little Ice’ and I was like, ‘No. I don’t want to do that because I want her to have her own identity,’ ” she explains. “I don’t want people to look at her and go, ‘Okay, you have to be like your mom because the names are the same.’ I just don’t believe in that.”
She continues: “He understood that [and] he suggested Chanel. He was like, ‘Like Coco Chanel so it’s not Coco, but it’s close to Coco.’ Then her middle name can be Nicole, which is my real name.”
“So really it’s from the origin of my real name, but it’s not blatantly in your face. We love Chanel, it’s a beautiful name.”
But Austin jokes that the couple “might be making a little monster.”
“She [has] a designer name and we’re giving her designer things so I don’t want to turn her into a bratty child,” Austin says. “I’m going to constantly put in her head that you’re living the nice life [and] there’s some people that don’t live the nice life — [I’ll] have to explain it to her as she goes.”
Austin also already has a plan on how she’ll introduce her beloved dogs — Spartacus and Maximus — to the new addition.
“When I’m in the hospital, I’m going to give Ice a blanket or hat,” the mommy-to-be explains. “So they smell the baby before the baby comes home.”
Once Chanel is home, Austin believes her two English bulldogs are “going to be little protectors.”
“The only thing I might be concerned about is my small one,” she says. “[Maximus] is still a puppy and he likes to jump so I just have to teach him not to jump, [but] I don’t think that’s going to be a big deal.”
“For the most part, they’re always around my family who has a lot of kids, so they’re always around kids anyway.”
And Austin admits that trying to balance work while also preparing for motherhood has “actually been a little hard.”
“I thought as soon as people thought that I was pregnant, people wouldn’t really want to ask me for particular jobs because they mainly use me — and I hate to say [it] — for my body,” she explains. “I thought, well I’m going to give it a break and really step in a hole for four or five months, but that’s completely the opposite.”
Austin adds: “Everybody wants to see the bump so my work level went up instead of down. I was trying to take a chill pill for a while, but there’s so many people that want to hire you for something because they want to see you pregnant or they want to do something pregnancy-wise with you.”
But Austin says she’s “all for it because [she’s] documenting this process with Chanel” on her new baby blog as well.
As for everyone’s reaction to the size of her baby bump, she says, “It just boggles my mind.”
Austin — who had to keep the baby news under wraps for five months so the couple could reveal they were expecting on their talk show Ice and Coco — says the announcement “was perfect timing, but then everybody started picking me apart.”
“They were putting me under a microscope and then the comments started flowing,” she shares. ” ‘How is it possible she doesn’t have a bump at six months? How doesn’t she have a bump at seven months?’ It was like I was constantly defending my bump because here I was second-guessing it too.”
“I ran to my doctor … asking her, ‘Is this a problem?’ And she was like, ‘No. If you’re an athlete and if you have strong abs — and if you’ve been an athlete especially your whole life — it takes longer for your abs to expand,’ ” Austin explains. “I didn’t know this.”
“So, I was like, ‘Oh, that makes sense if you already have loose stomach muscles, it’s going to pop out faster as opposed to strong stomach muscles,’ ” Austin, who adds she comes “from a background of fitness competitions [and has] been in fitness [her] whole life,” says. “It’s just taking longer for my bump to expand.”
But one comment Austin says she wasn’t too happy about was that she had a surrogate.
“I’m going through pregnancy in my own way and I’m carrying small,” Austin says. “I’m carrying the way my body wants to carry it and I’m not using anybody else … So I got irritated — and I think that was the reason why I took a picture of myself when I finally had a little bump in a bikini.”
She adds: “I was offended for a while because I felt like I had something to prove, but now I don’t have anything to prove because literally the night eight months came, I went to sleep and I woke up with a bump.”
“That’s how fast it happened. It didn’t happen over a certain period of time. It literally happened over night and I couldn’t believe it.”
And Austin says she’s “so excited” for her baby bump.
“It’s not like I didn’t want it,” she shares. “It’s not like I was trying to do sit-ups or something to get rid of the bump — I mean I knew I was pregnant. I just wanted it to happen naturally and finally it did.”
“So I cherish it every single day. I say this in a funny way that I feel like I got gypped a little though because I’ve been wanting to feel a bump for a long time [and] I got it at the end.”
As for fitness during her pregnancy, Austin says, she strictly walks on the treadmill.
“I was doing yoga in the beginning and the doctor said to be careful of my activity because she’s already sitting very low, and they didn’t want to promote labor,” she explains. “So they said to be very careful on the activity [I] do. Well, when they told me that, I went to no fitness.”
“I stopped my weight-lifting, which I’ve been missing because that’s what I was always into … but I had to put that aside, which I’m okay with.”
And Austin, who says she typically wears tight outfits, has opted for a different pregnancy style.
“My go-to clothes are leggings and a flowy top,” Austin, who adds she hasn’t worn any maternity clothes, shares. “A lot of people like to promote the bump and they wear really tight clothes, but I haven’t been wanting to wear tight clothes.”
“This is the one time in my life where I don’t need to wear tight [clothing],” she explains. “I do it on a regular basis, that’s who Coco is … [so] I’ve worn clothes that are extra big over my bump … it’s so opposite of what I traditionally wear and … I’m totally into it!”
And even though Austin is enjoying every moment of her pregnancy, she admits she’s looking forward to this “chapter in [her] life” and finally becoming a mom.
“I think it’s time. I think I’m in that stage in my life where I need this,” she shares. “I’ve done everything in my life pretty much career-wise and … I’ve been in a happy marriage for 15 years. It feels really, really good.”
“We planned it. We organized it out,” she adds. “A lot of people don’t plan families, Ice and I planned it, and it’s time for me to make this big jump.”
“I can’t wait to have a little character running around the house. It’s just meant to be.”
— Mariah Haas