Kimberly Caldwell is keeping it real.
While the new mom and her soccer player husband Jordan Harvey are soaking up all the joys of parenthood, the American Idol alum also isn’t afraid to tell it how it is.
“I feel like everybody sugarcoats it because they don’t want to sound ungrateful,” the singer, 33, tells PEOPLE. “We just couldn’t be happier, but at the same time, it really is a challenge. But it’s the greatest challenge and we’re up for it!”
In the last few weeks, the couple’s daughter Harlow Monroe has already gained over a pound (“We’re so proud!” says Caldwell) and attended her first soccer game (“She was the best baby ever,” she adds).
In a refreshingly candid chat with PEOPLE, Caldwell opens up about her “wild” labor and delivery, choosing their baby girl’s unique name and growing closer with her husband.
PEOPLE: Tell us a little bit about how you decided on the name Harlow Monroe.
Kimberly: We had been together for over five years before we got married on New Year’s Eve. We had been talking about starting a family for a very long time, so we had a list of names we’d thought about for boys and names we’d thought about for girls. When we found out we were pregnant and we found out she was a girl — we found out at 12 weeks — nothing that we had written felt right and so we went back to the drawing board.
My husband one day researched and looked up names and had a list. One night over dinner, we were talking and thinking and Harlow came up, and I thought, “That is such a beautiful name.”
I really liked the name Monroe, but he thought it was just a little too Hollywood for a first name. On the drive home, he said, “Well, I really like Harlow.” And I said, “Me too,” and both of us said, “Well, how about Harlow Monroe?” We had that moment where we looked into each other’s eyes and we were like, oh my God, that’s totally her and kind of teared up. That’s when we knew for sure that’s who she was.
PEOPLE: Is she living up to her name? It’s very unique and special.
Kimberly: Yeah, for sure. I was supposedly a horrible baby so I was like, okay, here goes! She’s probably going to be like me — it’ll be my payback. [But] she really has been the best baby. The sweetest baby.
Obviously there’s the sleepless nights and she’s still a newborn, so it’s still chaotic. There’s still poop and spit up everywhere, but just in general she’s such a sweetheart and steals our hearts every day.
PEOPLE: Do you think Harlow resembles you or your husband?
Kimberly: She has my husband’s eyes, just the way they’re set. She’s definitely Daddy’s girl, but she’s got a cute little round nose which I think is my nose. She’ll have a little bit of both of us. We’re both very round people and she’s very round even though she’s so tiny.
I got pretty big in my pregnancy so I was like, I’m going to have the plumpest baby, I’m so excited to have this chubby, chunky baby and then she came out like 5 lbs. I was like, where’s the rest of her?!
She’s just been eating like a champ. I’ve been breastfeeding and she’s been latching great. She’s finally getting a little chubbier and we get super excited about every ounce that she gains when we weigh her.
PEOPLE: Does she already have Daddy wrapped around her finger?
Kimberly: Oh yeah. He’s not really a crier and even before she was born, I mean every commercial that had a baby or a dad or movie, he has been a disaster every time I look up. I’m a really emotional person so I cry for everything and he’s not like that. Every time I look at him, he’s tearing up. It’s pretty much over.
PEOPLE: There’s nothing more attractive than a dad with a little baby!
Kimberly: I know, he’s just so patient with her. My husband plays for the Vancouver Whitecaps, the soccer team. She had given me a crazy long night the night before [a match], but she was the best baby ever at the game. She slept through the entire thing and didn’t cry at all. I actually took her out on the field and he did a walk around with her with the team and all the fans so everyone got to see her. She was just so sweet. You could see he’s beaming.
He’s so proud of his girl. He has four little nieces so she’s the fifth girl and he definitely knows how to treat a lady.
PEOPLE: Are you already singing to her?
Kimberly: Yeah, we actually learned “Life of the Party” by Shawn Mendes because my husband plays guitar so we’ve been singing that to her acoustically. I’ve been humming to her a lot, too. She really does respond to us talking to her and we’ve already gotten grins and smiles — it makes all the long nights and laying in vomit and puke totally worth it.
PEOPLE: Do you remember the first time she smiled?
Kimberly: There was one time he got a really good grin from her and of course we don’t know whether it’s gas or a grin, but we don’t really care either way. Daddy got the first grin.
I was on FaceTime with my mom a couple days ago and she was talking to her and she got a pretty big grin so now we’ve gotten a couple of them. She’s starting to respond when we tickle her and play with her. Your heart just explodes every time she does anything.
PEOPLE: Have each of you found something you’re really great at when it comes to taking care of Harlow?
Kimberly: He’s a really good burper. I even forget sometimes. I always hand her off to him after I’m done feeding her, but people have always called me the baby whisperer. If anybody asked me when I was a little girl, what do you want to be when you grow up — aside from a professional singer — I would say a mom. There are pictures of me when I’m little with a doll in my hand and I’m playing mommy to the doll, so it’s just been something I’ve dreamed of my entire life.
I feel like I have a natural nurturing motherly sense and vibe. It’s been nice to be able to give that to her and be able to comfort her. I feel like I’m really good at calming her down and making her feel safe. My husband’s really good at the burping.
PEOPLE: Has anything about motherhood completely surprised you?
Kimberly: It’s such a challenge. It’s such a struggle. As great as a baby she is and as calm as she is and as sweet as she is, it’s like, no matter what, you’ll never get caught up with your sleep. You question everything you do, but you try to love her 1,000 percent and hope that’s enough and try to feed her as much as you can and hope she’s growing.
I feel like everybody sugar coats it because they don’t want to sound ungrateful because we just couldn’t be happier, but at the same time, it really is a challenge. But it’s the greatest challenge and we’re up for it.
PEOPLE: Do you and your husband make a good team?
Kimberly: For sure. He doesn’t mind waking up in the middle of the night helping me change poopy diapers and giving me an hour here or there, letting me close my eyes. Once you have this baby, you’re so connected and I feel like I don’t even want to have her leave the room. I miss her. I truly, truly, desperately miss her when she’s not in the room with me. She’s pretty amazing.
PEOPLE: What kind of parents do you think you’ll be?
Kimberly: I know so many people have seen us out and they’re like, “Oh, you’re already out with the baby!” I think we’re really trying not to whisper around her and be as normal as possible, which is a completely different version of normal. We’ve gone out to eat with our friends and we took her to the soccer game. We’re getting her dressed up and we’re all being superheroes for Halloween and we’re gonna take her to the pumpkin patch.
We’re gonna try to embrace being a family. We’re so excited about the fact that we’ve created this family. I’m so ready to heal and to really get out there so that we can go full force, start doing activities and introduce her to all the wonderful things that life has to offer. We won’t just be sitting around.
PEOPLE: Is parenthood bringing you closer together as a couple?
Kimberly: For sure. The labor and delivery was absolutely so wild. I had wanted my mom and my sister and his mom [there]. I had started contractions, but you always hear about the false contractions so I didn’t want to freak everybody out. All of a sudden, they came on really strong.
We went to the hospital and they sent me home because I wasn’t dilated enough and that’s just how things work in Canada. In the parking lot my water broke and we went right back in and they were like, “Everyone kept saying you’re a first time mom, you’re going to be in this stage of labor for a long time.” I dilated to a 10 and they gave me an epidural, which did not work, and four hours later she was born.
It was really, really intense. I totally planned on an epidural so my husband was there for me for just the agony of labor and delivery. [He] let me have him in a choke hold around his neck and looked me in the eye every moment and was just so there for me. He really was my hero that day and as much as I wanted my families to be there, it was something that I was so glad in the end will always be our thing. It definitely brought us closer together. It was us against the world in those few hours.
When she came out, I blacked out for most of it but the doctor told me I actually reached down and pulled her out. We’d been up all night with contractions. He went and played a game that night, a home game. Not 20 minutes of sleep. Not one minute of sleep. They did awesome that night!
While I’m in the hospital, me and the baby and the family were all watching Daddy on TV play. He played on pure adrenaline. He just cries all the time because he’s so in love with her and I cry all the time because I’m so tired. He’s like, “What’s wrong?” I’m like, “I don’t know. I’m just so tired and the tears won’t stay inside!”
We’ve definitely grown closer and I think we’re gonna be really cool parents and excited about all the new opportunities. And excited about the holidays! We couldn’t have planned her any better.
For more on the family, pick up the Nov. 23 issue of PEOPLE.
— Melody Chiu