May 15, 2015 06:55 PM

Less than a year after tying the knot in New York City, designers Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent are taking on their most passionate project to date: fatherhood.

“I’ve always wanted to be a parent,” Berkus, 43, tells PEOPLE exclusively. “I had hoped that I would have this chance, but I didn’t want to do it on my own.”

“Until recently, we didn’t think it was possible,” says Brent, 30. “But we’re fortunate to be legally married and things just fell into place. We’re really thankful.”

On March 23, the couple welcomed daughter Poppy Brent-Berkus. Surrounded by the surrogate’s family and their own, “everybody was hand in hand” for the birth, recalls Brent.

“Surrogacy can be about science, it can be about money, or it can be about intention,” adds Berkus. “We were really lucky to have everybody that was involved in allowing us to have our daughter be excited for us.”

Cal Bingham

“Our paternal instincts kicked in almost instantly,” he tells PEOPLE. “She came out with her eyes open, looking around like she had been waiting for us.”

Settled into their new roles, the guys are giddy with excitement over Poppy.

“I’m chewing on her knee caps when I’m changing diapers,” says Berkus with a laugh. “Both of my grandmothers used to say, ‘I want to take a bite out of you.’ And I would think, ‘These crazy ladies! That is so gross.’ And now I get it.”

Jokes Brent, “I find myself wanting to take bites out of her face or lick her like The Lion King.”

The duo are busier than ever with diaper duty and their careers — Berkus has collections sold at Target as well as Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft stores and runs Nate Berkus Associates, while Brent is hard at work with his own firm, Jeremiah Brent Design — but they’re making sure to keep any meltdowns “to another room,” says Brent.

“We actively work to keep the energy in the house calm. There’s always music playing,” he shares.

As for those endless changing sessions, they’re actually something Berkus looks forward to. “I never thought I would be so excited to be 10 inches away from a filthy diaper as I am,” he jokes. “I live by her diaper schedule.”

As Brent sums it up, “It’s funny how quickly things just fall into place.”

Cal Bingham

For more from the Brent-Berkus family, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now.

— Jennifer Garcia

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