From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
Drew Lachey & daughter Isabella MARCH 23, 2006

Fatherhood was always a job that I was preparing for. But as soon as we found out we were pregnant, my mind started to shift. I thought, Okay, I have to stop doing certain things because it's not safe for my family, like riding a motorcycle. I can't be so complacent with my life now because I want to see her grow up. Your priorities change.

My wife and I found out at pretty much the halfway point—20 weeks—that we would be having a daughter. Everyone said, "Oh, you don't want a surprise?" Well, it's a surprise whether it's at 20 weeks or 40 weeks! It allowed us to be more prepared. We're planners!

I wasn't nervous going to the hospital, but once I got there and things started happening and they took her to the operating room [Lea had a scheduled C-section], I got pretty scared. I used to be in the medical field [as an EMT] and I'm used to blood and all that stuff, but I'm not used to seeing my wife like that. I thought the roles would be reversed and I would be calming her down, but she was calming me down: "It's all good! Don't worry about it!" Once I saw the baby, all the worries went away.

Isabella was screaming, had 10 fingers and 10 toes. I was going back and forth between Lea and the baby and I was like, "Here are my girls! This is my life right here!" I've always been a big softie when it comes to babies. They come out perfect, so it's up to us to not screw them up. It's a miracle. We had friends who struggle to become pregnant and can't. It makes you appreciate it.

The first night at home with Isabella, I felt almost nervousness, checking to make sure she was breathing. When you're in the hospital, you have the nurses there and you can kind of relax. Getting home, I had to make sure that Lea was okay and the baby was okay. But it was nice to start getting Isabella into her clothes and using her chair and just getting settled.

It's still kind of surreal. It's still just sinking in that this is my little girl and that this is my family and this is my world, right here. It's definitely been an adjustment. There are jobs I could have taken in New York but I didn't because I have a newborn. Your priorities change so drastically, it's almost scary. Parental instinct just kicks in.

We are buying rugs now that are softer because the other ones were too hard and might hurt her knees when she starts crawling. Every day has a new moment. The way she smiles when I am holding her—whether it's gas or not, it doesn't matter! The way she looks into your eyes. And she laughs in her sleep! You hear this laugh, and it's like your heart melts. There are these little things, you're like, Wow, she wasn't doing that yesterday. She's growing up before your very eyes!

She's got this personality. When she's awake, she's so alert and taking everything in. She loves music. She loved music before she was even born. We'd be in the car listening to music and certain songs. There is one song on Nick's record, "Resolution"—we were listening to it and she just went nuts. So I think she's definitely got that artistic side.

The big thing for me in being a father is that basically I'm setting the example of what she's going to look for in a husband-to-be. If I am a jerk who drinks too much or beats his wife, she's most likely going to settle into a relationship with a guy who drinks too much and can be abusive. If I lead a good example of what a man should be and I show her love and her mother love, that's kind of the best gift I think I can give her. That's giving her the best chance for a happy future.

I definitely have an opinion on how she should be raised and how she should be spoiled or not spoiled. We're from the Midwest, where there are certain things you do and don't do—you say your pleases and thank-yous, and you say Ma'am and Sir to your elders. Those are values that were instilled in me and Lea when we were growing up, and those will be values we instill in her.

You realize: This is a life that I am in charge of. I am responsible for making sure she is happy, healthy, fed, has everything she needs, has everything that I could possibly give her. So you feel this sense of responsibility, but you also feel this pride. It's like you went on a job interview for the best job in the world and you got that job. You beat out everybody else for it! You're this perfect child's father. And it's amazing.