"The Most Magical Time"

03/21/2008 at 11:00 AM EDT

"The Most Magical Time"
Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez
Kevin Mazur/WireImage
Jennifer Lopez emerges from her bedroom looking glam in full makeup – and a bathrobe. She's getting ready for her first date night with her husband, singer Marc Anthony, after three months of seclusion at their Long Island estate, where the pair have been holed up since giving birth on Feb. 22 to twins Maximilian David and Emme Maribel by C-section. Jennifer, Marc and their babies (who will have their father's given last name, Muñiz) have just finished an all-day People photo shoot when a handler realizes the star has been without her wedding rings all day. "Do you have a problem appearing in pictures without them?" she asks. "No," says Jennifer, 38, who has shed most of the nearly 50 lbs. she gained during pregnancy. "They don't fit. I think it's pretty obvious that I'm married with kids."

She's right. The family's redbrick mansion is kid country, with his and her rocking ducks from FAO Schwarz, a pink pedal car for Emme and a yellow one for Max, and two baby nurses on round-the-clock duty – despite the parents' insistence on doing most of the child care themselves. "It'll be 3 in the morning," says Marc, 39, and we'll be like, 'Next feeding in 30 minutes! Okay, cool!'" The couple can't hide such enthusiasm during a chat in their trophy room, filled with Grammys, platinum records and other assorted hardware. But right now those trappings of stardom are taking a backseat. "No offense," says Marc as the interview winds down, "but I'm dying to get back to the kids."

PEOPLE: Is this the happiest time of your life right now?
Jennifer: Absolutely. Having children is the biggest thing that can happen, I think, to a woman. You win an Oscar, get nominated for a Golden Globe – you know, whatever things you think are big – I can't even think of anything that can match the actual miracle of giving birth and having your own child. It's beyond anything you could ever imagine.

PEOPLE: What have you learned about being a mom?
Jennifer: I knew I'd be protective. I knew I'd love them intensely and passionately enough to stay up for the first three days after giving birth, because I just wanted to keep staring at them. [But] I've been very career-oriented my whole life and very focused on my own world and my own life, and all of a sudden the focus just shifts. It's like, "Whoosh!" I want to do everything for them.

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