Ricky Martin Livin' La Vida Papa
12/22/2008 at 01:00 AM EST
I have to be honest: I'm completely exhausted!" says Ricky Martin with a laugh. At home in his native Puerto Rico for the holidays, the single dad to 4-month-old fraternal twins Valentino and Matteo—born via a gestational surrogate in early August—is proudly reciting his daily routine. "I feed them, I burp them, I change their diapers, we play, they sleep," says Martin, who has fully embraced hands-on fatherhood without a nanny. "Then it starts all over again! I'm doing this on my own because I don't want to miss a moment. With twins, it's double the love. But it also means I don't get much sleep." Not that he's complaining. "I've never been happier," he says. "This is the biggest blessing of my life."
Famous for his hip-swiveling sexiness and electrifying stage presence—this is the guy whose bonbon stole the show at the Grammy Awards in 1999 performing "La Copa de la Vida" and has sold 55 million albums worldwide—Martin, 36, seems blissfully content with his audience of two. Performing for the Queen of England has been replaced by "singing to my sons all day long," he says. His latest lullaby? "Lovin' You" by '70s R&B singer Minnie Riperton. "I'm happy to say they love music," he says. "But whether they smile or cry, it's all magical."
Though he first went online to research surrogacy in the summer of 2007, Martin "always knew I wanted to be a father." Visits to orphanages for the Ricky Martin Foundation, his nonprofit group that works to prevent child exploitation, underscored his desire to be a parent. "Adoption was one option, but it's complicated and can take a long time," he says. "Surrogacy was a faster option. I thought, 'I'll jump into this with no fear.'"
But he didn't count on having twins. "I put my name on the list for one baby and then found out I got two!" says Martin, who received the news about 12 weeks into the pregnancy. (He declined to name the surrogate.) "But I wasn't afraid. I just knew I had to prepare to take care of them the best way possible."
That meant reading parenting books, stocking up on baby clothes, decorating twin nurseries in his homes in Miami and Puerto Rico and picking names ("Valentino means brave one and Matteo means gift from God," he explains). And, of course, being at the hospital for the scheduled C-section. "I immediately felt the need to hold them," says Martin of the twins, who were sent directly to his room to bond after the birth. "I took off my shirt and gave them skin-to-skin therapy. Holding them was the most beautiful feeling. My whole family was there crying, but I was too excited to cry."
Martin has since mastered the art of nap times and simultaneous feeding. "I created structure for their eating and sleeping patterns—sometimes they cry at the same time too," he says. His sons share a crib and now sleep for up to five hours at night. "They love being held. And at 15 lbs. each, it's a bicep-tricep workout all day long!"
As for being a single dad, he says he isn't worried about perception. "I know people say this is a different type of family," says Martin, adding his parents Nereida Morales and Enrique Martin gave him a "beautiful childhood" despite divorcing when he was 2. "Yes, my babies don't have a mom [present]. But I have a lot of incredible women in my family that will always be there for them."
And perhaps another sibling too: Martin says he may adopt later on. "I've had many highlights in my life, but being a father has been the most amazing so far," he says. So he's in "no rush" to finish his next album (he'll begin recording in February). "I started this with a lot of love in my heart," says Martin. "I don't think any other experience will ever get close."