Beyoncé: How I Prepared for Blue's Birth

UPDATED 05/01/2012 at 11:55 AM EDT Originally published 05/01/2012 at 08:30 AM EDT

Beyonce Knowles: World's Most Beautiful Woman
Beyoncé Knowles
When she arrived at the hospital last January, Beyoncé came with the best of intentions for her daughter's delivery.

"I did have a fresh eyebrow wax," PEOPLE's 2012 Most Beautiful Woman says with a laugh.

"I got my nails done, I got my feet done, had my hair done, and I had my little lip gloss."

But, in the end, Blue Ivy's birth trumped all the new mom's primping and prepping to meet her baby girl.





"I didn't feel that I looked beautiful during birth, but who does? After being pumped with all those fluids and gaining so much weight ... I barely recognized myself," she explains.

"But after many hours of labor, I could care less about anything but my child. I didn't care how I looked."

The focus, she adds, was shifted to "the miracle" that she and husband Jay-Z welcomed into the world.

"I felt more powerful than I've ever felt in my life," Knowles shares. "I felt connected to my body. I felt like I knew my purpose in the world."

Losing the Baby Weight

The singer says she gained 50 pounds during her pregnancy – putting on the last 20 during the final month leading up to the delivery – and was determined to bounce back after baby as soon as possible.

"I lost most of my weight from breastfeeding and I encourage women to do it; It's just so good for the baby and good for yourself," Knowles, who breastfed Blue for 10 weeks, says.

Then, "about a month after" giving birth, the new mom tackled the remaining pounds with a strict diet and exercise routine.

"I counted calories. I worked out maybe three to four times a week," she shares. "I did a lot of walking in the beginning and now I'm running. But I had to work my way up. I couldn't just go right from being pregnant to running."

All the hard work – including "staying away from anything delicious" and no cheat days – has paid off.

"I'm proud that my waist came back so fast. I'm proud of that and happy, but that was mostly from the breastfeeding," the singer explains.



And not only is Knowles just "three to four pounds" away from her pre-pregnancy weight, but she has also acquired a new softness about her voluptuous body.

"My hormones are still in my body. Your body produces the hormones that make your body soft," she says. "It's just magical. It makes me so proud to be a woman because it's just unexplainable what happens to your body – it's incredible."

For more of Beyoncé’s exclusive interview, pick up this week’s special issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now

Inside Beyoncé's Most Beautiful Cover Shoot

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