THE MARIAH NETWORK

Mariah's Twin Bliss

Ready to pop, Mariah Carey's enjoying her last days of pregnancy.

With a music career spanning more than 20 years, Mariah Carey has posed for her fair share of portraits. But none has been as personal or emotional as these exclusive belly-baring snaps. Mere days away from welcoming her first and second child, Mariah proudly showed off her pregnant body to Life & Style. "I was feeling very vulnerable about taking pictures at all right now, but then I didn't want to miss this opportunity to document this once-in-a-lifetime experience," she tells Life & Style. "My ultimate goal was to share this incredibly personal moment with my true fans."

And the twins — a boy and a girl — were clearly ready for their close-ups. "The babies were kicking almost the entire time; it was unbelievable," Mariah recalls. "Especially the girl — clearly she's a diva in training! We didn't start shooting until 1:30am because I was in the hospital from the night before until the day of the shoot with contractions five minutes apart!"

Indeed, although Mariah's not due for another few weeks, the twins could be making their grand entrance sooner rather than later. Contractions sent Mom to the hospital on March 27, and on April 1, hubby Nick Cannon fooled his radio listeners into believing his wife was in labor. "The false alarms definitely scared me," reveals Mariah. "I am super excited to meet them, of course, but I really am trying to keep the babies in as long as possible because ultimately what's most important is their health. It's getting harder everyday physically. But they say you forget all of this once you see the babies."

Prepping for babies

In the meantime, Mariah's gone into full-on nesting mode. Back pain and swollen ankles be darned, she's making sure the nurseries at her homes in NYC and LA are stocked with the latest (and glammest) clothes, books and toys, including life-size giraffes from friends Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne and toys from pals Jay-Z and Beyonce Knowles.

"I've been in our LA home exclusively for the past five months, and for a person with my typical lifestyle of traveling, touring and promoting — literally never in the same place for more than a week at a time — it's a big adjustment," she says. "It's difficult perfecting a nursery for twins, especially when they're a boy and a girl, because you have to get creative with the color palette and designs."

Also on the mom-to-be's last minute to-do list? Getting her six beloved Jack Russell terriers used to the idea of having newborns invade their territory. Despite false reports that the couple sent their pooches to a shrink to prepare them for babies, Nick tells Life & Style that he and Mariah are planning to carry a baby doll around the house to see how the dogs react.

The exercise offers just a brief glimpse of the mommy magic to come. "As a mom, Mariah's going to be so nurturing," says Nick. "Everyone knows how much she loves animals and how much she loves her fans, so just imagine that times infinity."

Of course, all that love could lead to spoiling their son and daughter — but Nick will do his best to rein in Mariah. "I feel like I'll have to be the one who's like, 'Okay, there is no reason for you to have a cell phone at 5 years old," says Nick. "Mariah is much more of a free spirit, so the kids will probably get more out of her."

But Dad shouldn't be so sure of his role as disciplinarian. Before they've even flashed their puppy-dog eyes or adorable pouts, the twins already have him wrapped around their tiny fingers. "The girl is a lot more active — she's always kicking Mariah and moving around," Nick says excitedly. "I'm pretty sure she gets that hyperactivity from me! And the boy is always making his presence known on the ultrasounds. We've got one outgoing one and one super-active one."

The boy is also outweighing his sister — which is good because he'll need all the strength he can get if Nick's dreams for him come true. "I'm a huge martial arts and boxing fan," he says. "To be able to share that with my son will be incredible."

Mom Mariah, however, is less eager to put labels on the kids. "Even before we announced it was twins, I was trying to keep everything gender neutral," she reveals. "I didn't want to impose an identity on them too soon."

Happy family of four

For now, Mariah's simply reveling in her twin bliss. More than any other release during her storied career, the drop date for Mariah's greatest work of art is her most anticipated. She's ecstatic to begin life as a perfect — and complete — family of four.

"Now I have so much respect for mothers everywhere, especially those who've had difficult pregnancies or given birth to multiples," Mariah tells Life & Style. "We need to have Mother's Day once a week!"

Nick has been her rock

Back rub? Check. Foot rub? Check. Nick's been on point as a constant source of support for Mariah — but he's also gone through his own transformation. Known as a wacky, up-for-anything type of guy, he's being more cautious when it comes to his usual stunts now that he has two more mouths to feed. "I'm definitely on higher alert," he tells Life & Style. "Before, I just lived my life on the edge — but who's going to explain to my kids that their father fell out of a hot-air balloon filming America's Got Talent?" No matter how responsible he gets, don't expect him to give up the Chuck E. Cheese's runs altogether. "I?m a big kid," he says. "Hopefully I'll be a nurturing, loving and mostly just a fun dad."