Mariah Carey is in fine form as she invites HELLO! into her Manhattan penthouse. In fact, the pop star and actress tells us that she's "ecstatic."
The reason for the joy, of course, is that she is pregnant with her first child. The glowing mother-to-be was barely able to contain her emotions as she made the announcement on American TV last month. At the same time, however, she decided to share a sadder story that she had lost a child at the end of 2008.
The miscarriage, said Mariah, had been a difficult time for the singer and her husband, American actor, rapper comedian and broadcaster Nick Cannon.
"It kind of shook us both and took us into a place that was really dark and difficult," she said. "When that happened I wasn't able to even talk to anybody about it. That was not easy."
Happily, 18 months later, Mariah and Nick discovered they were expecting once again. The couple, who married in a surprise sunset ceremony at the singer's estate in tha Bahamas in April 2008, couldn't be closer earlier this year, they organised a lavish ceremony to renew their vows on their second wedding anniversary.
Today, the inimitable star sits back in her favourite place, the bathtub in her New York home, to talk exclusively to HELLO! about her baby bliss and how to have a cool Yule...
Congratulations to you and Nick on your happy news, Mariah. Where were you when you discovered you were pregnant?
I was at home, I took a test by myself, and then another one, and another one, and when Nick got home I showed him the first, second and third tests, and then we did another one together.
What was your joint reaction?
We were both ecstatic.
Were you worried about talking about it this time around after your last pregnancy ended so sadly?
It's always difficult when you are in love with the man who is your soul mate for life and you are both really happy and excited about a prospective child being born. So many women experience the tragedy of miscarriage and I knew that my faith and God would get us all through, and that if it was meant to be, one day it would be.
I became extra superstitious and overly cautious because of what we had gone through a year and a half ago, so didn't want to talk about it publicly for a long time during the first trimester. Unfortunately, with my life and the world all having their own thoughts and opinions about it, it became very difficult. The pressure is enormous. Unless I went into hibernation, I had to address it at some point.
You have endured endless speculation about whether you've been pregnant or not over the past two years. How much pressure has that been?
It's hard to explain. I am always grateful and know that I have been blessed with my life and experiences. But it gets to the point where you become scared to leave the house publicly in case photos suggest you're pregnant when you're not.
The pressure that puts on you as a woman, the questions from your families and friends, it's quite overwhelming. It becomes worrying to even go online to read the news or check emails in case you read some mean untruths about yourself.
It's a lot of pressure but I know with my faith, my true friends and fans, my team and obviously my husband, I can handle whatever life throws at me.
We know you're expecting a spring baby have you started preparing a nursery at your various homes?
We have a room set aside for the nursery in Los Angeles, but in New York we will probably have to convert the one guest room I have, also known as the Butterfly Room, for the nursery. Nick wants to start painting right away but I'm trying to hold him off.
It will be an extra special Christmas for you this year, waiting for the new arrival. How will you be celebrating?
Christmas is a very special time of the year for us all because of the message of Christ and the real meaning of the holiday. It's also the one time of year that I can look forward to seeing my close friends and family and get hopefully at least a couple of days off work. But clearly I foiled that plan this year by making another Christmas album!
What traditions do you enjoy over the festive period?
We go to church and remember the Lord, as well as relax with our family and friends in front of a fire, looking at the snowy mountains in Aspen, where I like to be every Christmas. During the day we like skiing, sledging with my friends and racing down the mountain, and our favourite ritual is a midnight two-horse open sleigh ride. This is when we sing Christmas carols which often turn into reggae and hip-hop versions of the song basically all screaming at the top of our lungs.
We also have fun trimming the tree together and doing some last-minute shopping. Usually I'm up until 6am on Christmas morning wrapping gifts, and then Nick wakes us up again at 7am. Often, we all get in our bathing suits and get in the hot tub and then go and roll in the snow, but for obvious reasons I won't be doing that this year.
Tell us about your new album, Merry Christmas II You...
I was really inspired by classic Christmas songs by Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole, and festive timeless fun Christmas records like the Jackson 5 and Donny Hathaway.
In the spirit of classic Christmas records made in the 1950s, we had a huge orchestra session, and I've never experienced anything so beautiful and rich in my musical career as being in the room listening to the lush orchestral moments.
What kind of emotional place where you in while making the album?
I was feeling emotional because for a lot of it I was in the very early stages of pregnancy, and singing Christmas songs as opposed to recording a regular album was a perfect fit with the way I was feeling. There was a calmness that I'd never felt before, and I also felt very connected when singing the more spiritual, gospel-tinged songs. It was nice.
You duet with your mother, Patricia Carey, on the album. How did that come about?
Many people already know that my mother is a trained opera singer, so I guess it was only a matter of time before we both got onto a record together. Doing O Come All Ye Faithful and the Hallelujah chorus seemed like a perfect vehicle for both of our voices, which are very different in terms of style. It was a lovely experience being in the studio together and I'm very happy that I have this documented for the rest of my life.
At what point did you find out you were expecting a baby?
Towards the end of the album process period, when I was doing the vocals and finishing up some of the lyrics. Keeping it a secret was difficult, but fortunately because I was in a creative zone I could spend the time working from home and didn't have to see too many people.
Did you get to have a break, or did they have you working through your first trimester?
Pretty much I worked straight through, but I tried to pamper myself by working at home for the most part, getting massages and acupuncture and really taking it easy when I wasn't singing or writing.
What are your ultimate wishes for your next few months?
To enjoy the holiday season although it's going to be a little bit different this year. We're still figuring out our plans, but wherever we go it will be festive, and then hopefully we can take time off in the new year. It's all about the journey.