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I feel like I've waited for him my whole life." August got his two middle names from Mariska's father (former Mr. Universe Miklos "Mickey" Hargitay) and Peter's paternal grandfather, Friedrich. "Everyone is assuming we chose August because Peter's birthday and our anniversary are in August," Mariska explains. "But it's also a name that has been in Peter's family for 200 years. It's a strong name that means'majestic' and 'revered.
ON THE DAY AUGUST WAS BORN, HIS GRANDDAD Mickey was also in the hospital, one floor above his daughter, being prepped for surgery. "He came down and visited me," Mariska says, "and on the morning of his operation, we brought August to see him." Her dad, she is happy to report, is doing fine. August is equally robust: "He is a huge child, a great feeder, and holds his head up and sleeps four to five hours a night. He's a superhero."
So is Papa Hermann, known around the house as the Master Swaddler. "Nothing grosses him out," says Mariska, who almost fainted when the doctor told her that the end other baby's belly button would fall off. As Peter changes their son and rocks him" to sleep in his long arms with shushing sounds he learned from the book The Happiest Baby on the Block, Mariska marvels at his ability to soothe all kinds of babes. "When I get home from the hospital all Jell-0 belly, he's saying, 'Baby, you are so beautiful.'"
She recently spoke to SVUcostar Christopher Meloni, who has two kids, and all Mariska could say was, "I get it. There is something you can't understand until you have your own. You have so much love that you didn't even know about."
Today, glowing with sun-kissed color and maternal pride, Mariska feels particularly feminine. "I'm a woman, I'm a goddess. I've earned this body," she says of her fuller curves, which resemble those other mother, '50s screen siren Jayne Mansfield. "My body is my badge of honor." She is breast-feeding, and just started using the electric pump. "I could not stop laughing because you see yourself in this new light. You feel like a dairy cow." Never one to shy away from making—or milking—a joke, Mariska has put a little stuffed cow on top of the machine.
She's going to show up at the Emmys next month "looking like a mom" because she wants to encourage women to eat right
and exercise sensibly for their children. "It's about being a present, conscious parent and nurturing a soul," she says, just as August spits up on her leg. "It's not about looking hot."
Both parents take their new roles seriously but manage to keep up the banter that brought them together. "Mariska wanted to show me this face August makes where he looks exactly like me," Peter says. "So we watched him and waited, and then she said, 'There! That's it! That's you'.' Turns out it's when he has gas."
Being the butt other jokes in no way dims his devotion. "It's so incredible to see aspects of Mariska that simply weren't there before because there was nothing there to call them to existence," Peter says. "It's like a whole new person emerged after two years of marriage."
Mariska agrees. "There's a mental awareness, a part of my brain that I hadn't used before—trying to anticipate his needs and to keep everything in balance. We stare at him, we're so in love. This is what I was meant to do. You make sacrifices to become a mother, but you really find yourself and your soul."
Before taking maternity leave, Mariska filmed two SVU episodes that'll kick off the new season in late September. There's a "chick-buddy episode" with Marcia Gay Harden as a Fed, she says, and one with Brian Dennehy as a "dying man with a secret."
According to exec producer Neat Baer, we'll see even more of Det. Olivia Benson later this fall. "She'll definitely show up before Episode 9," he says. "Olivia's going to have an extraordinary thing happen in her personal life. By the second half of the season, Olivia and Elliot Stabler will really need each other."
Before Mariska returns to the SVU set on September 18, she'll attend the Emmy Awards on August 27. Both she and costar Christopher Meloni are nominees. "The best thing is that Chris is nominated; Mariska says. "I was crying for him, I was so happy. And he goes, 'So, what, I sucked the first few years?'”
Credit: TV Guide and *Heather* at mariskafans.com