Halle Berry on Her Fierce Love for Her Daughter

02/09/2009 at 01:00 PM EST

Halle Berry on Her Fierce Love for Her Daughter

Halle Berry

Halle Berry

She just wrapped her latest movie, Frankie and Alice, and Halle Berry is happy settling back into her favorite role of all: mom to her 11-month-old daughter Nahla.

"When I looked at the stick and saw I was pregnant ... I was so happy," Berry tells Essence in its March issue, which hits newsstands Feb. 17. "I thought I knew love before, but I've never felt anything like this."

And while she still adores her career, the Oscar-winner says, "A film has to be really special for me to leave the house. I have to love it. I mean really, really love it."

Berry also gushes to the magazine about another big love in her life: Nahla's dad Gabriel Aubry. "I feel more married now than I did in any of my actual marriages," she says of her three-year relationship with the model. "We live the truth of that and that's more important than a piece of paper."

And while she's hesitant to say that they’ll be together forever, she adds, "All I know is that at this moment, it feels fantastic."

Next up for Berry: a romantic comedy based on the novel Nappily Ever After, for which she plans to go bald. "I'm shaving it off!" she exclaims. "I know. Here comes the controversy, but ... it'll grow back – I hope!"

Either way, Berry says that she can handle any media criticism – but the most important thing to her now is Nahla's approval.

"I don't want my daughter to look back at my work and think, 'Mom sold out,' " she says. "I want to leave a legacy that she can be proud of."

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