She’s found success on the runway, but supermodel Adriana Lima says there’s another career she finds even more satisfying: Motherhood.
“The best job in the world for me is being a mom,” the Brazilian beauty, 28, tells PEOPLE. “I never thought I could love so much. I always thought, does unconditional love exist? Now I know it does because I feel it.”
Lima, who welcomed daughter Valentina Lima Jaric Nov. 15, says becoming a parent has “really changed me completely. I am, in my head, more mature, more secure. And, you know, it changed completely the priorities in [my] life.”
“You feel so strong,” she adds. “It’s such a wonderful feeling.”
The Victoria’s Secret model drew upon that strength when she was found to be suffering from preeclampsia, necessitating two weeks of bed rest before the delivery of her daughter at only 34 weeks along.
Weighing in at just 4.4 lbs., Valentina was the “smallest [baby] in the whole hospital,” Lima recalls. “I wish I had her at home but it wasn’t possible in my case.”
“As a parent you really want to give your best and you don’t want [anything] to happen with the baby, so it was stressful,” she says, although adding that a “great team of doctors” took care of her and husband Marko Jaric was “really supportive.”
Jaric, 31, a former NBA player who is now with the Real Madrid team, is also basking in his new daddy duties. “I feel comfortable,” he says. “[Adriana and I] feel so natural. We’re really enjoying it. Everything is falling in the right place.”
And while the new mom is enjoying her time with her daughter, she also recently headed back to work. Getting into pre-pregnancy shape again “wasn’t easy,” but with a strict diet and exercise regimen (with a former pro boxer!), Lima says she’s back to modeling for Victoria’s Secret.
And what are some of 5-month-old Valentina’s latest milestones? In addition to sitting up, rolling and pushing over onto her stomach, “she has a personality,” the proud mom says. “She’s always smiling. It’s amazing.”
— Eunice Oh with reporting by Charlotte Triggs