Mena Suvari tells PEOPLE "this is a big process for me in accepting that something so beautiful had happened for me"

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Mena Suvari photographed at her home in Manhattan Beach, CA, on July 8, 2021.
Credit: Phylicia J. L. Munn

Mena Suvari is giving herself due credit for creating life.

The actress welcomed her first baby, son Christopher Alexander, with husband Michael Hope in April, and she tells PEOPLE in this week's issue that becoming a mom was "wonderful and it's everything miraculous you can think of."

"But it's been challenging for me too because I personally never felt like I had that type of mother figure," adds Suvari, 42. "So I don't know how to be that one, and I worry over it a lot. Also this is a big process for me in accepting that something so beautiful had happened for me. It's like the universe's next challenge for me. It's now my biggest lesson because it's interesting when you experience a lot of trauma you can become very controlling because you can establish that behavior to feel safe."

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"Well, having a baby, all that control just goes right out the window," she continues. "It's sort of like the way that my life had been going with lessons sprinkled. Now, it's just like 24/7 lessons! Like, 'Okay, I'm learning. I can do this. I'm good enough.' It's literally triggering all my stuff, but I try to use it, and I know it can make me better. I try to in each and every moment just connect with him."

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In her new book The Great Peace: A Memoir, out Tuesday, Suvari details past trauma, revealing that between the ages of 12 and 20 she was the victim of repeated sexual abuse. Suvari escaped into the rave scene, late-night clubbing and eventually hard drugs to numb the pain, she shares in the memoir.

Now as a mom, Suvari tells PEOPLE her focus is solely on raising him.

"I look for myself in him and I just want to do him justice. Another thing that's happened too is that I don't have time anymore to feel bad for myself," she explains. "It's a beautiful gift, having my son, because I don't have the time to do that anymore. It's not about me anymore. I'm always looking for the ways I can grow and learn. I'm looking for the ways that I can learn through him."

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Suvari also says it's not lost on her that she once thought motherhood wasn't going to be in her future.

"I got to a place that I never believed I would have [beautiful things happen to me] and now I'm looking at him and thinking, 'Where did you come from and why now?' and I tried to not understand and just let it be and work to accept that something this beautiful happened for me. He's an awesome little person and he's half of me."

She adds, "I'm just much more aware now how hard I was on myself. ... Today I was thinking about Christopher and thinking, 'How? I grew him and I'm a badass,' and I finally gave myself the ability to feel that because I'm constantly hard on myself and especially with my son coming into the world."

For more on Mena Suvari's new memoir, pick up a copy of PEOPLE, on newsstands now.