Eden Riegel On “Empowering” Natural Birth, Sleep Training, Breastfeeding

Soap star Eden Riegel is in the trenches of new motherhood — and loving it! The actress, 30, gave birth to her first child, Jack Oscar Miller, on May 21st. And although she’s leaving The Young and the Restless “somewhat unexpectedly,” the new mom is enjoying a “nice break” with her sweet son.

The first-time mom opens up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about her “incredibly easy” 4-month-old boy, her “empowering” natural birth and “life-saver” doula, her experiences with breastfeeding (“oversupply” and “blocked ducts”), the preliminary stages of sleep training and the greatest lesson thus far: “I see now that being a parent also means letting go of the stuff you can’t control.”

CBS: Congratulations on the birth of baby Jack Oscar! How is he doing? What kind of a baby is he so far?

ER: “Thank you! He’s a great baby. He’s been incredibly easy, which is a nice gift to a first-time mom. He’s always had a very gentle energy and a natural sweetness about him that’s irresistible. I’m very lucky. Of course the newborn stage is always pretty crazy, and I had no idea what to expect. He slept constantly and then one day just refused to sleep again! I had to come up with a lot of tricks to get him down for naps. He still isn’t remotely sleeping through the night, but it’s okay. We’ll get there. We are dipping our toe into the process of sleep training. He’s really good at self-soothing, and I’m encouraging that as much as possible, but I’m not quite ready to let him cry on his own even a little. It’s tough for a first time mom! But even when he has a bad night he’s never grumpy. He’s a very happy kid. Smiles and laughs easily and from the first moment was so alert. He looks right at you!”

CBS: Does his name have special significance?

ER: “Yes, we knew we wanted a name that started with J for a boy or a girl, after my husband’s brother Jonathan who passed away when he was 15. We stumbled on Jack and just loved it. Good strong name. Oscar is for my grandfather, Oscar Riegel, who was a very impressive guy and a big role model for me. And Jack Oscar Miller just sounds like a cool dude.”

CBS: How has the transition into motherhood been for you? Are you getting any sleep? Getting any alone-time yet? Maybe some workouts, etc?

ER: “Now Jack is 4-months-old and I am just starting to poke my head back out of the water. The first few months are intense! I’ve started doing my favorite workouts again, Physique 57 and Barry’s Bootcamp, and breastfeeding helped take the baby weight of much faster than I expected.

I was back at work at 8 weeks so working was my alone-time for a while. Or at least grown-up time. Now that Jack’s sleeping a little bit better (well, this week anyway!) I have a couple hours to myself after he goes down and that’s so nice. I never appreciated just sitting down for a quiet meal so much in my life! Jack goes through good and bad sleep periods. So much comes in to wreak havoc: growth spurts, developmental milestones, teething, 4 month sleep regression, etc. But right now is a good period. The last two nights he slept ‘through the night’ for his age group (which means one 5-6 hour stretch and then wake ups every 3-4 hours). Before then it was all over the map, and if experience is teaching me anything it’s that we will regress again before we progress. There’s a give and take.

He is learning to soothe himself to sleep which is great. Naps are too short though. We’ve got problems with the 45 minute intruder. But occasionally he’ll sleep a decent nap. Actually we’re on a good track with that right now. He’s doing a good long one on a daily basis at the moment. Unfortunately I never join him because I never see it coming, or I’m working. Oh, well!”

CBS: How is breastfeeding going?

ER: “It was tough at first because Jack was slow to regain his birth-weight. I guess bigger babies often have enough meat on them that eating isn’t a priority so he slept a lot at first. I slept not at all because I was a nervous wreck about it. I though it might be a supply issue or a quality issue. Neither was the case. One day he showed more interest in eating than sleeping and he’s gained beautifully since. I had nothing to worry about. Of course hindsight is 20/20. I didn’t have any pain, which is great. I ended up having an oversupply so I have a lot of milk in my freezer! I only had trouble with engorgement and blocked ducts since being back at work (those pumps are not as good as actual babies!) but now I know how to deal with it before it gets out of control.”

CBS: Please tell us about your birth story. Did you have a natural birth?

ER: “I did a natural labor, without pain management. It was ultimately more important to me in the moment that than I expected it to be. It was a long labor. Thursday morning I was in early labor when I went to my OBGYN for a non-stress test, because Jack was already almost 2 weeks late. I was having contractions every 2-3 minutes. That evening it got painful and I didn’t progress quickly. The night was a tough one. The next day I was fairly certain I couldn’t do natural labor. It was too hard. In fact I was yelling for my husband to drive me to the hospital for a C-section. I didn’t even want an epidural, I wanted to go straight to cutting the baby out! I was really down in the dumps because it still felt like it would be a while and I didn’t think I could make it through another night of labor like the last one.

But Friday night my doula came to our house despite my grouchy protestations that there was “no point!” and it would still be ages and ages till it was baby time. She was immensely helpful. She coached me on how to breathe and moan through the contractions. She was an absolute life-saver. She also showed me some new positions to help move things along. My water broke Saturday morning at 1:30 AM and I went to the hospital. When the checked me in I was 5 cm (which was exactly what my goal had been: to stay home till 5 cm), and when they checked again one hour later I was already 8! I had brought bottles of frozen Gatoraid to the hospital to sip while laboring and my doula said, “This baby’s coming before those bottles defrost!”

But then everything came to a screeching halt. Hours later I was stalled out at 8-9 cm. I ended up drinking all 4 bottles before Jack made his big appearance. They ran a little pitocin which didn’t do much but was extremely painful. Somewhere along the way he had flipped anterior. The nurses and my doula helped flip him back, amazingly, by having me labor in different positions, but I still wasn’t progressing. Eventually I just had to push at 9 cm while the nurse manually cleared the rest. It wasn’t happening on it’s own. I knew it was my last chance so I pushed like my life depended on it. It took only an hour and a half. He was born at 4:07 PM on Saturday.

I had a great birth experience. It was so beautiful and empowering. I was proud of myself for seeing it through even though it was very hard. I owe a huge amount to my doctor, my doula and the nurses at the hospital, who never rushed me and totally supported me and my birth plan. And I owe even more to Jack whose heart beat was reassuringly steady the whole time. The doctor and nurses kept coming in and saying the baby looked great and amazing and what a strong kid! So I never had to worry about him at all. His health and well-being was paramount the whole way through, of course. But I am glad I got the chance to do it natural. I’m really a huge baby about pain so I think if I can do it, anyone can do it if they want to and if they have the right support. And, of course, if nothing goes wrong medically or they need a lot of pit. That stuff is… the pits!

Now that I’m a mom I can see how little the birth has to do with actual parenthood. It’s just one moment in a whole lifetime! But it did show me that I could persevere in the face of a giant challenge, which is a good metaphor for parenthood, I guess. At the beginning I felt that I could handle any new challenges that came my way, and that gave me a lot of confidence. And the recovery was a breeze. Totally non-existent, actually. I didn’t need so much as a Motrin. There was just no pain, all euphoria. I was back walking my dog the day we got home from the hospital.

But, I think if I hadn’t been able to power through or something (God-forbid) had thrown us off course it that would have been a good lesson for me, too. I see now that being a parent also means letting go of the stuff you can’t control (which sometimes feels like absolutely everything!) At the beginning I couldn’t make him eat, now I can’t make him sleep. I can do everything in my power to help him get there, but I can’t just muscle my way through. It’s a process. So I think that had I had to deviate from the birth plan, that might have been a good learning experience for me to have so early. Fortunately, I am getting there, anyway.”

CBS: How’s your hubby adjusting to fatherhood?

ER: “My husband started a huge job right after Jack was born. It was announced his pilot got picked up on the Friday that I was laboring. He missed the up-fronts in New York to be with me. He’s the creator/executive-producer of The Secret Circle on the CW, airing Thursday nights at 9 after Vampire Diaries. So he’s been very busy! In fact we don’t see much of him since he’s routinely at the office ’til the wee hours and works through the weekend, too. It’s challenging to say the least.

I think it’s harder for him to be missing this time with Jack. But he makes the most of the time he has with us. And we put a web cam in Jack’s room so daddy can see him sleeping and watch me breastfeeding and changing him in the middle of the night when he’s still at the office. It really makes it feel like he’s there with us. He texts me to tell me he’s watching and ask about our night. He can also occasionally watch us playing during the day on an app on his phone. It’s so sweet.”

CBS: Are you planning to take a break from work for awhile?

ER: “I’m just ending my run on Y&R somewhat unexpectedly, so now I’ll get a nice break to hang out with Jack. I had to go back to work so early so it will be a nice treat. I feel so lucky that he’s mine. And the way he looks at me! Like I hung the moon! It feels amazing.”

CBS: What’s up next for you?

ER: “Right now, motherhood is plenty! But I am looking forward to my next project, whatever that might be. I love my job so much that I do need to work and be creative to feel like me. They say happy mother, happy baby. It was so hard to return to work at first I wondered if it was the right thing. But while I want to spend the majority of my time with Jack, of course, I know that being fulfilled in my work is a good example to set for my son. Balance is such an important part of life.”

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Filed under: Celebrity Interview,Eden Riegel,Exclusives

Photo credit: Eden Riegel/Twitter

  • Anonymous

    Doulas are so great to have involved in birth. I am glad she had a good experience. If you want to become a doula you can find more information at- birtharts.com

  • Anonymous

    Your story of natural birth is very inspiring! I don’t know if I could do it, but a lot of women say it’s so rewarding. PS Love the baby’s name — “good strong name”

  • Anonymous

    Jack is such a cutie! Congrats to both of them!

  • Anonymous

    Very inspiring to hear your experience!

  • Anonymous

    What a great interview! Eden’s perspective
    really speaks to me as a new mom! I love
    her balanced view of birth and
    new motherhood/parenting – she
    really spoke to all that these
    amazing experiences have to teach us!

  • Joan

    Happy 1st Birthday, Jack!!!! We miss you so much on Y&R, Eden; can’t believe you’re not on here anymore. Your fans love you. God’s blessings and all good luck to your future endeavours, tho none could be as gorgeous as baby Jack, who is now a big One Year Old!

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