The story of Radio 2 presenter Janey Lee Grace.
Pregnancy magazine, June/July 2000
When Radio 2 presenter Janey Lee Grace discovered she was pregnant for the second time, she knew that she wanted an holistic approach to labour and birth.
In May 1999, when my first son Sonny was about seven months old, I started to feel really quite ill; I had no energy, and I was a bit dizzy and exhausted, which was very unusual for me. I put it down to the fact that I was working and still breastfeeding.
I’ve always been into alternative remedies and treatments, so I went to see my homoeopath/nutritionist. She told me to ‘practise what I preach’: eat a bit more healthily and continue to take my B vitamins. I also found that I’d gone off coffee and alcohol. It was as if my body was forcing me to detoxify.
I was about to start as co-host on Steve Wright in the Afternoon on Radio 2, and my partner had bought me a big bunch of flowers to celebrate. When the smell of the lilies hit me it made me feel quite sick; I suddenly remembered being pregnant with Sonny and finding that I couldn’t stand the smell of flowers, scented candles or any of my favourite perfumes. Suddenly it all made sense.
A few days later I took a pregnancy test and I didn’t really need to look at the blue line: I just knew I was pregnant. I booked into The Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth where I’d had Sonny. I couldn’t contemplate having a baby anywhere else: it’s a place that’s tuned into natural therapies, so it’s right up my street. For this pregnancy, as with the last, I decided to follow the holistic approach wholeheartedly.
I had a scan which determined that I was already 13 weeks pregnant. My due date was January 10, 2000 – I was going to have a millennium baby!
I’d only been working as a co-host on Steve Wright in the Afternoon for about a week when I had to tell Steve about by pregnancy. He was delighted for me and very keen to tell the nation. I had loads of letters and calls to congratulate me. Actually it saved me a lot of phone calls, as people I hadn’t spoken to in ages rang up and said: ‘I heard on the radio that you’re pregnant!’
The pregnancy went well: the dizziness and tiredness soon passed and I got my energy back. I think the main reason everything went so perfectly was meeting Dr Gowri Motha. She runs The Jeyarani Centre where I went through my first pregnancy, too.
Dr Motha is the most inspirational woman: she’s a holistic doctor, herbalist, reflexologist, cranial osteopath and much more. She helps you to prepare for a natural, gentle birth.
Regular reflexology and massage help keep the body, and the pelvic region in particular, free of congestion. The idea is that this, combined with the Ayurvedic herbs Gowri recommends you take, will mean your body is healthier and fitter to cope with labour, birth and the recovery.
Gowri also introduced me to the idea of self-hypnosis, or visualization, to help you have the pregnancy and birth you desire. I listened to her tape Visualization for a Gentle Birth every day and throughout the labour.
I knew that I wanted what’s called an ‘active birth’ – I think it’s absolutely essential to remain in an upright position to help gravity do its work! In order to ‘train’ some of those thigh and leg muscles during my pregnancy I continued to go my gym, Cannons/Pinnacle in St Albans. It has fantastic yoga classes, which I think really helped me to focus on my breathing and stay flexible and supple.
I really concentrated on preparing for the birth: I used a really thick vaginal massage oil daily (it’s actually a good idea to ‘stretch’ your vagina with your fingers every day after you’ve reached about 36 weeks; if you find it difficult, get your man to help!) and I tried to rest every day and listen to the visualization tape. It was so relaxing, I often fell asleep, but I’m sure the positive messages still got through.
Happy New Year!
The new year passed, and around 6pm on January 12 I had a ‘show’, and at about 1am we headed off to the hospital.
A lot of my friends had said to me: ‘Oh, second babies just fallout!’ Well mine didn’t! I was only 3cm dilated when I arrived at the hospital and the baby’s head hadn’t engaged yet, so I knew it would take some hard work to get everything moving.
It was a long first stage – about ten hours. Many women in my situation may have wanted an epidural, but I desperately wanted a water birth and I knew that wouldn’t be possible after intervention.
I called Gowri, and she and her assistant, Kasia, came to the hospital to give me reflexology, to strengthen the contractions, cranial massage and lots of inspiration. The dilation was happening slowly, but the baby’s head was still high – in no way did he want to get ‘engaged’. I wore my Walkman and listened to the visualization tape. I paced the corridor, stopping to lean over a windowsill every so often to have a contraction, and just imagining the cervix opening up.
No pain, no gain
I was absolutely determined to give birth naturally with no pain relief. After a few hours I got into the birthing pool, which provided wonderful pain relief, but unfortunately I couldn’t stay in the water throughout because I had to be examine, regularly. Also, the water can be so relaxing that it actually slows things down.
I was offered gas and air, but I felt fairly sure it would make me nauseous, so I declined. After I’d been on the go for about eight hours, though, one of the midwives gave me a glucose tablet – I think I’d forgotten how much energy I was using up.
I didn’t want drugs at any point, but I did want reassurance that I would be able to have my baby naturally -it was so important for me. My biggest fear was that I was enduring all of this pain only to end up needing a ventouse or forceps to bring the babies head down, or worse still, an emergency Caesarean. You’re probably wondering why I was so adamant. I’m not a sucker for punishment, I just really believe in natural birth. Women had been giving birth for thousands of years before epidurals were even heard of. Most of my friends disagree with me and feel that if there’s a pain-free alternative they want it, but I think unless there’s actually a risk to the baby, if you can remain drug-free the baby has a much more gentle entry into the world.
I think this has repercussions in many ways, including his health and well being, your bonding and ability to breastfeed, and how quick your own recovery is.
Back in the pool, we lit some candles and, put some aromatherapy oil on the burner. Karen, the midwife, massaged my shoulders and back and gave me a Reiki treatment, while Gowri gave me cranial massage, continuing to stimulate the points that help to dilate the cervix. Throughout the whole proceedings she talked to me, helping me to visualize my baby getting ready to be born. She told me that I had plenty of strength to continue and that I could do it. She inspired me totally.
After what seemed like weeks (but was actually about nine hours) something seemed to change. Part of the bag of waters surrounding the baby had already broken, but all of a sudden the rest broke in a gush. I became very tearful and desperate, and then felt the urge to push. I was half sitting, half squatting in the birthing pool with Gowri and Karen saying wonderfully encouraging things to me as I pushed.
It only took a few pushes (and lots of very loud noises!) and within about ten minutes the head crowned. Karen asked me if I wanted to guide the baby’s head out myself. It was wonderful: it felt like a little duckling. With a water birth most of the gunge is washed off the baby, so he floats up looking really clean and very peaceful.
It’s hard to describe the feeling when he floated up to me: I just saw his blue eyes and lots of silvery blonde hair. Euphoric is the word I suppose – I hadn’t even asked if my baby was a boy or a girl!
I put my new son, Buddy Jackson Lee Grace, to my breast and he sucked immediately – he seemed to know what to do. We waited for the cord to stop pulsating before Simon cut it, and then I gave one more big push and out came the placenta.
Then it was time for refreshment, and I can honestly say it was the best cup of Earl Grey I’ve ever tasted! The obstetrician examined me, and although the baby was quite big at 8lb 4oz with a big head circumference, I had no tears. The vaginal massage oil worked!
Simon then rang Steve Wright, who was in the middle of his show. He congratulated us on air, and that was how most of my friends found out I’d had a baby boy.
I had a dream…
All in all I got my dream: a totally natural, drug-free, active birth in water. It was a fantastic experience: totally inspirational and unforgettable.
I think the preparation I’d done throughout the pregnancy really helped and there’s no doubt that the reflexology during pregnancy and the labour really played apart. I definitely believe in the use of vaginal oil – without it I may have needed stitches – and I’m told that my recovery was remarkably quick.
Buddy Jackson was born at 2.40pm Friday afternoon and the next morning we were out having cappuccinos in St John’s Wood high street!
Pregnancy, June/July 2000