Tuesday, March 3, 2015
Peter Bours and the Forest Grove Birth Cabins
During the 1970's and 1980's, Peter Bours and his wife, Joan delivered babies at home and in small birthing cabins on their farm in Forest Grove. This is an article fro the New York Times. I am sharing the part about his home and birth center practice.
Peter Bours, too, was drawn by the uncomplicated beauty of the place. He bought a piece of farmland and an old frame house outside town in 1974 and went into practice. By this time, Dr. Bours was once again single. ''If I weren't such a social traditionalist,'' he says in wry reflection, ''I wouldn't have married so many times.'' And within a few years, he did it again, marrying his nurse, Joan Moss.
Together, they built a family practice based on delivering babies - often, in that era, to couples who wanted their children born at home or in one of the birthing cabins that Dr. Bours fashioned from outbuildings on his property. It was an effort to take obstetrical medicine out of cold, institutional hospital delivery rooms and return it to the home - and it fit with the ideas he had developed during the war years, the search for a redefinition of personal and social relationships.
Few doctors in the area were offering that kind of care. ''So we had a lot of highly educated 30- to 40-year-olds in Portland coming out to have their babies with us,'' Dr. Bours says. For his wife, it was an idyllic time. ''In one year,'' she recalls, ''we did 350 deliveries, and that was in just 365 days. I remember thinking, 'I have the most wonderful job in the world.' '' In time, the couple had their own children, a daughter, Heidi, and a son, William Alsop Bours V. Peter Bours had his own style. He wore loose shirts and comfortable pants and knockaround shoes, almost never a coat and tie. His patients called him by his first name. And he kept his rates low, paying himself less than $50,000 a year, sinking the rest of his income into the new clinic which he built in town, next to the community hospital.
Says the Rev. Richard E. Osburn, pastor of the United Church of Christ, whose congregation supports the right to abortion, ''A lot of people considered Peter a strange duck. Different.'' When the town police would stop Dr. Bours for speeding on the way to a delivery, recalls the minister, a former chaplain of the police force, the doctor would inform them that he would meet them the next morning if they wanted to give him a ticket, but that at the moment he was in a rush. ''I know that a lot of the officers think of Peter as thinking he's above things,'' the minister says.
Dr. Bours's practice flourished. His new office and patient rooms were bright and cheerful, crammed with snapshots of pink new babies and their beaming parents. And at the top of the building he hung a bell, to ring out the news of birth.