Mon09222014

Your Health

Home birth: 'Having it your way'

Blair Tyse planned to have her baby at home. She wanted to be in charge, of her body, her baby and to be "in my own environment."

So she and her husband, Erik, after months of preparation and training, working with their midwife, their family and friends, delivered 9-pound Mitchell Tyse on June 1 in their Los Altos Hills home.

Ironically, at the moment Mitchell arrived, the delivery "team" had gone to lunch. After hours of intermittent contractions and slow dilation, Faith Grunow Gibson, the licensed community midwife who was attending the birth, felt a lunch break was OK.

Baby Mitchell decided otherwise. No sooner had the crew driven up the driveway, Blair's water broke.

Erik paged Gibson who said she was on her way back.

"Then I felt the head," Blair said.

Erik placed his hand on the baby's head "so it wouldn't pop out," he said. Soon the shoulders were out, too, "then whoosh." The baby came.

So it was Erik "who actually did the catching," Blair said.

"This is my child," Erik said as he cradled Mitchell during an interview a month after the baby's birth. "To deliver my own child ... " he paused. His eyes filled. "It was a marvelous thing."

Then he chuckled. "If there's a next child, how can I plan to have Faith leave?"

People choose home birth for a variety of reasons, including those of economy and philosophy. For Blair and Erik, it was an issue of control.

Blair wanted to be in charge of "who's doing what with my body and to my baby." She said she didn't like "the thought of somebody I didn't know taking my baby and doing things to it. I wanted to be aware of everything.

"I wanted it to be my way, not bright lights and spank the butt."

And Blair wanted to prepare and decorate the space where she would deliver her baby.

She filled a small upstairs room in her home with "little candles." Water bubbled gently over smooth stones in a blue bowl, incense scented the air and a lavender throw covered a futon.

From the window she could see the bay and "a beautiful view of the Dumbarton Bridge. I felt like I could really relax in that environment." She had had her first baby, Justin, now 3, at home, when they lived in Colorado, and it was "no problem. Yes, it was painful. But it was OK. I liked being in charge."

Gibson worked with Blair throughout her pregnancy. Gibson is based in the Mid-peninsula area but goes anywhere, "all the way from Navato to Gilroy." She said she is one of five licensed community midwives in the Peninsula area.

Blair said she looked in the phone book Yellow Pages for a list and began interviewing midwives. Others learn of midwives by word of mouth.

Detractors worry about what happens if a problem turns up during a delivery.

"Having a home birth is a privilege of health, of having it your way," Gibson said. "I'd never encourage someone to have an unattended home birth."

Gibson admits there is some controversy about home births, that some think "midwifery is substandard with no safety standard. I'd like to see that bias changed."

El Camino Hospital has a protocol for granting privileges to a certified nurse midwife, through an interdisciplinary practice committee, said hospital spokeswoman Judy Twitchell.

"But no one is currently practicing now," she said.

Blair, who turned 33 yesterday, grew up in Los Altos Hills, not far from where she now lives. After graduating from Gunn High School, she attended the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in physics.

She and Erik, 37, have their own business, Minds in Motion, which offers academic tutoring and preparation for the Scholastic Aptitude Test.

Gibson said that "people seek safety in their birth. Some people see safety in hospitals. Others do that by taking themselves out of the hospital loop."

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