The Birth Center of Delaware was started by Edie Wonnell, CNM, who, as one of the founders of the Bryn Mawr Birth Center in Pennsylvania, was seeing women from Delaware driving to Pennsylvania for their care and realized the need for a birth center in our state. She was a pioneer in championing the idea and worked against much resistance within the state to bring this to fruition. In 1982, her efforts paid off when she opened the doors on 7th Street in Wilmington, in a 3 story red brick house, where The Birth Center remained for 36 years offering full scope midwifery care.
Along the way, The Birth Center changed hands twice. When Edie retired in 1996, she sold the Birth Center to St. Francis Hospital, just half a block up the street, and it was renamed The Birth Center of St. Francis. While their intentions were good, the center did not flourish under their management and after 2 years a decision was abruptly made to close the center. Dorinda Dove, who had been a midwife with The Birth Center since 1995, and Kathleen McCarthy, who originally worked at St. Francis as a midwife, decided that something had to be done to keep it open- while being business owners was not something either one of them had any experience with, they felt that, despite the risk, there really was no choice in the matter and they entered into negotiations with the hospital to buy The Birth Center. Again, just as with Edie, many hoops had to be jumped through but in the end, thanks in large part to the many families who rallied to the cause, they were successful. In 1999, The Birth Center was again rechristened as The Birth Center: Holistic Women’s Health Care. They were very proud of the fact that this was accomplished without having to close the doors even for a short time (at the time there were 50 pregnant women under their care). Instrumental to their success were the tireless efforts of Peggy Lutes, RN, who also, along with Kathleen, left her long time job at St. Francis to take a leap of faith and join their endeavor.
Once again The Birth Center was midwife owned and operated, and it thrived. 10 years after St. Francis was on the verge of closing it, the practice had grown to the point that it was “splitting at the seams” and a new home had to be found. The other impetus for moving was that when the center eventually changed hands again upon Dorinda’s and Kathleen’s retirement, it would need to be in a building that was in compliance with DE State Code for healthcare facilities, and the building on 7th Street (which was “grandfathered in”), while homey, functional, and well loved, would not meet current code when that day rolled around.
So, in December 2018, The Birth Center relocated to a newly constructed building on Churchmans Rd near Christiana Hospital, a building that had been constructed to the specifications of Dorinda and Kathleen, and one that brought to reality a long term dream of Kathleen’s to have The Birth Center be part of an integrative center of like minded holistic practitioners. There are now 8 midwives and 11 nurses (up from 2 and 1!) along with an office manager, lactation consultants, med techs, receptionists, billing people, bookkeeper, social media coordinator, patient liaison, housekeeping personnel, and of course, the integrative practitioners who we share space with and learn from on a daily basis. And last but not least, the myriad of families that we serve who make it all worthwhile!