Birth center responsible for delivering 7,000 babies in danger of closing

WESLACO — A faith-based facility that has helped bring more than 7,000 babies into the world is now in danger of closing its doors.

Holy Family Birth Center in Weslaco has for 33 years provided midwifery services to the indigent as well as to expecting mothers who prefer a natural pregnancy experience. It’s considered the oldest in the state and the only one of its kind in the Rio Grande Valley.

But the center, a nonprofit organization that exceeds $400,000 in operational costs annually, is struggling to stay open now that its facilities have fallen into disrepair.

Founded by the Sisters of Charity, the clinic and birth center, which are traditionally under one roof, were constructed as finances were available leading up to its opening in 1980. With little means to address the buildings’ wear and tear, many fear the Valley will lose what many consider an affordable alternative to the more traditional hospital experience.

Heather Swanson, clinical director and administrator for Holy Family, laid out the center’s current predicament.

“Our land is not owned by the (Catholic) Diocese, but we’re a pro-life facility whose land is deeded to us for the purposes of the birth center,” she said. “For it to be sustainable though, it’s a couple hundred thousand dollars we’ll need to replace buildings and have enough in savings where we can hire an operations director.”

The director, Swanson said, would replace her as she’s planning to leave the center by summer’s end.

“This is to have someone very specifically working on the strategic planning and sustainability of Holy Family, and we need someone local in the area,” Swanson added. “It’s tough to find the right fit for that, to find someone with an interest in internal health who supports this model of care.”

She started at Holy Family in 2011, first as a midwife before eventually taking the center’s administrative helm. But Swanson has also continued to help with deliveries, even for staff.

Weslaco resident Laura Bonilla, 37, can attest to as much.

“I’ve had four, but three here,” the medical assistant at Holy Family said of the number of children she’s given birth to; only one of which inside a hospital. “Over there, you have to be in a bed all the time, and that’s the difference. Here, the baby is always with you, so that’s what I loved because at hospitals they try to take the baby to a nursery, and I don’t like that. It’s just having the attention the midwives here give you, and actually Heather was my midwife for all three of them (children).”

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