open arms perinatal services
Summer 2010Vol 2, Issue 2

Birth Notes 


Dear Friends,
As we hear more about maternal and infant health in the news, not only locally but nationally and internationally, we are continually reminded of the importance of our work in improving health outcomes, reducing health disparities, supporting early learning and strengthening families and communities.

With increasing attention on community-based programs, Open Arms finds itself in a leadership role in modeling how community-based programs can be successful.

We are deeply grateful for you: our community, donors, funders, and friends, for your commitment and support in helping women and families at this pivotal time. Thank you!

In This Issue
Open Arms Wins Human Services Award
Contagious Positive Impact: Interview with Yen Baynes, Outreach Doula
Open Arms to Speak in Washington, DC
Yvette Dioubate Wins 2010 DONA Trainer Fellowship
Save the Date - November 30 for Annual Auction
Visit Our Blog
Call for Prospective Board Members
Support Open Arms with a Monthly Donation
Join Our Mailing List!
Open Arms Wins Seattle Human Services Coalition Award

On June 3, Open Arms was honored to receive the Innovative Program Award from the Seattle Human Services Coalition. This coveted award highlights Open Arms' ability to build upon an outstanding program model, namely our unique, culturally competent doula services. The Coalition recognized this program as a crucial element in helping to eliminate health disparities among different peoples within our community, and addressing these disparities from the earliest stage of human development.

The award also cited our positive program results, which include providing education about pregnancy, and positive early parenting, increasing rates of breastfeeding, and reducing medical interventions and the cost of prenatal care.  


Executive Director Sheila Capestany accepted the award on behalf of the hardworking organization. Presenting the award at City Hall were Seattle City Council Member Sally Clark and President Richard Conlin. Open Arms Board members Emily Kane and Erica Nixon-Mack and staff Michelle Sarju, Margarita Celis, Yen Baynes, Yvette Dioubate, Annie Moffatt and Hawa Egal also attended. 

For a transcript of the award presentation, visit our blog. If you are interested, we have a home video of the awards ceremony posted on YouTube. Please note the sound is very quiet, so speakers need to be turned up very high to hear it.

Contagious Positive Impact: Interview with Yen Baynes, Outreach Doula

Have you ever wondered about our outreach doulas - who they are, what they do and why they are passionate about the work they do for Open Arms? Over the next year, our newsletters will include interviews with some of our employees to help you understand the passion they have for their work and the reasons they find this work compelling.

In our first interview, we introduce Yen Baynes, Latina Outreach Doula. Outreach doula services begin in early pregnancy and continue up to two years after delivery. You can read more about the Outreach Doula Program here.

Yen Baynes, on right
Yen Baynes
What's your name, job position, and how long have you been at Open Arms?

My name is Yen Baynes. I'm a Latina Outreach Doula for the White Center Early Learning Initiative (WCELI) Outreach Doula Program. I've worked as a full-time staff person since June 2009, but I've been an Open Arms Volunteer Doula since 2006.

Why did you become a doula?

I became a doula because I had a doula at my birth who spoke my language and helped me during my perinatal period. Because she spoke my language, she could relate to my family, and that helped hold the emotional space I needed in order to have a positively transformative birth experience. It was amazing -- I had an amazing birth!

What is the most meaningful thing about being a doula?

It's an honor to be with women during a transformative time - pregnancy and birth. I especially love that I have a long term relationship with my clients and I'm with families from pregnancy to age two. It gives me a lot of comfort that I'll know these babies and families for a long time. I also love experiencing birth with my clients - it's my favorite! I call it my journeys to "birth land," because it's a kind of time warp when everything else falls away and you're just in the present with the birthing woman as they go through the passage that is their birth experience. I love holding the space for women in birth. Despite the exhaustion, it brings me a kind of energy boost that informs my whole way of being in the world.

Is there an instance you remember where having you as an Open Arms doula made a big difference for a family?

I always feel like it's really important to be there - families are often on a track that is already very biased against them. They tend to get more interventions and a more disempowering experience. But one client does come into mind - she has a medical condition that requires that she be induced. Because it's somewhat uncommon, it is hard to understand, even with an interpreter, the intricacies of the condition and why an induction is the best course of action.

As we've worked together for a few months, she's been writing down what questions she has for her doctor so she can get all the information she needs to make an informed decision about her care. This practice has turned out to be very useful now that there are health concerns. She is now able to go into her birth feeling she's choosing the induction rather it be something that is being done to her. I think emotionally, going in with that mindset, her birth will be more empowered and more manageable.

People often see doulas as supporting only idyllic, natural births with no interventions. In reality, it does happen quite often that clients are actually facing births where interventions are appropriate. At its core, what we doulas can do well has more to do with holding space for choice and empowerment. It's about building a relationship in which the model is to trust the woman's strengths in decision making when it comes to what is happening with her pregnancy and her baby.

What would you like to tell people about Open Arms that they might not already know?

I think something that is very powerful but hard to describe from an outsider's perspective is our reflective practice. Often people say they see us as this pack of super powerful women - we've had comments at restaurants about this powerful aura that we have - and that's how it manifests, but what's happening is that we're very interconnected through a deeply reflective way of being with each other and with our clients. It's been a very intentional (and sometimes arduous!) approach that is both from the top-down - from board to executive director to staff to doulas to clients to babies, and from the bottom up. Our interactions are imbued with honoring each other's strengths as we move forward. 

As an Open Arms employee, I get a lot of support and space-holding from my supervisors, and that's the model I use for how to hold space and provide support for clients. In turn, my clients model their relationships with their babies and their community in this way, as well. It's contagious positive impact! Women can have multiple children and still have this new infant and new relationship be completely different, because their way of being with their new baby has been based on a reflective model since pregnancy.

Can you describe reflective practice?

Reflective practice honors what the person already knows. It is based on wondering and being curious about what a person has already mastered in order to get to where they are today. As a provider, my wanting to understand what a woman already knows about herself and her situation strengthens her ability to learn new information. For example, with my client - after hearing she needed an induction, my first question was "do you have enough information?" And, once we figured out what she needed to know about the condition, I was able to ask "what do you know about induction?" I don't mean facts, although it turns out she knows a whole lot -- she was a nurse in her home country and she has a lot of factual knowledge. But what did it mean for her to have an induction next week  when she was planning to give birth next month?  What were the implications for herself and her baby?  It wasn't for me to tell her - she had that information herself.  It was in feeling heard that she could hash out a good plan for what should happen next.  In being heard, she is able to go into the experience trusting that her personal, embodied way of knowing is not only valid, but crucial when it comes to making decisions in her health and in her life.

This was the same way I was trained here at Open Arms back before we even started taking Outreach clients. And, it is the same way we speak to each other in the office day in and day out. This kind of honoring and the effect it can have is not specific to any one population or situation. As humans, we all do better when we can trust our powerful ways of knowing. We do better when we know better. The exact same skills will prove useful when my client's child is in school and she has to talk with a teacher or principal. By using reflective practice, she will understand and advocate for her child. People first see it modeled, and then can practice it. At its core, reflective practice makes for an important building block toward becoming better parents.

Open Arms Executive Director to Speak on Panel in Washington, DC

Open Arms Executive Director Sheila Capestany is traveling to Washington DC next week to participate in a meeting of Administration for Children and Families (ACF), for their Early Learning Communities Initiative.

ACF is developing a place-based framework drawn from successful community models of comprehensive and continuous early childhood services. The development of this framework is part of a project called The Early Learning Communities Initiative, which is designed to encourage dialogue between and within communities, and to spur local action. The outcome goals include healthy pregnancies and births, toddlers who are thriving, and young children who are prepared for success in school and well-being of families.

Sheila will speak as a community partner in the White Center Early Learning Initiative (WCELI). Her presentation will focus on both our partnership in WCELI and how our work is foundational to early learning initiatives, and the community-based work we do as Open Arms. This includes community partnership, cultural versatility, and the importance of agencies reflecting the diversity of the communities we serve.

Sheila Capestany will be joined by John Bancroft from the Puget Sound Educational Service District. Together they will represent the work currently underway in our Thrive by Five project community, White Center.
Yvette Dioubate Wins 2010 DONA Trainer Fellowship

Yvette Dioubate
Yvette Dioubate
Congratulations to Open Arms Program Coordinator Yvette Dioubate, CD, for receiving the 2010 DONA Trainer Fellowship. Yvette was the only person on the West Coast to receive this fellowship.

The DONA International Trainer Workshop Fellowship Program is an initiative to identify women of color in the United States who would train to become DONA International approved birth or postpartum doula trainers. This program seeks to increase DONA International's trainer diversity so that the workshops in the United States are facilitated in the most culturally appropriate manner. Additionally, this Program seeks to support individuals wishing to create birth and postpartum support programs within their own communities.

Congratulations, Yvette!
Save the Date - Annual Short & Sweet Auction November 30, 2010

Open Arms Annual Short & Sweet Auction will be held again this coming November 30, a Tuesday evening just after Thanksgiving. This fun, informal gathering is a boon to holiday shoppers and raises funds for our general operations. Each year it is held in a new, creative venue. This year's location is being finalized now, so mark your calendar and stay tuned - you won't want to miss it!

If you have creative ideas for auction items or services to donate, please email us! We try to include items that would be appropriate for gift-giving in a range of prices with an emphasis on local goods and services. Popular ideas from past auctions include theater and event tickets, dining gift certificates, handcrafted jewelry, vacation cabins and unique items not found elsewhere.

Visit Our Blog

The Open Arms blog is located at It is updated every few days with links to articles, videos, local and international news. Join the conversation!

And if you're on Facebook, visit our page and "like" us. Tell your friends! Find us on Facebook

Call for Prospective Board Members

Ever wonder what it takes to run a family-centered and culturally versatile nonprofit such as Open Arms?  Do you have skills in marketing, fund development, web-based communication, or social networking?  We have a dynamic and diverse Board of Directors and are looking to grow by a few more members over the next year. If you would like to offer your valuable skills, please email Sara Thompson to apply.

Support Open Arms with a Monthly Donation

Will you consider a monthly donation to Open Arms? Our monthly giving program offers a convenient and effective way for donors to support Open Arms throughout the year
and provides the consistent financial support that allows us to be more flexible, and therefore more effective.

Your tax-deductible monthly donation of $5, $10, $25 or more
enables Open Arms to continue our vital work in serving mothers, babies, families and communities to improve health outcomes, increase breastfeeding, reduce health disparities and support early learning and advocacy. You can change your donation or stop your contribution at any time by contacting our office.

If this is of interest to you, please contact us by email and someone will contact you, or phone us at 206-723-6868 to discuss your donation. Alternately, you can make a monthly or one-time online donation at our Network for Good page. Thank you for your support!

Board of Directors:

Emily Kane, Erica Nixon-Mack, Geoff Miller, Lisa Chin, Peggy Fitzgerald, Sara Thompson, Sarah Pulliam, Tom Vasquez


Annie Moffat, Erica Sugita, Frank Chilelli, Hawa Egal, Jeff Deveaux, Jennifer McArthur (interim), Libin Egal, Margarita Celis, Michelle Sarju, Sheila Capestany, Yen Baynes, Yvette Dioubate