Open Arms Perinatal Services
Fall 2010Vol 2, Issue 3

Birth Notes 


Dear Friends,
What does it mean to foster community or to be a "grassroots" organization?
Open Arms is a leader in Washington State when it comes to joining with communities around their own goals for pregnant women and new parents. Instead of taking a cookie-cutter approach, Open Arms responds to unique needs identified in community meetings.
It is no mistake that our mission statement does not specify "doula support" or any other specific service. We have long held that it is the community that identifies what service it would like to see, and how they would envision that happening.
Our current approach is to ask the community what concerns they have about mothers and infants. We may learn that women are most interested in preserving a long tradition of breastfeeding. Or we might hear that the priority is reducing rates of medical intervention in the birth, or enabling more women to parent their children successfully. We ask the people of the community to identify mentors in the area of childbirth, or people who have a passion for helping; we then invite them to attend training. In the process, we select and hire the women most suited to leadership within the community.
Typically, these are women who are bilingual and serve as cultural navigators. They focus on the issues identified as concerns in their own community, and remain receptive to other issues as they arise. Sometimes, clients of our doulas are so touched by the support that they received that they later train to become doulas themselves, continuing the cycle of leadership in the community as well as providing a source of income for their families. 
In providing a platform for communities to put forth their own goals, Open Arms retains a groundswell approach and continues to diversify our services in carrying out our mission to "support, educate, respect, honor, and empower women and their families throughout the childbearing year."

We continue to have conversations with communities to determine what is needed, and to respond to those needs.

Thank you for being part of that mission.
In This Issue
"Labor of Love" Challenge
Open Arms in Washington, DC
Short and Sweet Auction at Theo Chocolate: November 30
milkmakers Donates 10% of August Profits to Open Arms
Pay It Forward: Interview with Ericka Pollard, Birth Doula
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"Labor of Love" Challenge -
From August 30 through Labor Day, September 6, Open Arms issued a challenge to raise enough money in a week to support five pregnant women with doula support - our Labor of Love fundraiser.

Many of you joined with others across the country to donate over $4,440 to support women and families! As a result, over six women will be able to find the strength, voice and love they need to bring their babies into this world healthy, strong and off to the right start with an Open Arms doula. Thank you!

All proceeds from this fundraiser will go to our Birth Doula Services program, supporting pregnant and birthing women with emotional, physical and informational support during the perinatal time. Open Arms continues to have more requests for doulas than we can serve, and many times the women we can't serve will go on to birth alone. We believe all women should be able to have the support of a doula, regardless of income.
If you missed the fundraiser, you can still contribute! Just visit to learn more and make a donation! The fundraising page will be open until December 2010, or you can contribute directly via our website.

Open Arms Birth Doulas:
  • reduce medical interventions and the costs of perinatal care
  • provide education about pregnancy, birth options, breastfeeding and positive early parenting
  • increase awareness and personal advocacy skills, which set the stage for new mothers to be empowered, confident, and strong advocates for their children and families
  • remove barriers to service by serving as cultural navigators, providing culturally competent links from community to the health care system.
Positive social and educational support during pregnancy, birth and postpartum can have a tremendous impact on the physical and emotional health and well-being of new mothers and their families. Thank you for your support!

"If we hope to create a non-violent world where respect and kindness replace fear and hatred, we must begin with how we treat each other at the beginning of life. For that is where our deepest patterns are set. From these roots grow fear and alienation ~or love and trust."    - Suzanne Arms

Open Arms in Washington, DC

A recent blog post shared some of the interesting conversations that are happening around doulas, birth and early education: Visit to Washington, DC

It is exciting to see national recognition acknowledging that birth work is foundational to early learning. Open Arms is proud to have a program that is being looked at as a model for others across the country.
Annual Short & Sweet Auction at Theo Chocolate: November 30, 2010

Theo ChocolateOpen Arms Annual Short & Sweet Auction will be held on Tuesday, November 30, 2010. 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 much anticipated venue is Theo Chocolate in Fremont! We're thrilled to be able to support a local business that values community as much as we do at Open Arms.


This year's event is going to be hot, so look for registration information coming to you shortly. You won't want to miss it!

milkmakers Donates 10% of August Profits to Open Arms
In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, Seattle company milkmakers donated 10% of August profits to Open Arms!

milkmakers logoDelicious milkmakers lactation cookies are a nutritious, tasty way to increase milk supply in nursing moms. Made only with premium, all-natural ingredients and no preservatives, milkmakers cookies are delivered straight to your door. Open Arms is proud to partner with a local company that provides a delicious and nutritious way for moms and babies to enjoy the benefits of breastmilk.

"Open Arms fills a big void in the community by giving mothers the support they need to feel empowered about becoming parents, and by building their confidence to make the choices and decisions they'll need to along the way," says Emily Kane, founder of milkmakers.  "Whether it's about the childbirth experience, recovery, breastfeeding, or adjusting to parenthood, Open Arms is there to help women who would otherwise be with little or no support."

Thank you, milkmakers, for your support of Open Arms!
Pay It Forward: Interview with Ericka Pollard, Birth Doula
Have you ever wondered who are the passionate people who make up the Open Arms family - who they are, what they do and why they are passionate about the work they do for Open Arms? With each issue, our newsletters will include interviews with some of our employees, donors, clients and contract doulas to help you understand the passion they have for their work and the reasons they find this work compelling.

In this interview, we introduce Ericka Pollard, Contract Birth Doula.
Open Arms' Birth Doula Services - which span from the last trimester of pregnancy until six weeks postpartum - offer women social and emotional support, prenatal and parenting education, continuous support throughout labor and birth, and home visits in the first six weeks after the baby is born. With the capacity to speak 7 different languages among our staff and doulas, Open Arms offers services that are culturally and linguistically appropriate to the families that we serve.

Ericka Pollard
Open Arms Birth Doula
What's your name, job position, and how long have you been with Open Arms?

My name is Ericka Pollard. I'm a birth doula with the Birth Doula Services program, and I've been attending births for Open Arms for about four years.

What makes this work interesting?

It begins with relationship-building. As a doula, one key role is to build stable, healthy and trusting relationships with my clients. In some cases, this is the first example my clients have of being able to have this kind of trusting relationship. Then during the process of supporting my clients through the birth of their baby, I can help my clients to identify and use the tools they need to be a support for their children and to build healthy relationships. This in turn can help children to be healthy - not just physically, but also emotionally and mentally.

It can be life-changing for some women to experience a nurturing, trusting relationship, and it inspires some women to want to be the parent that they never had. Showing love to clients is a key component for them in turn to show love to their babies. It's the idea of pay it forward. If they are able to have a healthy and memorable birth and feel cared for during this time, it helps them to use that experience as a model to then establish a deeper bond with their child.

I think birth itself can be life-changing. A positive birth experience - even if it's the hardest thing that woman has ever done in her life - is powerful. A model of a relationship with trust, someone who will not abandon or judge even if things get really hard, can stay with a woman throughout her life.

You are bilingual and often work with our Spanish-speaking clients. In your experience, what kind of value does it bring to a client to have a bilingual doula?

It makes a huge difference for my clients to be able to have someone who can understand them and speak in their first language. I wouldn't know what to do if I were presented with some hospital paperwork in a foreign language - say if I were birthing in China, I'd be lost. Having someone they can talk to is so important. Many times I've run into problems where it's hard to get interpreters for my clients, and I've had experiences with interpreters where they don't translate everything, so I know that being someone my clients can trust is important. I can really be an advocate for my clients. I don't do official interpretation, that's not my role. I am not their voice, but through our work together I can help them find their own voice - help them turn their whisper into a shout.

You're a second grade teacher in the Seattle Public Schools. What kind of impact do you think doulas can have on families that might help them later in school?

Students are more prepared for school when they have a solid foundation at home, and that begins as soon as a baby is born. If families have a good birth experience, it can help set the stage from the beginning for a solid, loving relationship with their children. It doesn't matter what a student's background is - the student can be homeless, but if students are shown love and are comfortable with themselves and others, I can see the difference in the classroom. Relationship-building is critical for a student's education. Students who are comfortable with themselves and others just do better. 

I do bring my doula skills to the classroom. When I'm a doula, I'm a teacher. But when I'm a teacher, I'm also being a doula, helping families and modeling that trusting, supportive relationship for the kids and encourage the parents to do the same. It's not that different, really.

Is there anything else you'd like to share about being an Open Arms doula?

Yes! I don't think people know the depth of the work of being an Open Arms doula. It's incredibly rewarding work and it's just an amazing program! It's a best-kept secret, but I just want to tell people how great it is.

Board of Directors:

Emily Kane, Erica Nixon-Mack, Geoff Miller, Kelly Beeken, MD, Lisa Chin, Peggy Fitzgerald, Sabrina Urquhart, Sara Thompson, Sarah Pulliam, Sharon Cunnington, 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