Open Arms Perinatal Services
January 2011
Vol 3, Issue 1

Birth Notes 


Dear Friends,

Every January, I find my thoughts wandering to our celebration of the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy in our world. I love his writings on his dream for our nation, on justice, nonviolent action, poverty, war and the ultimate survival of us as a people.  


More and more, however, I find myself moved less by his words and more by his being. At his core, Martin Luther King loved. He loved people who were like him and people who weren't. He loved people who fought with him and he even loved the people who fought against him. I'm not talking the kind of love that makes us want to spend time together, but the kind of love that makes us see each other clearly - inextricably linked within our common humanity and sharing our fate together. And he loved with the kind of love that made him believe that we all are better than the society that we live in, and therefore we can all be moved to act from our better selves.


This MLK Day in particular, I found myself thinking as well about King's actual birthday. What was that day like for his parents? His mother labored and birthed him like we all birth our children. As Mrs. King held her baby, did she know he would change the world? Did the doctor? Certainly the hospital that denied his mother access to its facility didn't believe so.  


Recently, I was in a store browsing through cards, and I was stopped in my tracks by one card in particular. It read, "A possibility was born the day you were born and it will live as long as you live". As I read that, I immediately flashed to Mrs. King and her baby, and all the babies we have held and welcomed into this world. I know that very few of us will change the world the way Dr. King did, but what if we welcomed all children with the possibility that they might?  Or what if we welcomed all our children not just with the knowledge of their possibility, but with the knowledge of our common humanity - with love? What could our world be like? 


At Open Arms, we believe in the inherent dignity and worth of every mother and baby. We believe in the possibility of every child that is born. And we believe that every mother and every family always have the opportunity to live out that possibility, no matter what has come before.


Thank you for being part of that vision. 


Warmest regards,

Sheila Capestany

Executive Director 

In This Issue
Peer Breastfeeding Program to Start in 2011
The Year in Review
Save the Date: 2011 Annual Spring Luncheon
2010 Short and Sweet Auction Tastes Sweet Success
Interview with Outreach Doula Hawa Egal
Multiyear Giving Campaign
Quilting Group Answers Call for Baby Blankets
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Peer Breastfeeding Program to Start in 2011

Open Arms is pleased to announce that we have been selected to receive the Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program contract with WIC through Public Health - Seattle and King County. Read more about the Loving Support Peer Counseling program.

We are very excited about the opportunity to provide breastfeeding support in our community. Over the next several months, Open Arms will bring on 8-13 new staff, and we look forward to growth and change as our agency expands to embrace this new program.

Look for more information about the Peer Breastfeeding Program as the year progresses.

The Year in Review

Open Arms had a very busy and exciting year. In 2010, Open Arms:

  • Served 223 women and families, more than ever before.
  • More than doubled the languages spoken by our doulas. We are now able to serve women in 15 different languages, up from 7 languages in 2009.
  • Provided scholarships to 15 women pursuing their training and certification as birth doulas.
  • Worked with almost 70 contract doulas to provide services through our Regional Birth Doula Services program.

As we enter 2011, we note that it is a time of huge change in the world of maternity services. After the news of many layoffs in services which care for pregnant women and new mothers, we expect the requests for our services to grow. We remain committed to serving mothers and babies to help ensure a loving, healthy start.

Save the Date: 2011 Annual Spring Luncheon on March 24 

Save the date for the Open Arms Perinatal Services 3rd Annual Spring Luncheon! The event will be held on Thursday, March 24, 2011 from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM at the W Seattle. The program will start at noon sharp.

Visit our website for more details and to register, or make an online donation if you are unable to attend.
Dr. Ben Danielson, MD
Dr. Ben Danielson, MD
Suggested donation at the event is $100.

We are delighted to announce our Keynote Speaker, Dr. Ben Danielson, MD.  Dr. Danielson is the Medical Director of the Odessa Brown Children's Clinic in Seattle since 1999, and he holds the Janet and Jim Sinegal Endowed Chair for the Odessa Brown Children's Clinic. The clinic has been an active part of Seattle's multiethnic Central District since 1970, largely serving children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Dr. Danielson is frequently interviewed for KONG-TV's "Ask the Doctor" segments.

Our Emcee again will be Dennis Bounds, Co-Anchor for KING-5 News.

Would you like information about corporate sponsorship or being a table captain? Please email us and we'll get you set up!

Home Visiting Programs Appeal to Obama Administration

Popularized in the late 1970's as a means of reaching at-risk families, home visiting programs remain a cornerstone of early parent support for disadvantaged families. Such programs aim to create a partnership with new parents, particularly mothers, through intervention by nurses, social workers, or other health workers delivered in a non-office setting. Home visiting programs typically focus on healthy pregnancy and delivery, strengthening the relationship between mother and infant, and coaching positive parenting skills. Results vary depending on the length of the collaborative working relationship, but studies point to a two to five-fold return on investment.

Last year, President Obama asked Congress to make home visiting programs a national priority, citing evidence that early intervention works to interrupt cycles of poverty and abuse and reduces disparities in access to health care. Open Arms doulas couldn't agree more. Doulas are among those home visitors who promote primary and maternity care, birth spacing, and breastfeeding. They may motivate mothers to access safe houses, night school, postpartum counseling, and other community resources. Both the Open Arms Birth Doula Services and the Outreach Doula Program deliver services to low-income pregnant women that meet the client where she is, physically and emotionally. Our doulas are trained in cultural competency and, when possible, matched to clients in their own linguistic or cultural communities.

Open Arms is poised to meet the challenge of the Obama administration in promoting fresh starts in life. We go wherever mother and baby need us most, whether that's to the home, hospital, or anywhere else.

2010 Short and Sweet Auction Tastes Sweet Success

When an auction is held at Theo Chocolate, how can the mood be more cheery? Featuring a bevy of fun offerings, including tours of the chocolate factory and samples galore, the Open Arms annual auction raised $11,200 in needed funds. Thank you to all who attended, donated items, and volunteered to make this one of the sweetest auctions yet! Thank you, Theo!


Each year we spotlight another business with sustainability and community-building at the heart of its business model. We hope you'll join us next year for another fun event.  

Interview with Outreach Doula Hawa Egal

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 Hawa Egal. Hawa is an Outreach Doula for Open Arms Prenatal Services focusing primarily on the Somali community. Her main goal is to create a safe and non-judgmental environment for families to share their hearts and souls. As an Outreach Doula,

Hawa Egal

Hawa wants to connect with and educate Somali women who have unique cultural needs, and guide them to having a healthy pregnancy. She continues to be with them to gently support and encourage them while they bond with their newborns. Hawa considers it an honor and a privilege to be a witness during this intimate time in women's lives.   


How did you become interested in doula work?


There is a need in my community for doulas. Many Somalian women in the U.S. are afraid to go to a hospital to give birth because of the language barrier. As a doula, I have access to resources that can help women and their babies have a healthy start, such as the early learning process.

When I was in refugee camp in Kenya, I watched a woman in childbirth die because there was no one to help her. I promised myself that I would do something to prevent this from happening to other women.


How are doulas viewed in Somali society?


In Somalia, all women stay home and are part of a tight society. When a woman gives birth, neighbors, family, and friends participate naturally. There is no name for this; women assist other women in childbirth as a natural function of society.


You are a mother. What do you think your work as a doula models for your own daughter?


As a doula and a mother, I empower my daughter and other women to take control of their bodies and the birth process.


What do you think is under-appreciated about pregnancy and postpartum in low-income women?


No words can express how frightening it is for a low-income, Somalian woman who does not speak English to go through pregnancy and postpartum.  Without a doula to support her and encourage her to ask questions and let her and her baby's needs be known, a woman would not be able to express her needs and concerns.


Can you recall a time when a doula's presence has positively influenced an outcome for mother or infant? 


Doulas play a unique role to families, one that isn't served by the other care providers. Because of our unique relationship with our clients, sometimes our clients trust us to help in a way that can make a profound difference. For example, a client of mine with a three-week old baby recently found herself homeless. She wasn't able to find room in a shelter. She talked it over with me, and together we were able to identify some people she could stay with until more options became available. Although that's not what doulas usually do, we find ourselves able to help families in many ways because of our relationship. Other times, our support is more traditional. We can help with language barriers, or cultural differences to help bridge the gap. For example, many Somali women do not want to have a C-section. Last night I returned from the hospital after spending three days with a woman who was in labor the whole time, and would have continued in labor rather than have a C-section.  Even though the mother rejected the idea of a C-section, I was able to talk to her and comfort her when it became necessary for her to have one. Our support is very individual.

Multiyear Giving Campaign

Open Arms has been fortunate to have some dedicated friends who understand the importance of financing our basic infrastructure, without which we would have no Birth Doula Program. In these unstable economic times, multiyear giving allows for nonprofits to budget forward and count on the pledged support over the next few budget cycles.

We are honored to have won the allegiance of several Friends, who have pledged a minimum of $2,500 for three consecutive years. Our Friends will be kept abreast of innovations, strategic planning, and community partnerships and invited to participate in visioning with the staff and Board.

Would you like to join our extend your annual gift over three years? Multiyear gifts of $500, $1,000, and $2,500 go a long way toward ensuring continued financial stability in the context of program reductions statewide in maternity support services. If you are interested, please contact Sheila Capestany at or 206-723-6868 to discuss a gift.

Quilting Group Answers Call for Baby Blankets

Ladies of the Lake is a group of friends who may have different backgrounds but come together for the love of quilting. Ladies of the Lake was formed in the 1970's, originally meeting in each other's homes. When the group grew in size and decided to find a larger meeting area, they ended up at the Hoodsport Fire Hall. The ladies meet weekly. There are approximately 42 members, including a founding member who is 94 and attends on a monthly basis. Every two years Ladies of the Lake puts on a quilt show in the Hoodsport area as their major fund-raiser. They also create several raffle quilts a year, and donate others to nonprofits like Open Arms.


In addition to supplying our doulas with newborn quilts for clients, the Ladies have sewn numerous quilts for American Hero, a program in which each wounded soldier returning to Joint Base Lewis McCord receives a quilt. Lynn Layton, mother of doula and interim staff, Jennifer McArthur, organizes the fabric and pattern for this monthly event. They have also donated many quilts for heart surgery patients, as well as Turning Pointe, a safe-haven for women and children fleeing domestic violence. We pass along our gratitude for the many years of comfort that Ladies of the Lake have contributed around our region!

Board of Directors:

Emily Kane, Erica Nixon-Mack, Geoff Miller, Kelly Beeken, Peggy Fitzgerald, Sabrina Urquhart, Sarah Pulliam, Sharon Cunnington, Tom Vasquez



Annie Moffat, Erica Sugita, Frank Chilelli, Hawa Egal, Libin Egal, Jeff Deveaux, Margarita Celis, Michelle Sarju, Sheila Capestany, Yvette Dioubate


Students and Volunteers:

Asha Farah, Haydee Bale, Marisa Hackett, Sarah Hartzell, Tara Madsen


Photography by:

Melissa Miller,