Taking risks – women helping women

For a long time, the board and staff at Open Arms have discussed starting a blog. We toss it around, agree there is a lot to say, and we agree we should “look into it.” But then, as people often do, we think about it and stumble. But I don’t know enough to start a blog. I’m not technical enough. I’m not sure what I write will be compelling. I’m not sure I’m ready. Who’s got the time? And so – time passes, and again, we bring up the issue of a blog and again we postpone it.

But today, a generous man in the community, Bruce Wilson offered to get together with some people at a local coffee shop to discuss social networking. So my fellow board member Sara and I dropped in. We found a group of people, mostly moms with small businesses and working with nonprofits, who all were interested in social networking but needed an extra push to get started. We got some ideas and thought – OK, the trick is to start. Isn’t that often the trick in life – just start, and you will figure it out as you go. I know as a parent, I learn that lesson over and over. You don’t have to know what you’re doing, you just have to get started doing it and you’ll figure it out. But I digress.

Sara and I talked on the way home from the meeting and decided that just this idea of individuals giving of their time and skills, sharing information and support, is the key to much of what our organization was about. So we decided that we would take the risk, start the blog and see what develops. And so, here we are.

The mission of Open Arms Perinatal Services is to provide services that support, educate, respect, honor and empower women and their families throughout the childbearing year. We provide doulas (women who provide physical, emotional and informational support during labor and birth) to low-income women in the Puget Sound / greater Seattle area.

We do this for many reasons. Some tug at our heart strings – every woman deserves to feel heard, understood, cared for and nourished while she’s pregnant, during labor and birth, and postpartum. We know that there are studies that show women who have doula support have shorter labors, fewer cesarean births, increased breastfeeding and other benefits, and our own organization’s statistics back that up. And we do what we do because supporting women at a critical, pivotal time in their lives provides a model and resources for supporting and bonding to their child and creates a lifelong pattern of advocacy. It’s the right thing to do for all women and families. I’m not exaggerating when I say supporting women supports not only that woman and her child, but her family and her health and her community. The impact can reach for generations. A woman who has received support is able to give support, and that changes everything.

Women need this, babies need this, families need this and communities need this.

I suspect we’ll have a lot of discussion around this and other issues. Even as I type, I know I’m simplifying the issue. Birth touches health care, early education, mental health, domestic violence, social services, cultural and religious traditions, women’s rights, social justice, reproductive justice and more, if that wasn’t enough. It reveals prejudice, judgement and anger from some, and kindness, empowerment, inspiration from others, and sometimes all of that comes from unexpected places. It’s not neutral. Whenever I find myself talking about the work we do and why, I find myself in the most amazing dialogues on how far-reaching support around birth is.

Just you wait. This is going to be fun.

So, with the support and the encouragement of some of the other folks at Open Arms, I’m opening this discussion. And although our discussion is about women’s support during the perinatal time and birthing, it is not a discussion that is only for women. Men, you will have a lot to add to the discussion too.

I hope we at Open Arms will learn from you and I hope we’re able to share with you — not only the amazing work we do, but the reasons we do it, and why you should care.

I invite you to join us!

Peggy Fitzgerald
Open Arms Board Chair

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