Postpartum Depression

Many people visit our website looking for information on Postpartum Depression. If you’re interested, the blog Postpartum Progress by Katherine Stone is wonderful – check it out. There’s a lovely interview of Katherine “Blossom in the Desert” on the Giving Birth With Confidence website that you might also be interested in.

And, as always, if you’re seeking help for postpartum mood disorders, anxiety, or depression for yourself or someone you know, help is available at Postpartum Support International. Visit their website at or call 1-800-944-4PPD. PPSI has help available specifically for military families as well.



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Reflections on Possibility: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday

This is a reflection on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday by Open Arms Executive Director Sheila Capestany. It’s reprinted from our January Newsletter.

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

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January Newsletter: Read All About It!

We just released our January Newsletter – check it out! Among the articles, you will find a fabulous letter from our Executive Director Sheila Capestany on reflections on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, an announcement of our Peer Breastfeeding Program, and an interview with Open Arms Outreach Doula Hawa Egal. When you’ve finished, you can visit our Newsletter Archive if you’d like more reading!

We also hope you’ll consider joining us for our 3rd Annual Spring Luncheon on March 24, to be held at the W Seattle from 11:30 AM until 1:00 PM. Visit our webpage to learn more and to register, or if you are unable to make it, make an online donation.

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Our Year at Open Arms: Video

This is a video created by photographer and Open Arms friend Melissa Miller about our year at Open Arms. Enjoy!

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Annual Meeting

Open Arms held its Annual Meeting on Friday evening, a gathering for doulas, staff, board and friends to say thank you, to honor those who work so hard for our clients, and to celebrate accomplishments and look forward to a new year!

The Annual Meeting was bittersweet as we said good-bye to Open Arms’ first paid Executive Director and later Board member Lisa Chin. Lisa started the Open Arms partnership with the White Center Early Learning Initiative (WCELI) and our now thriving Outreach Doula program. After handing the reins to Sheila Capestany, our current Executive Director, Lisa moved on to provide much expertise and guidance by serving on our Board of Directors. Lisa is now the Executive Director of Year Up in the Puget Sound region, and we know she will help them achieve great things. We’re sorry to see you go, Lisa, but wish you well on your exciting new endeavor and know you’ll remain a friend of Open Arms!

Other business included introducing new board members Sharon Cunnington, Sabrina Urquhart and Kelly Beeken, MD.

Open Arms also recognized several of our doulas who made a huge difference in the past year. All of our doulas are an essential part of our organization and we’re grateful for each and every one, but each year we try to recognize several of our doulas who really go above and beyond. This year, Open Arms presented the Social Justice and Advocacy Award twice, to Lynn Lambie and Down to Earth Doulas Vanna Waldron and Rebecca Allen. The Volunteer Award was presented to Candace Barber, and the New Doula Who Really Rose to the Occasion Award was presented to Angie Sanderson. Thank you to all our doulas who serve our clients.

And – we learned something new. For years, we’ve said that we support 7 languages – but that is outdated information! We’ve tallied it up and are proud to announce that Open Arms now serves our clients in 15 languages: English, Spanish, French, Italian, American Sign Language, Nepali, Japanese, Korean, Somali, Oromo, Turkish, German, Amharic, Cantonese and Mandarin!

In a few weeks, we’ll share our end-of-the-year statistics and outcomes with you. Til next time…

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Compassionate Friends Worldwide Candle Lighting Dec 12

A message from Compassionate Friends Worldwide:

Sunday, December 12th is the 14th Worldwide Candle Lighting.  The Compassionate Friends Worldwide Candle Lighting unites family and friends around the globe in lighting candles for one hour to honor and remember children who have died at any age from any cause.  As candles are lit at 7 p.m. local time, creating a virtual wave of light, hundreds of thousands of persons commemorate and honor the memory of children in a way that transcends all ethnic, cultural, religious, and political boundaries.

Now believed to be the largest mass candle lighting on the globe, the Worldwide Candle Lighting, a gift to the bereavement community from The Compassionate Friends, creates a virtual 24-hour wave of light as it moves from time zone to time zone.  Hundreds of formal candle lighting events are held and thousands of informal candle lightings are conducted in homes as families gather in quiet remembrance of children who have died, but will never be forgotten

The Compassionate Friends self-help support organization for families grieving the death of a child invites everyone to join in this day of remembrance by lighting a candle at 7 p.m. local time for one hour or by participating in one of the many services being held. A Remembrance Book will be open throughout the day on TCF’s national website to post memorial messages. Last year, those messages totaled in the thousands.

To learn more and to view information on services being held around the globe, please visit or The Compassionate Friends/USA Facebook page, or call 1-877-969-0010.

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Birthing in the United States

This Huffington Post article just came out – Women Speak Out About What’s Gone Wrong with the United States Birthing System – and I’m sure some of you readers would have a comment on it, so go on over and check it out. It’s a great article about what’s gone wrong with birth in the United States, enough so that Amnesty International has called out maternal health and birthing in the United States as a human rights crisis.

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The Science of Healthy Children – Jerry Large article

Did you all see this great article by Jerry Large from the Seattle Times?

Jerry Large: The science of healthy children

This symposium was powerful, and was referenced yesterday at the Perinatal Mood Disorder conference stakeholders meeting.

The video referenced in the article is here – 2.5 minutes long:

Still Face Experiment: Dr. Edward Tronick

Children are so in tune with their moms – what happens if mom just can’t respond? Clearly, the baby experiences stress and dismay. The key appears to be recovery – if mom (or dad) can come back and engage with the child again, then the baby can resolve the feelings. If not, the baby is left stuck in those negative emotions, which over time, can take its toll.

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Cherish is the word I use to describe….

You all know that old song “Cherish” by the Association:

“Cherish is the word I use to describe
All the feeling that I have hiding here for you inside…

… and off it goes on another song about unrequited love.

Last night, our board had a work session in which we looked again at the Open Arms vision: A world that cherishes birthing women, their babies, families and communities.

Between our recent board and staff retreat and this board work session, I’ve spent hours talking about the word “cherish” and its associations and alternatives. Is “cherish” a strong enough word for our vision of the world? Does the word convey the importance of what we mean by cherish, or does it recall Hallmark cards with fuzzy bunnies in pink and blue bows? I confess that song goes over and over in my head when I hear the word, and it sounds … cheesy. Am I right?

Yet let’s look at what the dictionary says about cherish:


–verb (used with object)
1. to hold or treat as dear; feel for: to cherish one’s native land.
2. to care for tenderly; nurture: to cherish a child.
3. to cling fondly or inveterately to: to cherish a memory.

We want the world to care for, hold dear, nurture and tenderly care for our communities birthing women, their babies, and families. We also believe that communities should be cherished, for they are what sustain us and bring us nourishment.

The thesaurus says “cherish means to be fond of, be attached to, while nurture means to bring up, help develop, help grow, or provide with nourishment.” Ideally we want to do both, but by cherishing families and communities, we provide the means for those families and communities to do the nurturing. Another interesting synonym is foster which means “to promote the growth or development of; further; encourage”, which is of course what we want for our world as well. Antonyms for cherish are equally revealing – neglect, relinquish, abandon, denounce, forsake, not care, renounce. That’s not what we want to do with mothers and babies in order to have a healthy society!

When I think of cherish, after I get past the cheesy associations, I really think -we do want the world to cherish new life and those who bring it forth. Cherish is not just holding in reverence but means action. You can look at moms and babies and families and communities and say oh, I cherish them and go about your business, but to really do it, you must take action and stand with mothers and babies and say because I cherish you, I will protect you, nurture you, respect you and show you that we value you. We must stand behind those words with action.

Today’s world emphatically does not do this, but rather judges new mothers and their babies on many counts, disrespects them, abandons them. Hey honey, you chose to get pregnant, now you’re on your own. Deal with it. There’s cruelty to it that shocks me. These are babies and our own mothers, sisters, wives, friends and ourselves that we are talking about. Have you ever seen a newborn baby? The love in a newborn baby’s eyes is beyond description in the depth and wisdom it contains. It takes your breath away. Most people see only their own baby or a baby of a dear friend or relative and are blown away by it, but I can assure you, every baby has the same look when its born. The love is beyond description. How can we not cherish them?

And speaking of babies, often our focus goes to the babies, but you know, birthing women should be cherished too. Women are not just the vessel that produces the baby – a machine that must function properly and follow all instructions in order to deliver a perfect product at the end. No, women have value in and of themselves, and are worthy of deep respect  and love. We must hold them dear as well, for it is through women that everything in society can change for the better.

So what is the word we’re looking for? Is it cherish, or does that word just not work? We’ve spent a loooooong time looking at alternatives: treasure, embrace, value, nurture, protect, and so on, and yet continue to come back to cherish for its deep love, reverence, respect, and value.

For the moment, we think we’ll stick with cherish, but we’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Reading More: Resources for Open Arms

The following is a resource list on issues surrounding the work we do at Open Arms.

Chicago HealthConnect One website on community-based doula programs and fact sheets, including:

Cochrane Review of Continuous Support for Women During Childbirth – an overview of the medical literature on doulas.

Homicide: A Leading Cause of Injury Deaths Among Pregnant and Postpartum Women in the United States, 1991-1999.

CDC Report: United States Ranks 30th in Infant Mortality (between Poland and Slovakia)

CDC Report: Recent Trends in Infant Mortality in the United States. Includes racial differences in infant mortality

CDC Report: Physical abuse during pregnancy

Thrive By Five Washington

White Center Early Learning Initiative (WCELI) partnership with Open Arms Perinatal Services

Seattle Human Services Awards 2010

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