(Cheryl Weiss, June 18, 2017)
Ferndale, MI – Motherhood changes a woman. From changes in your body, to changes in your brain, to changes in your priorities, and changes in your schedule, nothing is the same after you have a baby. That can be isolating, but now there is a boutique clubhouse for moms in Ferndale called Honey Space.
“Honey is all I wanted as a mom, but couldn’t find in one place,” said Brooke Miller, Founder of Honey Space. Within the building, there are warm, cozy places in an inspirational environment that provide the location, amenities, and opportunities for moms to come together, to grow, to give and receive support, and to be successful. One room has fuzzy pillows and soft throws on a couch for moms to hang out and chat. One room has space for mompreneurs to work. Another space is a beauty salon, with pregnancy-safe products. Of course, there is a space for childcare, filled with toys, games, balls, a board to draw and write on, a play kitchen, and much more. There are meetups, classes, and events. Honey offers a life coach, a lactation specialist, a business coach, and a car seat technician. It is a special place for moms to hang out or to work, and they can bring their children with them. “This reduces isolation and increases connection to each other and our kids,” Miller explained. Her mission and vision for Honey is:
~Hold the space for moms and moms to be
~Shifting the paradigm for how moms and moms to be take care of themselves and one another…
Perhaps the most touching spaces at Honey is the Blessing Wall, a beautiful tiled space for parents to write a note, poem, or blessing to their children. Whether the children are happy and healthy, have passed away, or are growing within the mother, their parents can write a message and place it in the wall between the tiles. Every month, Miller removes these private messages and conducts a ceremony in honor of these children.
Each week, ten groups meet at Honey. There is a group for moms with children who have special needs, a mompreneurs group, a group for stay at home dads, and a NICU group, among others. Also during the week, moms come in during the day to work in the co-working space. Yoga, reiki, and movement classes are offered as well. Miller shared one of the reasons she created Honey was because “we focus so often on how to help our kids, but we forget about ourselves.”
Before Honey, Miller was a psychotherapist in California. She spent almost ten years in private practice in San Francisco. When she had her daughter 5 years ago, she had the baby blues, and struggled with that. Three years ago, she closed her practice in San Francisco and moved to Michigan. She stayed home with her daughter, had another daughter, and then began the process to begin Honey.
Since Honey opened eight months ago, 150 people have joined the hive. The moms who joined at the beginning are still members, and continue to participate at Honey regularly. According to Miller, there are many passionate moms in the group who do other things at Honey, such as lead groups and support other moms. “When they find it, we are a family,” she said.” You don’t have to be a member to attend a group or an event, but there are benefits to membership, such as unlimited use of the space, childcare, and discounts on products and services at Honey.
Miler wants the community to know “that we [moms] make the people, so we are really, really valuable. Society sometimes forgets that. We have our own club to manifest that. The assumption when anyone walks through our door is that they love their child. We are non-judgmental. All approaches to motherhood is valued. Motherhood is not a competitive sport.”
Moms can begin coming to Honey when they are pregnant. By beginning early, Miller said, “you already have your people, your community.”
There have been losses in the Honey community, and everyone comes together. “We are a family; we support each other,” she said. “There’s a really beautiful community here. We are really mindful. We know names, we ask questions.” The Honey team is trained to handle intense emotion.
Sometimes moms need more help or support than Honey provides. For moms with serious postpartum depression and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, Miller refers them to a program in Grand Rapids called Pine Rest, which helps mothers and babies. More information is available at https://www.pinerest.org/services/mother-baby-program-postpartum-depression-treatment/
Honey was Miller’s dream for five years. “I am a dreamer. My mission statement is a reflection of my dream. If this location is the only one for Honey, that’s terrific. If there are others, that would be great too. My dream is to be successful, as well as a very present mom. This is my passion. It doesn’t feel like work.”
One of the groups that meets regularly at Honey is the Support Meetup for NICU moms, led by Erin Reardon. She found Honey because her mom, Patti Eaken, knows the lactation specialist. When Miller opened the place, Eaken sent Reardon a link to Honey’s Facebook page. (https://www.facebook.com/honeyformoms/?ref=br_rs ) Miller posed questions to her Facebook followers, asking what kinds of meetups they would like to see. Someone suggested NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), and Reardon wanted to be a part of that. So far, there has been one meeting, and the second is scheduled for Saturday, June 17, 2017 at 11:00am.
There were three moms at the first meeting. “I would love to have a community of moms, post NICU moms who would support current NICU moms,” Reardon said. This group is different from support groups some hospitals offer. “There is no support outside the hospital. Once you leave, that’s it.” Miller explained. “There’s something to be said about the ‘me too’ moment. Just to sit with someone who gets this intense feeling…the support.” Reardon said, “There’s nothing when you come home. I want to fill that gap.” In the group, moms share their stories. As the group is a new one, they are still forming, still building what they want the group to become. For Reardon, even now, a year post-NICU, emotions are high.” “NICU moms should come to the group at Honey because she may not realize it, but she needs this support. I need to get it out, I need to talk about it in a safe space. Other moms know how it feels to go home without your baby. She deserves to feel better. She deserves some ‘me too’ moments,” Reardon shared.
There is so much that happens after NICU. The doctor appointments for development issues seem endless. Having a local group that meets in person, outside of Facebook, provides an opportunity for moms to share those issues, fears, and challenges that NICU moms face.
Reardon’s story begins when she went into the hospital with preeclampsia at 35 weeks. After four days in the hospital, she had her son, Liam. Her condition was so grave that the doctors made it clear: either they took Liam on that day, or Reardon would die and her son would be stillborn. Liam spent nine days in the NICU, which she said is considered a short time, but “it changed me fundamentally as a person. Her focus now is “I need to be out there in the community, to help when they come home, to help with the NICU. We all need those connections, that need to reach out to others.”
Before had Liam, before she was admitted to the hospital, Reardon was not sick, and she did not know much about NICU beyond the fact that it existed. She did not know, even during the c-section, that they were taking her baby to NICU. It was a very traumatic birth experience for her. She had planned to have a natural birth experience with oils, and other soothing aspects. The unexpected caesarean section, and having to leave the hospital without her baby was extremely difficult. “It’s very traumatizing to leave your baby. You’re leaving a part of you behind, and it’s really hard, even though your baby is in the capable care of others at the hospital…I know I would have been a good mother, but I think I’m a better person, and a better mother for the experience.” As Reardon reflected on her experience, and her hopes for the future, her eyes filled with tears as she said, “I want this NICU meetup to be part of my journey. I want Liam to look at me, and be proud of me.”
Reardon continued, “I think we all need to have face to face time. It’s hard to convey emotions and feelings over social media.” She is also the administrator of a Facebook group for NICU moms, and that is helpful for many, but it is still not as powerful as meeting in person with other moms who have had similar experiences. “When you’re sharing your story, it makes it more real to talk to each other than sharing on social media,” she said.
All NICU moms are welcome to attend the meetup; it is not necessary to be a member of Honey. There is no charge for this meetup, but donations will go to an organization of the group’s choosing.
When Miller and Reardon were asked about their long term plans; what they would like to see at Honey, they shared a vision for a food pantry, which includes a collection of diapers and specialized formula. They are also hoping this group would help make scent cloths (mom and baby sleep on them, and switch daily, so that the baby has the mom’s scent, and the mom has the baby’s scent, which helps in bonding). Miller also plans to purchase a deep freezer for Honey for donations of meals for new moms. They shared that it’s hard enough being a new mom, and when you bring home a baby who has oxygen, a sleep apnea machine, doctor appointments…it’s hard to make dinner and go to the store after a c-section. You can’t drive, and you’re recovering.
What is the goal for Honey? Miller said that the short term goal of Honey is to be a support to the community. The long term goal is to build a real support organization, and to educate the community, as people don’t realize the toll being a mom takes. With a smile, she said her message to moms is “Welcome to your clubhouse!”
Honey is located at 3136 Hilton Road, Ferndale, MI 48220. Their phone number is 248-232-2555
More information about Honey is available at their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/honeyformoms/?ref=br_rs )
And their website www.honeyformoms.com