One fall day in 2018, Angela Gill found herself sitting on the floor of a cozy, smartly decorated space in Ferndale, sobbing in front of a dozen women.
Though they were technically strangers, Gill felt an instant camaraderie — like her, these women were new mothers wrestling with breastfeeding, sleeplessness, and other challenges that Gill, who’d recently given birth to her first child, was facing.
“It was totally out of my comfort zone,” says the Oxford resident, now 33. “But I was so relieved to be amongst people who understood what I was going through, that I was having all the feelings.”
“All the feelings” are on perennial display at Honey for Moms, a center that caters to the “people who make the people,” as founder Brooke Miller, who opened what she affectionally calls “Honey” in 2015, puts it.
Honey’s services range from therapy and psychiatry to support groups, parenting classes, and lactation-consulting services — essentially everything a mom needs to help usher her through those disorienting first weeks, months, and even years of parenting. About 500 clients receive therapy services at Honey monthly, and between 600 and 800 use the business’s other services every month (for insurance reasons, only Michigan residents are eligible for therapy, while coaching and support groups are open virtually to anyone).
Honey grew out of Miller’s own need for a postpartum support system. After moving to Michigan from California while pregnant with her second daughter, she yearned for a community of moms like the one she’d built in her former home. Battling depression and anxiety post-birth, Miller, a licensed psychotherapist, felt “rage and frustration” at society’s lack of resources for moms.
“I had a supportive partner, the financial means to get help, and the education and knowledge as a mental health professional,” she says. “If I’m not OK, what of the mothers in the entire universe?”
In 2014, when her daughter was 6 months old, Miller launched Honey out of a chiropractor’s office in Royal Oak; programming included yoga classes, moms’ support groups, and coaching. “I led about 90 percent of the offerings myself,” she says. “I brought my baby and toddler to everything. I created a front desk with shipping containers. … It was very DIY.”
About a year into business, Honey had attracted so many clients that Miller relocated to a larger space in Ferndale, adding more workshops and groups and a second therapist. By 2018, she was planning an expansion.
“We were busting out of our space,” she says. “It was like a party in there every day, it was so social. I remember watching these moms create relationships and thinking, ‘They’re going to talk to these women for the rest of their motherhood years in this stage, or maybe forever.’”
While Honey specializes in the period during and around pregnancy, Miller — whose kids are now 8 and 11 — says that moms both new and seasoned seek its services. From a clinical standpoint, she says, the most prevalent issues are birth trauma, feeding challenges, stress, and depression and anxiety — both in the immediate postpartum phase and beyond. Says Julie Dorfman, Honey’s life and relationship coach: “I see moms who need to talk about their feelings around their youngest going to kindergarten, or women who aren’t sure what they want to do now that their children are gone.”
Many of Honey’s approximately 25 employees are mothers, a fact that Dorfman — a mom of four — says comforts the women who come there.
“When you have that mom connection, women know they’re not alone because their experience parallels someone else’s,” she says. “When they say, ‘I didn’t think motherhood would be this hard,’ I can say, ‘I know it is.’”
In the coming months, Miller plans to expand Honey’s services, adding resources for dads (her husband, Jason, is Honey’s fatherhood mentor, guiding men in their parenting journeys) as well as a massage therapist and more mental health professionals. Beyond that, she’s not sure what the future holds.
“I just want to support as many moms as we can in the way that we’re doing it, and we’ll see what happens next,” she says.
However Honey evolves, one thing won’t change: the relief that moms like Angela Gill feel when they walk through the studio’s doors. Gill, who gave birth to her second child in December 2022, recently returned to Honey for the first time since the pandemic after struggling to breastfeed her daughter. Entering the space, she experienced the same rush of emotion she felt at her first visit.
“I broke down in tears,” Gill says. “People there are genuinely concerned about you — everyone is willing to hold your baby so you can pee in peace. It sounds silly, but just knowing the help that’s there on arrival is huge.”
Learn more about Honey for Moms at honeyformoms.com.
This story is part of the May 2023 issue of Hour Detroit. Read more in our Digital Edition.