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Detroit Mama Hub moms take part in a prenatal yoga class. Courtesy Veronica White
Veronica White is an ICU nurse in Detroit who is the only married person and parent in her primary friend group. When her first child was born in 2018, she wanted to connect with mothers who could relate to what she was experiencing, or at least offer her emotional support if they could not. They weren’t easy to find.
“Some of the other mom groups I’d tried to join were a little cliquey, or they weren’t as inclusive,” White told me. “A ton of the mom groups were just for stay-at-home moms, which is great, but I’m a working mom. In those spaces, I felt pretty alienated because they’d ask, ‘You just leave your kid when you go to work?’ like I’d said, ‘Yeah, I just leave them on the corner.’”
White said she was dealing with guilt of her own as a working mom that made it hard to connect with the mothers in the first groups she found. But when a lactation consultant she’d been working with suggested she look at the Detroit Mama Hub, White gave her search for a “mom tribe” one more try. She has been a Hub regular ever since.
“I quickly liked the Mama Hub because there were a variety of different moms around,” she said. “They were working and staying home. There were moms with wives, moms with husbands and single moms. A lot of moms were breastfeeding, but some weren’t. Some moms in the group loved arts and crafts or making their kid’s clothes. Others were business owners and social media influencers. I just liked seeing a bunch of different types of moms so that I could get away from the idea of moms only looking or being one way.”
Back in 2017, Jalyn Spencer and Alex Fluegel co-founded the Detroit Mama Hub to offer mothers in the city an inclusive, non-judgmental community so that mothers and their families can thrive. Its physical space closed during the pandemic, but programming has continued online.
With Fluegel relocating to Europe shortly before the start of the pandemic, Spencer is now the sole operator of the organization. She left her other job this month to focus on expansion and converting the center into a nonprofit. This summer, she plans to continue virtual programs and will add socially-distanced outdoor meetups and workshops.
Detroit Mama Hub provides mothers with practical education services like childbirth classes, breastfeeding 101, newborn care and postpartum prep. Just as importantly, it offers genuine community and mental health support for the shock that comes with navigating the massive changes to a mother’s body and the onslaught of unsolicited advice and judgement that comes with a pregnancy announcement. I know firsthand that new mothers face scrutiny over everything associated with feeding your child like mammals do, as well as working (or not) and raising a baby with a partner (or not).
I came to learn about the Hub when it became clear that my built-in village of relatives and friends was down to support my desire to breastfeed a child, as long as it resembled whatever they knew. As my pregnancy progressed and my own breastfeeding education expanded, what they knew did not align with my plans.
I was terrified to tell my mother and others, “I am going to breastfeed until the baby decides to stop.” I didn’t think I’d find the fortitude to ignore an army of strong-willed women when they retorted, “Six months is long enough.” But I went to a Detroit Mama Hub breastfeeding meetup in my third trimester and felt like I’d absorbed the other attendees’ powers like X-Men’s Rogue. My baby breastfed from the day she was born until she decided to stop. With light encouragement from me, the last time she nursed, she was a couple months shy of 3 years old.
Someone just read that sentence and determined that I’m a nut. In that case, let me add that I don’t believe in spankings either. And there is room yet at the Detroit Mama Hub for me, and for others navigating different kinds of judgements and child-raising decisions.
Part of what makes the Hub special is Spencer’s willingness to make space for any mom to lead a workshop or class that is focused on what’s important to them, White said.
I can speak to this myself. In my living room right now is the toddler sensory board I made in a workshop led by a Mama Hub mom who had been experimenting with making sensory boards for her own children. The board I made is a little crude, just a lightly sanded piece of wood with some work stations nailed into it, but Nova loves it and I’m proud of it. There’s a space for her to attempt to lace or tie a shoe, put a key in a lock, play with a bell, buckle a waist belt and more.
In addition to planning the programming that happens at the Detroit Mama Hub, Spencer is also a certified lactation consultant who works with local moms to help address feeding issues and breastfeeding concerns, both during pregnancy and after the baby is born.
The Mama Hub also houses a licensed professional therapist who is equipped to offer personalized mental health counseling to mamas who need it. Therapy services are offered on an income-based sliding scale. Most online courses are about $40 each and for the time being, access to the online community is free.
The Mama Hub has also partnered with organizations like the postpartum doula group Detroit Mamas Bloom to give postpartum baskets filled with essential care items to families in need and the Michigan Breastfeeding Network and the Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association to co-host film screenings.
Spencer is now working on building local mamas something greater, so they can find support from Detroit Mama Hub wherever they are on their parenting journey.
“It’s a place you can be empowered to be whatever type of mom you want to be,” White said.