Sunday, January 6, 2008

Women use fake babies to satisfy maternal instinct

Sue Smith has nine children and is expecting another. She has longed for a family all her life but doesn't have time to change dirty nappies or soothe crying newborns so has come up with a unique way of getting the perfect fuss-free child.

So far Sue, 45, has spent £25,000 on dolls known as reborns. Reborns (babies formed from dolls) are so realistic they pass as human even down to the tiniest detail.

The dolls breathe, burp and cry like real babies. Some even have beating hearts and internal heat packs to make them as human-like as possible.

Sue and husband Terry, 44, got their first baby five years ago after deciding real babies were too much hard work.

Sue said: "It's too much of a commitment. I can't do the noise and I'm just so fussy. If I could pick a child off the shelf that would be wonderful but obviously the reality isn't like that."

The housewife, from Kent, England, spends thousands of pounds on outfits for her children and takes them out in the pram for all to see. "I've had a real mixed bag of reactions when I'm out and about, " she said. "People tend to take a backwards step. They are perhaps embarrassed for me because I'm pushing a doll in a pram but for me I don't see it like that.

"I don't see any of my girls as real babies. I know they're dolls. I'm under no illusion but it's just where I haven't got children I guess there is still that female instinct in me."

Sue and husband Terry always planned to have children but have being enjoying their care free life too much to start a family.

Terry said: "When we were young we decided we would enjoy ourselves and have children later, but we've never stopped enjoying ourselves."

The couple are now preparing to welcome new arrival Sophie to their family. For Sue she will be the ultimate reborn. "For me this doll is the ultimate because she is an open eyed smiler," she said. "There is nothing better. They have so much more character and personality and you can envisage how they'll be as a real child."

Sue was speaking on the Channel 4 documentary My Fake Baby, which reveals the extraordinary world of the reborn dolls and the women who buy them.

Jamie Eaton, a single mum of four, makes dolls for women like Sue and has converted her living room into a nursery and workshop. She began making the dolls after coming across one on the internet.

She said: "There aren't a lot of people out there who know about it. I discovered it by accident. I was looking for a doll on eBay for my daughter.

"I went into the doll section and there was this reborn. I thought what's that so I had a look and I was astounded. I couldn't believe it. It was like someone selling babies because when you first see them they look so real.

"I bought one and when it arrived I was a bit disappointed because it didn't look as good as it did in the photographs so I decided to buy some paint.

"I did a bit of research, dabbled a bit and ended up with a really good doll. I was quite shocked at how good I was at it. I practised and practised and practised and then started selling them."

Jamie, 30, strives to make the imitation babies she makes at her Babybuntins nursery as life like as possible and engineers the dolls to her customer's specification. "You strive to reach the ultimate in realism. That's what it's all about. You're trying to create a baby.

"You can have warming pouches so the baby is actually warm, breathing mechanisms, wriggling mechanisms, heartbeat, wavy hair, straight hair, milk spots, birth marks.

"Every customer has a reborn for a different reason whether it's for dressing them, cuddling them, taking them out or just to give something some love and affection.

"Sometimes a customer doesn't tell you and that's up to them. I don't pry."

Grandmother Christine is a newcomer to the world of designer babies but has asked Jamie to make her a doll to look just like her grandson Harry. She spent two years caring for three-year-old while her daughter Helen battled cancer.

Harry moved with his mum to New Zealand after her treatment and she is lost without him. She said: "When Harry came into the world it was the most wonderful thing because I was there at the moment he was born.

"I went with Helen up to the hospital. I stayed with her while she had Harry and at the end I was asked to cut his cord. I don't think unless anybody has actually done that they realise what sort of a feeling that is. It's a memory I shall carry forever."

Harry began staying with her and husband Arnold for a few weeks while Helen was in and out of hospital but when Helen's condition deteriorated he almost lived at the house.

Christine said: "We had him a few weeks and then he came and stayed a bit longer and a bit longer and in the end he was here most of the time. I did feel sometimes as if he was mine.

"He just fitted in beautifully. Both dad and I had a wonderful time but then along came the day to say goodbye.

"Dad and I didn't go to the airport. We just couldn't face it. It's just sad that when you've looked after for him for so long he's gone. New Zealand is a long way."

Sue uses the dolls to satisfy her maternal urges and treats them as if they were real children. She fills a bottle with fabric softener to look like milk formula and spends hours fussing over her brood - Ayanna, Olivia, Aiko, Asia, Emmie, Marlee, Sabrine, Patrice and Tiffany.

Husband Terry isn't so keen.

He said: "I love the babies to look at but that's as far as it goes. The dressing and all the rest of it just isn't my thing."

Terry, 44, waits at home while Sue flies to Washington with her mum to collect new arrival Sophie. She falls in love with Sophie the moment she is delivered to her hotel room.

Sue said: "It's all been very exciting and bubbly and I really need the time to sit with her and look at her.

"She now has to go through what the others have gone through. I need that time to do her hair the way I like it, put some clothes on that I've chosen for her.

"It's a bit of fantasy really to think how she would be if she was a real child."

But all is not as it seems and two days later Sue discovers a crack on her baby's head. She is convinced Sophie was dropped during transit and refuses to have a child that is not perfect.

Sue will return to England with empty arms and Sophie will be sent back to the artist who created her. "I associate collecting a baby with happy times," she said. "Anything that taints that makes me feel sad. It's just not what I expected. It's ruined. She will definitely be going back.

"She is still smiling even though she'd injured. We wanted a perfect baby. I'll always strive for perfection but it never comes so it's like on to the next one."

Newcomer to the world of reborns Christine is thrilled with the imitation grandson that has made her feel complete. He even has the same v-shaped patch of darker skin on his forehead that Harry had.

She said: "I love babies. When you go out and push a pram everybody looks. You feel somebody when you've got a baby.

"I could walk down the street now and nobody looks at you but when you've got a baby loads of people will stop and talk to you."

Husband Arnold isn't so thrilled and wants nothing to do with the doll. "I don't like it I'm sorry," he said. "It makes me think of something on a mortuary slab."

His reaction does little to stop Christine doting on the doll. "What harm is it doing anybody? Men collect toy planes and trains. What's the difference?" she said. "If I'm going mad there are thousands on that internet that have joined the doll website that are even walking their dolls out in a pram.

"At the moment I wouldn't do that but maybe later on I might think about it. If I do what harm am I doing to anybody?"
Christine has even found a woman living less than twenty minutes from her home in Suffolk who shares a fascination with the reborns.

Mary collected dolls her whole life but has now dedicated her spare room to her collection of reborns.

She said: "Most women like babies whatever they say. These reborns are on another level now."

Like Christine's husband Arnold, Mary's partner Bob is distinctly unimpressed by the babies.

He said: "These babies look a bit too realistic for me. I think the girls get a bit too involved with them. I can't really see any purpose for them."

Jamie, from Staffordshire, England, believes being told she couldn't have more children drove her to start the doll making business.

She said: "I've had four caesareans and was in intensive care after I had the last one because my womb ruptured. I can't have any more so this is the closest I'll ever get.

"I just love children and I love babies. I think with not being able to have any more my maternal instincts are extremely strong.

"When I first saw these I bought one for my daughter but really I suppose it was for me more than anything."

Although Babybuntins may be a money making initiative she admits shedding a tear when new parents arrive to take her creations home.

She said: "I have cried when I've let a few of them go. It's just like being a new mum all over again."


marc said...

When I first found out about Fake Babies, I was impressed with the amazing craftsmanship, I couldn’t believe that people had such an amazing talent to take the time to create such life like images … and still, I wasn’t sure what to make of it! I felt sad and I wasn’t sure why! I really didn’t have an opinion about women buying the Fake Babies at the time. I found myself looking at pictures of babies who had been sent out to their new pretend mommies. For hours I was trying to make sense of the idea behind it. I began to take myself to the dark place where I visit all too often. I started to feel the despair, the sorrow and loneliness that only a mother feels when they lose a child. I thought of all of the reasons why a woman would take action on an idea that still leaves them in a world of imaginary love. Pretending to be in a place that gives them momentary joy, I realized that I felt sadness because I understood the sorrow of these women and I know that in humanity we have to be in a lonely place to go to such extremes to find meaning in our lives. After loosing a daughter and experiencing such sorrow I am sympathetic to this new maternal therapy… I am grateful that my therapy is my eldest son. I do however hope for a healthier solution to an obvious maternal depression where emotions are oppressed and enslaved with the idea of a solution that doesn’t address the true issue of a serious emotional disturbance.

Sharon B. said...

I understand what you are saying Marc. I actually came across reborns by accident and fell in like with them--as a child I had little interest in playing with dolls--more of a tomboy.

However, I now have 11 person reborns of which 4 are toddlers. I was sexually abused sadistically for about a month and seeing a marvelous therapist who is aware of the dolls. I like holding them, perhaps 3 times a week for 15 minutes or so--their look of contentment decreases my anxiety. I know that they are dolls, don't change their clothes or use them as a replacement for human contact.

Additionally,I have 7 babies that I utilize with my work with cognitively challenged adults. They love to cuddle the dolls even though they also know that they are not real. These ladies will never have children of their own and time with the dolls is satisfying.

I have been blessed with 2 wonderful children and 5 healthy grandchildren and the girls enjoy looking at the dolls and making up stories about them. I can see myself reducing the size of my collection a bit, but for now, I am not hurting anyone, addicted to it, can afford it, and as I indicated earlier, the dolls do not take away from my relationship with my supportive husband as I deal with my past.
I am wondering if anyone else who was abused find solace in reborn dolls?

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