Follow by Email

About Me

My photo

My name is Michelle Manning Williamson.

Total Pageviews

VISITORS MAP

VISITORS FLAGS

free counters

REBORN DOLL KITS ONLINE FACEBOOK PAGE

Wit & Whimzy Reborn Nursery Zazzle.com Store.


View more gifts at Zazzle.

Friday, April 13, 2012

ARTICLE - FAKE BABIES- THE WOMEN DEVOTING THEMSELVES TO EERILY LIFELIKE DOLLS

Fake babies: The women devoting themselves to eerily lifelike dolls 

 

If you have £200 to spare, you can pick up the closest thing you can get to a real baby without actually giving birth


Nestled on an ordinary high street, in an ­ordinary Birmingham suburb, is a rather ­extraordinary shop.
At first sight it looks like a toy store, but open the door and you are ­transported into a strange and bizarre fantasy world.
Rows and rows of dolls, not just toys but eerily lifelike replica babies known as “reborn” dolls, stare down at you.
The store, nestled between a charity shop and a newsagents, smells of talcum powder and baby oil.
You can purchase anything for your doll here, from clothes and prams to cots and dummies.
Welcome to fake baby paradise where, if you have £200 to spare, you can leave with the closest thing you can get to a real baby without actually giving birth.
Suzanne Lewis’s reborn shop is at the heart of a burgeoning trade in fake baby dolls.
And since she first opened her doors to the public seven years ago, the mum-of-two hasn’t looked back.
“I used to sell baby clothes and the odd reborn doll, but all people seemed ­interested in were the dolls,” she explains.
“I quickly stopped selling clothes and just concentrated on making reborn dolls and now I’m busier than ever.”
Since the first reborn doll was created in the US in the early 90s, the phenomenon has spread to Britain and came to most people’s attention in the Channel 4 ­documentary My Fake Baby, which showed a woman wheeling her ‘baby’ around the streets in a pram.
Since then, Suzanne has made hundreds of babies in various shapes, sizes and sexes, but each doll is alike in one way – they are all breathtakingly realistic.
Suzanne is known as a “reborner” and can spend up to three weeks bringing a baby to life.
Reborners pride themselves on ­making a baby as realistic as possible by ­painstakingly painting the dolls with up to 12 layers of paint to precisely mimic skin tones.

Then she can begin adding the individual customer’s requirements of veins, birthmarks and nails. Hair and eyelashes are then added strand by strand in a process known as micro-rooting.
A single baby can take up to 40 hours alone to micro-root.
No detail is too small and all reborn dolls’ heads are weighted so their owners have to support them like a real newborn.
For those who crave absolute realism, Suzanne can even add an electronic device that mimics a heartbeat or make the chest rise and fall to simulate breathing.
Still not lifelike enough? Reborn dolls can also come with an umbilical cord, baby fat, heat packs to make the skin warm to the touch and voice boxes to mimic gurgling.
With such a huge devotion to realism it’s little wonder that in July 2008, police in ­Queensland, ­Australia, smashed a car window to save what seemed like an unconscious baby – only to find it was a reborn doll.
So just what sort of woman is willing to part with anything from £120 to £350 to buy one?
“I get all sorts of women through my door,” explains Suzanne, 45. “Of course, you do get women with very sad stories who have lost children and are looking to replace them, but they are in the minority.
“I’ve had women coming in to buy their teenager daughters one in an attempt to put them off getting pregnant, and I had a woman in the other day who commissioned a ­replica of her daughter as a baby to give to her on her 21st birthday.
“I’ve even had a woman who bought one for her mother who has Alzheimer’s because she loves to feel a baby in her arms, not to ­mention all the ‘empty nesters’ who come in for one. These dolls should be available on the NHS.”
Suzanne also sells a lot of dolls to gypsies. “Gypsy women love reborns,” she says. “They tend to go for the darker skinned, open-eyed babies. They buy them for their ­children.”
From grieving mothers to gypsies, Suzanne prides herself on offering a personal service that includes giving customers a birth ­certificate with their doll’s name and weight on it, the date they were ‘born’ and a dummy and blanket to wrap their new baby up in.
“I like to make sure my customers are in baby ­heaven from the minute they step through the door, so the shop always smells of baby powder,” she says. “We are a business, but it feels more like therapy ­sometimes and I’ve actually become friends with a lot of my ­customers.”
So much so that she has even begun a ­monthly coffee morning where ­customers can come with their babies and treat them just like real ­children.
“It’s a safe place for like-minded people to meet and indulge their love of reborns by holding their babies and kissing them without fear of abuse or judgment,” she explains.
Beulah Suket, 46, from Bradford, has two sons aged 25 and 23 and a daughter, 21.


But discovering reborns has helped her deal with the trauma she experienced when most of her family was killed in a ­devastating car crash in 1977.
“I was just 12 when a lorry driver fell asleep at the wheel and veered into our lane,” she recalls. “My dad, three sisters and brother were killed. My mum and I were the only survivors.
“It left me with terrible ­internal injuries, a broken leg, a crushed pelvis and today I’m in a wheelchair.
“The worst pain was ­emotional, though. Then I found my ­reborn dolls last year and they changed my life.
“I have Rosebud and Tinkerbella Rose. I was drawn to Tinkerbella because she is so tiny and looks just like my sister when she was a baby.
“Holding them does bring me ­enormous ­comfort and joy. I treat them like real babies. I dress them every morning in clean clothes and then I sit them on a playmat or swing.
“I cuddle them and clean them with baby wipes and at night they’re dressed in sleep suits.
“So many people have said, ‘you’re not normal’ and my answer is that if grown-up men can sit in garages with model railways, why can’t I collect and treasure dolls?
“I’ve just collected my third, Rose Maria, and she will be my last.
“Any more than three wouldn’t seem right. I wouldn’t be able to devote my time and love to more.
“I’m so grateful to my dolls as they’re helping me to heal the hurt of my past.”
Customer Caroline Robinson, from ­Burntwood, Staffs, is a mum to three ­grown-up children and has six reborn dolls.
She explains: “I keep all my babies, Alice, Esme, Anna, Katy, Jake and Maria in my spare room, which is my ‘nursery’.
“I’m a psychic and my dolls really help me to relax, they clear my mind and keep me focused.
“I do a lot of psychic counselling and sometimes if I’ve done a traumatic reading it leaves me very wound up.
“So when I get home and hold my dolls or make them clothes, it really helps me to switch off. It’s pure escapism.”


Fellow reborner Claire Cope, 38, who works alongside Suzanne, says: “I love working here. We have such a laugh that it doesn’t feel like a job.
"I have an autistic son – I knew he was special the minute he was born – but it’s been difficult at times as autistic children aren’t good with affection.
"He would rather shake your hand than give you a kiss.
“Dealing with all my reborn dolls is much more straightforward and ­bringing them to life is the ultimate escape.
"The problem is I fall in love with the ones I make and now I have 20 dolls at home that I can’t bare to part with.
“I have some in a crib next to my bed and some in a pram in the conservatory. My husband groans, ‘Oh God, not another’ when I bring another baby home.”
Suzanne herself has drawn enormous comfort from her reborn business.
“Both my first and second marriages broke down and I ­honestly think that if it wasn’t for the shop and throwing myself into work I would have had a total breakdown,” she says. “Coming here and helping other women is my salvation.”
With so many women drawn to reborn dolls, it’s little wonder that a thriving ­worldwide ­industry has built up around it, with regular conferences, shows and even ­magazines and websites devoted to the hobby.
But despite this, the dolls continue to polarise opinion, with many claiming they are “creepy” or branding the practise of keeping them as “unhealthy”.


Psychologist Dr Jane McCartney disagrees. “Many women love these dolls because they experience a release of a hormone called oxytocin in their bodies when they hold them, “ she says. “This is known as the ­cuddle hormone and it’s released by the body when you give birth to, hold or feed a baby.
“These dolls are so lifelike that in many cases, simply holding one in your arms can make you feel the effects of this hormone, which goes some way to explaining why many women love them.
“There is nothing creepy about it. If a woman chooses to buy one to help ease her grief over the death of a child then that is her choice and is obviously what is right for her at that particular stage of her life.
“I don’t see it as masking grief, merely a way of coming to terms with a loss.
“At the end of the day they’re not hurting anyone.
“Isn’t it better that women like Suzanne and her group can draw strength from one another rather than suffer alone?”
Suzanne agrees: “I don’t care what people say, we know we’re normal ladies who just love our dolls.”
By Kate Thompson.

No comments:

Post a Comment