In the United States, Britain and several other Western countries, “Reborn” dolls have become a booming industry over the past decade.
The process of creating a reborn doll is called “Reborning” and the artists who create them are referred to as “Reborners.”
Also referred to as “living dolls” or “unliving dolls”, they are made to be as realistic as possible. The dolls come complete with baby-soft hair, newborn-mottled skin, and realistic heartbeats (thanks to special battery-powered mechanisms). Very skilled Reborners can even create dolls where the chest actually rises and falls as if the baby is breathing, and others have the capability of emitting warmth.
Hair is planted strand by strand (sometimes 20,000 of them), and veins and birthmarks are painstakingly hand-painted. Many of the dolls are made with glistening drool on their lips. “Newborn scent” fragrance is another lifelike touch available to reborn parents. Reborns come complete with fake birth certificates or adoption certificates.
These dolls usually cost thousands of dollars.
But just who is buying these expensive and realistically creepy dolls?
Older women, primarily.
Some reborn fans use the dolls to replace a child they once lost, although mental health specialists debate whether Reborns are harmful, or whether they can actually help in the grieving process. Others buy Reborns because they weren’t able to have children of their own. And some simply collect them as regular dolls.
Collectors refer to themselves as “reborn mommies” and some even maintain full nurseries in their homes, throw birthday parties and baby showers, and regularly change (clean) diapers. A large part of the hobby is role-play. Most Reborners and collectors interacting with their dolls as though they are living, breathing babies.
One reborn artist named Eve Newsome was interviewed about her unusual hobby by ABC News. Newsome said that her passion stems from “Not being able to have children. And not having the resources, actually, to adopt. This was my calling. And now it’s my passion. … My Reborns bring me a medium of joy and happiness.”
Another interviewee, Linda (who didn’t want her last name published) told ABC that “They don’t fit in doll clothes. You have to buy real baby sizes.” Linda admits that her dolls are serve as a substitute for real babies and that she especially treasures moments when other people think that her Reborns are alive.
Lachelle Moore, who has grown children and even grandchildren of her own, said “What’s so wonderful about reborns is that they’re forever babies,” she said. “They don’t give you any trouble. There’s no college tuition, no dirty diapers. … Just the good part of motherhood.” She and her husband recently purchased their 37th doll at a Reborn convention in Chicago.
The stigma is so strong against Reborn collectors that many hide their dolls from even close family and friends, finding solace and camaraderie from like-minded souls on the internet instead. Hundreds of online communities exist for the Reborn population, and members post photos and videos of themselves interacting with their dolls as though they are real babies. Many of these Reborn fans include disclaimers clarifying that they know otherwise, because they are so frequently scorned and ridiculed online.
But Stephanie Ortiz, a California Reborn mommy, recently told the New York Post that “The community needs a positive light. I want to have fun with my kid and my family and whatever hobby I enjoy. There’s no reason to be ashamed.”