Have you ever seen a baby doll so realistic you did a double-take, thinking it was a real child? They’re called reborn dolls, and some of them are so lifelike police have actually smashed car windows thinking babies were left inside while their parents shopped (only to learn they were coming to the rescue of a doll).
The custom-order dolls can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars into the thousands. You can get a basic baby doll with a realistic-looking head and limbs. Or you can add on from a range of expansion packs for anything from pierced ears and magnets in their mouths that can hold a pacifier to sound boxes and mechanisms that can make them look like they’re breathing.
These dolls aren’t for me, but I can understand why some people like them. What I take issue with is the part of the reborn community that likes to pretend they are pregnant.
You read that right. You can purchase a reborn pregnancy pack along with your doll and spend nine months displaying fake ultrasounds and shoving a plastic baby bump under your shirt, because apparently handing over your credit card number and opening a cardboard box is just like growing another human being inside you and then having that baby exit your body.
There is a group of women that like to pretend they’re “reborn pregnant” who have found a home on YouTube, where they post videos showing off the items they’ve purchased for their future doll and their fake pregnancy bumps, and chronicle the symptoms and complications of their pregnancies. They discuss cravings and morning sickness as caused by their reborn pregnancy. They show off positive reborn pregnancy tests and stammer in front of the camera as they complain about suffering from pregnancy brain. They even talk about contractions and how nervous they are about their upcoming C-section — all for a pregnancy that doesn’t exist.
If I sound bitter, it’s because I am. While I’m now mom to two healthy boys who are currently setting the carpet with LEGO land mines for my feet to discover later, I had serious infertility issues and a high-risk, complicated pregnancy. Seeing other women play pretend over something that consumed so much of my life for so long and was actually very serious makes light of my struggle and the struggle of anyone who didn’t have a smooth path to motherhood.
Like these women, there was a time when I longed to become pregnant. But rather than use a doll and a fake ultrasound photo to channel these feelings, I consulted doctors and underwent medical procedures and held my breath month after month hoping to see a positive pregnancy test.
When I finally did get pregnant, the complications I faced were dangerous, both to me and my unborn children. Seeing someone role play online about their pretend symptoms, when at the end of the day they have their health and nothing to worry about, is infuriating.
There are so many things I wish I could say to them:
“You think spending $1,000 on a doll entitled you to complain about back pains? Talk to me when that figure is closer to $30,000 and your butt, thighs and stomach are covered in bruises and welts from hormone injections. You claim your plastic stomach bump is keeping you up at night? Try injecting yourself with Lupron. Its side effects include realistic night terrors, and I can still remember the nightmare where my little sister died in my arms.”
I understand that everyone processes grief differently, and for those women who see a reborn pregnancy as a way to heal from a particularly traumatic birth experience, I harbor no ill will. If having the internet bear witness as you try to get over your trauma and/or loss is helpful, do what you need to do. Nor can I get mad at anyone who’s dealing with mental illness and engages in reborn pregnancy play. But for the women who see it as a fun way to get attention online or perhaps the thing that can launch them into their 15 minutes of fame, my disdain is endless.
When pregnant women talk about how uncomfortable they feel in their skin it’s because they are uncomfortable, and they don’t have the option to take off their bump and walk away. When they mention how worried they are over the development of their baby, it’s not because they’re seeking attention. It’s because something is actually going on inside of them that has the potential to end in disaster.
Pregnancy isn’t a game. It is literally real life, and these women who play pretend with reborn pregnancies aren’t giving it the respect it deserves.
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