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Reborn to Emptiness: What to Make of Lifelike Doll Babies

  • Charles Colson BreakPoint
  • Updated Feb 10, 2009
Reborn to Emptiness: What to Make of Lifelike Doll Babies

Nowadays, calling yourself a “born again Christian” might elicit disapproving looks and maybe even some snide comments.

But there is an area where being “reborn” is a good thing. I’m not talking about Eastern religions—I’m talking about dolls.

The dolls in question are “incredibly life-like baby dolls” known as “reborns” that can cost as much as $4,000. As you have probably guessed, at these prices, the buyers aren’t young girls, but adult women.
For that much money you are not getting a simple piece of plastic. “Their bodies are stuffed and weighted to have the same heft and a similar feel to a live baby.” Mohair strands are individually attached to their heads, and they can even come with a “heartbeat and a device that makes the chest rise and fall to simulate breathing.”

Given the attention to detail, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many owners do not treat “reborns” like other collectibles such as the Precious Moments figurines or dashboard hula dancers.

A recent BBC America documentary called My Fake Baby showed grown women doing more than playing with the dolls—they were, well, mothering them. They walked them in strollers, they secured them in car seats, and they even had “birthday” parties for them.

Sound familiar? It should. In her novel The Children of Men, P.D. James depicted a world in which no children had been born in two decades. The inability to have children had driven many women to treat dolls in exactly the same fashion as these women are treating “reborns.”

Of course, there are differences. While childlessness had driven the women in James’s novel mad, the “reborn” mommies can—and some do—have real children.

The words most commonly used to describe this phenomenon are “creepy” and “delusional.” One liberal blogger wondered whether she was “supposed to play along with your weird delusion?” After all, “you can drop her down a flight of stairs . . . and no one will call children’s services on you.”

Writer Rod Dreher is even less sympathetic. He calls these women “drag mommies” and says that something is “very wrong with them.”

Well, I have no idea what is going on in the hearts and minds of women who purchase reborns. But I will say this: There is indeed something “very wrong” with the culture that produces these dolls. Four years ago, I told you about dolls marketed to lonely Japanese elderly. The Yumel are “healing partners” designed to fill a void created by children that rarely visit and grandchildren they will never have, thanks to Japan’s disappearing birth rate.

Likewise, “reborns” are filling a void created by changes in the family structure. The so-called “freedom” we gained by postponing and even forgoing marriage and child-rearing has come at a price—loneliness and the sense that our lives are incomplete.

This isn’t something that can be overcome by conditioning. We are “wired for connection” as one study put it. If the God-ordained means for this connection is tampered with or blocked, that is, by having no children or fewer children as Americans are doing, we will find ways to act on our “wiring,” no matter how creepy they seem to others.

February 9, 2009

Chuck Colson’s daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.