A divorced mother who suddenly found herself living alone after her children all chose to live with their father has revealed she spent thousands of dollars on lifelike human dolls to help her deal with the loss.
Stay-at-home mother Liz Watson, 42, from Clifton, Virginia, has been a self-proclaimed ‘reborn’ mother since 2016, after discovering the hobby online and in YouTube videos – and she has since built an entire nursery for her collection of ‘reborn’ baby dolls.
The pricey models are made from silicone and vinyl and are created to mimic real human babies, and Liz says that they help to fill the hole left behind by her two oldest children from her first marriage, who moved miles away from her to live with their father Steve.
Following a complicated divorce from her first husband Steve in January 2010, Liz eventually made the difficult choice in February 2013 to move herself and her two oldest children from that marriage to a different part of the country to live with her now-husband, Jeff, and their shared 18-month-old daughter Journey.
Obsessed: Divorced mother Liz Watson, 42, has revealed she’s spent thousands of dollars on lifelike ‘reborn’ dolls to fill the void left by her kids when they went to live with their father
Mom and baby… doll: The mother-of-three split from her first husband Steve in 2010, and three years later she moved herself and her two eldest children from Kansas to Virginia
Brood: Her two teenage kids from her first marriage, Dylan and Asher, struggled with the move and chose to leave their mom and go back to Kansas with their dad – leaving her devastated
However her two oldest children struggled with the move and so Liz made the heart-breaking decision to allow them to move back to their father’s house in Kansas, in June 2016.
Liz says that she felt a sense of loss that she had never experienced before and began to feel anxious about how much of her children’s lives, Dylan, 15, and Asher, 13, she would miss out on.
This is when Liz decided to branch out into the world of reborn baby dolls, and so her collection began. She bought her first ever reborn in December 2016 – just five months after her children moved back in with her ex-husband.
Since buying her first ever reborn, Liz’s collection has grown over the years and she is now the proud mother to nine reborn baby dolls who all have their own names: Juniper Anne, Willa Jane, Nixon Grey, Benedict Arthur, Jax Ethan, Crevan Ridge, Paisley Rye, Isla Blu, and Oaklyn Elise.
Liz’s dolls have an age range between newborn to 12 months old, however her preference is to adapt their ages according to the clothes they fit into, as the sculptors who produce the reborn dolls do not have an age in mind when manufacturing them.
Although reborn dolls have a reputation for being unnerving and creepy for some, Liz found that they helped her throughout an extremely difficult period in her life, providing comfort and relief to her as well as allowing her to step back in time and relive some of her happiest moments of when her own four children were babies themselves.
Despite having a large collection of reborns, Liz is unable to put a definitive price tag on how much money she has spent so far. The average reborn doll can range from $350 to $1,500 with the price dependent on the artist that creates them.
Filling the void: Liz, who also has an 18-month-old daughter with her new husband Jeff, found out about lifelike ‘reborn’ dolls five months after her teenagers went to live with their father
Calming: She says that caring for the dolls, which cost anywhere between $250 and $1,500, has helped to fill the void left behind by her children
Liz has dedicated an entire room in her house to creating a functioning nursery for her reborn dolls which includes a crib, a wardrobe, a changing table, and shelving to store diapers, baby toiletries and accessories. She uses this space to care for her reborns, as well as finding solace in the room herself.
‘Making the decision for Dylan and Asher to live with their father was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made,’ said Liz.
‘It was like giving my children up for adoption. In the back of my head, I had haunting thoughts like, “Will they even remember that they spent half of their childhood living in my home?” and, “Will my other two children remember the times we shared and grow up being close to their older brother and sister?”
‘Every day it feels like death. Every day, I think about the moments that I’ve missed. It haunts me.
‘It keeps me up late at night with panic attacks sometimes.
‘The dolls really give me comfort because I connect them with the feelings I had of being a mother to my two older children when they were young.
‘I know these dolls won’t grow up, they won’t get taken from me, a divorce will not affect my ability to care for them. I know they will never leave me.
‘You always hear people talk about how time flies by so quickly and it isn’t until you’ve watched your kids grow up in the blink of an eye, that you realize how true this actually is.
‘My time as a mother of babies is over and in some ways, I wish it weren’t.
‘Although it’s obviously not exactly the same, my reborn dolls help me relive that part of my life.
Desperate: Liz still struggles to cope with the distance from her children, sharing, ‘Every day it feels like death. Every day, I think about the moments that I’ve missed. It haunts me’
Helping hand: However she says that her collection of reborn dolls has helped her to forget about all of the things she is missing in her kids’ lives
Emotional: ‘The dolls really give me comfort because I connect them with the feelings I had of being a mother to my two older children when they were young,’ she said
‘I have one room in my house set up like a real nursery and it includes a crib, a wardrobe, a changing table, and shelving.
‘The other part of the room can function as a guest bedroom although it is mostly just used as my happy place.
‘I very rarely take my dolls out in public, but I have done it a few times. Most times people don’t even realize that the doll in the car seat is not real.
‘Once I had a man behind me in line at a grocery store staring at one of my reborn dolls sleeping away in his car seat and he asked how I managed to get back in shape so quickly after just having had a baby.
‘Another time, I drove through a fast-food drive thru and noticed the employee staring at me strangely. It wasn’t until I drove off that I realized he was probably disturbed by the fact that I had what he thought was a real baby sprawled across my front seat.
‘From that point on, I never drove around in the car with my reborn unless it was in a car seat and buckled in properly.
‘In my experience, the people I have met in the reborn community all seem very loving, accepting, kind, and empathetic.
‘Some have reborns to help them cope with something difficult, such as traumatic experiences, while others simply enjoy them as a beautiful form of art.
‘There are also those that just love dolls, who always have and always will. I fit in to all three of these categories.
Going all out: Liz has even set up a fully-functioning nursery for the dolls – despite admitting her current husband isn’t a fan of them
Backlash: She says that some of her friends and family also find the dolls ‘creepy’ and ‘strange’
‘Many collectors, including myself, tend to feel alone in this hobby because there aren’t many people within close proximity that love these dolls like we do or understand how these dolls enrich our lives.
‘Many outsiders see the dolls as creepy and the collectors as strange. Having the reborn community is a blessing to me and to so many other collectors because it gives us a place to belong, to not feel judged, and to share our joy that we have because of our dolls.’
Liz admits that even some of her closest friends and family members find her reborn dolls somewhat unsettling, while others are shocked at how their bodies naturally react when touching the dolls.
‘Most of my close friends and family know about my collection of reborn babies. Most of them think that it is a strange hobby and some even find them creepy,’ she said.
‘However, everyone that spends a good amount of time with me can clearly see how happy they make me and they have accepted that they are a part of my life.
‘Some have even been surprised that when they hold the dolls, their body immediately responds as if holding a human child. For example, patting its back or rocking gently back-and-forth.
‘I would say in general, most people in my life think these dolls are very strange and yet also very amazing at the same time. I do actually have a few friends that love them and wish they could afford one of their own.
‘Initially the realism of these dolls induced an amount of stress on my husband. They somehow released the same stress he felt with the pressure to protect and provide for our own ‘living’ children.
‘He supports me in the hobby the best that he can. He has allowed me to convert one of the rooms in our house to a nursery for my reborns and he doesn’t complain much when I continually add dolls to my collection.
‘I like that he tries to participate. He doesn’t necessarily understand the hobby, but he knows that he enjoys several hobbies and that I deserve to enjoy one as well.’