I'm a ‘mother' to 13 doll babies - it's preparing me for parenthood

13:29 18.09.2023 - New York Post

There are many things people do to prepare themselves to become parents, and this couple took an approach that's a little more untraditional.

Jess Ellis, 27, and her fiance, Avery Raassen, 33, are mom and dad to 13 fake babies, changing diapers of dolls and taking them out in strollers.

Ellis started to collect reborn dolls - toys realistically modeled after infants - during the height of the pandemic in May 2020 when she was feeling "lonely."

"I have always loved babies - there is something very calming about holding a baby," Ellis, from East London, told South West News Service.

After buying her first baby Rebecca, a one-month-old girl, for about $300, she started to develop an obsession.

"We have had a few babies in my family - I have a goddaughter and that was always my favorite stage when someone had a baby - being able to hold a reborn is really special," Ellis shared.

Her second doll came in November 2020, which was a newborn named Sam - who cost almost $700.

Ellis has spent nearly $7,500 on her collection of babies, which also includes one-month-old June, eight-month-old Brooklyn, newborn Manuela, three-month-old Zain, newborn Lilly, newborn Annalese, newborn Aria; Charlie, 1; Pippa, 1; and June, 4.

Her most expensive child is Cookie, a premature baby girl, which cost her $2,100.

"I love looking at them and yes, sometimes you can look very quickly and fool yourself into thinking they are real," Ellis said. "It is very therapeutic holding them, if I have got stressed or anxious it is very calming. In some ways, they help prepare you for being a parent."

Even though parents always say they don't have a favorite child, Ellis isn't afraid to admit she does indeed have a favorite child - Aria, her newest.

"I often keep her in her car seat because that is where I think she looks the most realistic," she shared. "I look at her and think she is real, this is another reason I keep her in her car seat because it looks like I have just brought her home from the hospital. She is gorgeous."

Ellis said the dolls sometimes get mistaken for real babies when they're out in public, but her response "depends on whether I am in a hurry or not."

"If I am rushing and they compliment how cute they are I will say ‘thank you,'" she explained. "But if I have more time I will explain how they are dolls and people are usually really interested."

Raassen, a pastry chef, is "incredibly supportive" of Ellis's infatuation - and even helps her change their diapers and get them dressed.

"My fiance had never changed a diaper or held a baby until I introduced him to reborns, and so I made him change one of them which definitely increased his confidence for changing and holding a real baby," Ellis shared.

Raassen added, "I love having the reborn babies around the house. They have helped me learn how to hold a real baby and change their nappies."

During COVID, Ellis was "very, very anxious" about leaving the house, so Raassen bought her a stroller to encourage her to get outside, and she would take the dolls for a walk at the local park.

Ellis admitted she still takes them for walks sometimes because "it's really fun" to push a stroller around.

Her mom, Nicky, 60, was also extremely supportive and interested in the art aspect and how they're made - and she even took them to a doll show.

However, her dad, Andrew, 55, tells her that the collection is "very bizarre... but he is also proud of me for doing something I enjoy and not being ashamed to talk about it."

While Ellis and Raassen would love to have a child of their own, they feel they aren't ready just yet and the 13 fake babies are helping them prepare for parenthood in the meantime.

"In a way, they are a placebo to help with baby fever. I do change them quite a lot," Ellis said. "I find it a bonding experience, which sounds strange to say."

However, they are dolls, and Ellis acknowledges that.

"I also recognize that these are not real babies and I often leave them in places you definitely should not leave a real baby - like a table or sofa," she admitted.

Ellis has now monetized her passion - creating and selling reborn dolls to "give back" to the online reborn community.

So far, Ellis has made 14 dolls in total and sold them for less than $250 each.

She's earned $2,500 since starting the part-time business four months ago, with each doll taking around three weeks on and off to create.

"I got a kit where they send everything you need to make one doll. It was awful, but I had so much fun doing it. I stripped it and re-painted it," she said. "I did a giveaway of that doll. It was a nice way for me to give back to the community and give back to the people who can't afford these dolls."

/ Monday, September 18, 2023, 1:29 PM /

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