C￼hildhood sweethearts, my husband, Ralph, and I dreamed of filling our home with kids.
Between us, we already had so much love, but wanted to share it with a big family.
After struggling to conceive, I fell pregnant with twins, only to lose my tiny son and daughter when I was five months along.
Devastated, my heart began to heal when I gave birth to a baby boy, Alex.
Sadly, afterwards I had to have a hysterectomy.
‘Find someone else!’ I told Ralph, pushing him away.
‘You are not getting rid of me that easily!’ my husband exclaimed.
So when Alex was two, we adopted a baby with Down syndrome called Ryan, who at just four weeks old was perfect.
Two years later, four-week-old David, who had the same condition, joined our family, too.
We were told how amazing we were for opening up our home. The truth was, we were the ones blessed.
Our beautiful boys filled our hearts. Still, my tiny twins were always in my thoughts.
I grieved for the son I’d lost, but I yearned for a daughter.
‘I know you can’t have your own little girl,’ my dad, David, said, giving me a pretty baby doll.
Touched by the gesture, I named her Sarah.
She could never replace my bub, but cradling her did help.
As a nurse, I noticed a similar phenomenon with my dementia patients.
Nursing reborn dolls – amazingly life-like replicas made from kits – their eyes lit up. Having a tiny soul to nurture reduced their anxiety, too.
So, three years ago, I decided it was time to upgrade. I loved Sarah, but I needed a doll that looked and felt like a real-life newborn.
Heading online, I found a little girl doll with light-brown hair and rosy cheeks. Fast asleep, her long lashes were jet-black.
‘That’s her!’ I realised, placing my order.
As I unwrapped her, David watched in awe and stroked the bub’s cheek so softly.
‘I’m going to call you Anastasia,’ I smiled.
Popping out one day, I yelled out to Ralph, ‘Look after the baby!’
A few hours later, my phone buzzed with texts from my proud hubby.
Scrolling through, he’d taken my girl rock climbing!
That’s a bit dangerous – she’s not wearing a harness! I joked back.
See, we knew she was just a doll, but it was great to have a laugh.
‘I want her!’ my friends exclaimed when they met Anastasia.
Both history buffs, Ralph and I had attended many medieval fairs and I’d always sewn our costumes.
Maybe I could make my very own babies!
Watching countless YouTube videos, I picked up the craft.
Not every project went to plan, though. Each layer of paint needed to be heat-set so I had to bake my babies piece by piece!
Popping one bub’s head in the oven, I set the timer for five minutes.
Running outside to help Ralph in the backyard, I had a sick feeling.
I haven’t heard the ding! I realised, racing back inside.
Completely flat, the poor little fella was charred and melted.
‘Oh Ralph, I can’t do anything with this – he’s had it!’ I groaned.
But my clever hubby had an idea.
Using chopsticks to re-inflate his head as best we could, I stuffed it with paper.
He wasn’t stereotypically beautiful, but I wasn’t about to throw my bub in the bin.
So I turned him into a monster!
Shrouding his face with a cloak, now he was the Hunchback of Notre Dame!
While I still made traditional reborn dolls, I began experimenting.
Usually, my babies would have life-life pink-hued skin. But when I made my first vampire, Corbin, I used purple, yellow and green to give a grey complexion.
Instead of a gummy smile, he had razor-sharp fangs.
And he was just gorgeous!
In total I’ve made 60 reborn dolls, which I sell for between $200-$700 – including a Borg from Star Trek and the most terrifying clown of all, It!
‘I’m not going in there!’ my friend Sam said, pointing at my workshop. ‘That thing is in there!’
Recently, Ryan, now, 25, and David, 23, were watching their favourite movie, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, which they put on at least once a week!
‘Nanny, you should make a Grinch baby!’ my granddaughter, Zyetta, 15, said.
Finding the perfect kit, I painted the infant’s skin green and hand-rooted her lime-green hair and bushy eyebrows.
Although I’d have loved to keep her, Ralph had laid down some strict rules.
‘I don’t want 40 babies in the house – two is enough!’ Ralph said, letting me keep just Anastasia and Corbin.
Saying goodbye, I sold her to a girl in the US. Like my boys, she’s a huge Grinch fan, so I knew my little darling was going to a good home.
As always, I’m just happy to share the love!
This story was originally published in that's life! Issue 2, 2018.