A woman turned to roleplaying with her collection of realistic dolls to help her process the grief of baby loss – but now her husband and two miracle daughters get involved in the unusual hobby too.
Stay-at-home wife and mum Christina Keeler,36, from Wyalusing in the US state of Pennsylvania, always loved playing with dolls as child, but like most girls grew out of the pastime as she got older.
Christina always dreamt of being a mum one day, but she was diagnosed with endometriosis, a long-term condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes, when she was in her twenties and was told by doctors that she would not be able to conceive.
In 2015, Christina and her husband Bill, 41, found out they were expecting a baby. They were thrilled at the prospect of becoming parents, but their joy turned to heartbreak when they later went through the painful loss of their baby.
Miraculously, Christina and Bill went on to have two healthy daughters, Grace, 4, and Joy, 2, but Christina still had a longing for a newborn baby to hold, dress up and photograph.
“I found myself searching for the feeling of a newborn baby in my arms" she revealed.
At the same time Christina watched a documentary about reborn dolls and the people who take part in the hobby of roleplaying with the hyper realistic dolls as if they are real babies and was instantly intrigued.
Christina researched the hobby on Instagram and bought her first reborn doll, Hannah Hope, in January 2021.
“I found myself looking at reborn dolls on Instagram almost obsessively. Eventually, I was brave enough to message an artist and asked how to purchase one of her dolls and my life was never the same after that," she said.
At first Christina was apprehensive to let her husband know about her newfound interest, but she was overwhelmed when he reacted positively and even took an interest in the hobby himself - offering to help Christina set up a YouTube channel to document her journey.
Currently Christina has a collection of four dolls of newborn roleplay age called, Isabella ‘Izzy’ Sage, Isaiah Scott, Lennon ‘Lenny’ Levi and Princess, that she loves to dress up, snuggle with and take pictures of.
What started off as a hobby for Christina to seek solace and comfort in has now turned into a family affair with Bill and their two daughters actively taking part in roleplaying and looking after the dolls.
Grace and Joy love taking the dolls out in public to places like the supermarket – where people often mistake them for real life babies.
“I love many aspects of the hobby - from dressing them and taking photos, snuggling them, and taking them on outings with my family. I love that it’s a hobby I can do together with my family - they are the most important things to me besides my faith, and to have them share in this hobby I’m so passionate about makes me so happy.
Despite her immediate family being supportive of their hobby, Christina admits that not everyone in her wider family understands reborns – but she hopes by continuing with her social media channels the hobby of reborning will soon be viewed as an acceptable hobby by society.
Family labelled 'freaks'
When Christina is out and about with her dolls, most people are shocked to learn that the dolls are not real babies after mistaking them for real life newborns – something which is highly amusing for the Keeler family.
“I have in-laws nearby that completely disapprove of my hobby and have asked Bill to not support me in it. None of my friends or family have accepted my hobby,” said Christina.
“They find it odd and refuse to even talk about it with me. It’s like the big elephant in the room that we all just pretend isn’t there. It’s hurtful. I’ve even had family members write rude comments on my YouTube channel.
“I had a distant family member comment, ‘You guys are freaks,’ I contemplated responding but decided to just delete it and carry on.
“I wish they would be happy for me and celebrate that I found something I enjoy. This hobby might be strange to some people, but it isn’t hurting anyone - it’s a harmless hobby that I wish we could normalise."
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