How 'Reborn Dolls' Really Can Help Us Cope With Miscarriage & Infant Loss

reborn baby doll

An estimated 15 to 25 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, but just because this loss is a common one doesn't make it any less devastating. Unfortunately, many women suffer in silence -- but a new method of coping might be a way to externalize that internal pain: Reborn dolls, incredibly realistic baby dolls made to look and feel like actual infants, are helping some women to grieve. 



One such woman is 22-year-old TV star Courtney Stodden, who recently miscarried her first child with 56-year-old husband Doug Hutchison at 13 weeks. Since then, Stodden has found some comfort in caring for a male reborn doll, and has shared photos and videos of her doll on Instagram.

"I got a reborn baby based on the advice of my therapist," Stodden told Us Weekly, adding that it's been "surprisingly healing" to have the doll: "When I hold him, I feel incredibly calm," she shared. "He offers a soothing effect that I need at this point in time."

Stodden's reborn doll is indeed astonishingly lifelike -- not to mention adorable -- and she does seem to feel very comfortable holding him:

Thankfully, most of Stodden's fans seem supportive, but (as you might have noticed) there's unfortunately no lack of critical comments on this photo (and others). But while using a doll to heal after a miscarriage might seem unconventional to some, experts say it makes perfect sense. 

"In my opinion, there are so many different ways this doll can be helpful," Aline P. Zoldbrod, PhD, psychologist and author of Men, Women, and Infertility, told CafeMom.

"You might be surprised how often women who have suffered with miscarriage feel shame," she continued. "They believe they did something wrong during the period of gestation, and that's why they lost their baby. Or they believe they did something wrong in life, and they are being punished." 

Zoldbrod believes that carrying around a doll like this -- in private and in public -- can be a powerful way to allow the grief to manifest. "It is a way of refusing to be silenced about the pain," she says.

Bonding with a reborn doll can also help to ease the sorrow of letting go, according to David J. Diamond, PhD, psychologist and cofounder and codirector of the Center for Reproductive Psychology.

More from CafeMom: 11 Meaningful Tattoos That Memorialize Miscarriage & Infant Loss (PHOTOS)

"The attachment to a child begins long before the child is actually born; I would say, in some ways, long before the child is even conceived," Diamond told CafeMom.

That sense of attachment goes beyond the baby, including what Diamond calls a "reproductive story," which involves a woman's hopes and dreams about becoming a parent. When a miscarriage or other type of infant loss occurs, those hopes and dreams are "shattered."

"Holding on to a doll may allow the person to have a partial experience of actualizing all those parts of the story that have been building up over a lifetime," Diamond explained.

More from CafeMom: 25 Celebrities Who Spoke Openly About Their Miscarriage Experience

These dolls also allow women a physical, tangible outlet for their grief -- and in a society that expects women to hold in the pain from this kind of trauma and get on with their lives like nothing ever happened, it's incredibly important for the body and mind to be connected.

"Grief and pain is carried -- usually silently -- in the body," said Zoldbrod. "Holding, hugging, and kissing this doll is self-help expressive therapy. It helps keep the feelings at the fore of consciousness, where they can be processed and the grief can come to completion."

In the end, grief is an individual process; what works for one might not work for another. But since reborn dolls do work for some people, they should be taken seriously as a treatment option -- as long as it's something women are interested in and feel comfortable with. Not, of course, that this method is for women only! 

"It would be helpful for grieving fathers to carry this doll around as well, and for most of the same reasons," said Zoldbrod. "There is even less permission for men to grieve than there is for women."

Everyone deserves permission to grieve.


Image via KeriAnchorsCo/Etsy

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