Tag Archives: doll

Becoming An Instant “Grandmother”…

Yesterday, we welcomed home the new baby. Well, baby doll to be precise. She’s not real which is fairly evident from the photos. However, at the same time, she’s not your standard doll either. She’s what’s known as a baby simulation doll and she is manufactured by RealCare Baby. My daughter is studying Child Studies at school and the “babies” were sent home for two days as an assignment. The dolls come with a pseudo bottle, two nappies and the student wears a wristband to log on every time they care for the baby. The doll also also has computer technology onboard which reports back to base how the baby was treated, especially if the baby was dropped or shaken and the baby will emit loud cries if the head isn’t supported properly. A friend of mine told me she accidentally dropped her daughter’s baby doll a few years ago, and her daughter failed. So, evidently, the are a few pitfalls and I don’t want to be the weakest link.

Naturally, I was fairly curious. I was also rather excited about the whole project, but was also wondering whether this thing was going to keep us awake all night. After all, newborns are synonymous with sleepless nights. I remember them well. I’ve also seen these dolls on TV before, as they’ve been used fairly extensively in sex education classes to prevent teenage pregnancies. The theory goes that if the teens know how difficult a baby can be, they’ll be more careful. However, research suggests that the students who had the dolls were actually more likely to experience a teen pregnancy.

Our elderly neighbours gave us two of these sheepskin bears when our son was born – two in case we lost one or needed to put it through the wash. Their grandchildren had really loved them.

Although the baby would only be staying for a few days, she still needed a name. Miss decided to call her McKinley. I thought she’d told me the doll was Indigenous American and decided to give her a name of my own…Tallulah, which comes from the Choctaw people and means leaping water. My cousins also have a restaurant in Newcastle called Tallulah. However, as it turned out, Tallulah was African-American. However, I only found that out after she’d gone.

Anyway, enough about names. Let’s get on with the doll. Whoops! I mean, baby.

The thing that’s struck me most personally, is how she latches onto your heartstrings. She feels so incredibly real, and yet not (if that makes any sense). Unlike a standard doll made of hollow plastic, Tallulah is weighted and feels surprisingly heavy. Indeed, she weighs around 3 kilos or 6.5 – 7 pounds, which is about the average weight of a new born baby. So, there was a lot of familiarity, and I really felt something rekindle within, which surprised me.

While I’m not going to comment on how Miss went with her assignment, I did get the opportunity to see how a few others responded to Tallulah, and see that she also elicited an emotional response from them both at the local shops with me and also when she made a guest appearance during my Zoom Bible study group.

Starting with the local shops, I had to take Tallulah down to the dance studio to pick up Miss. This was a bit of an exercise and normally, a baby would travel in a capsule, but Tallulah didn’t come with one. So, I just strapped her into the car seat and hoped she didn’t attract attention. To compound matters, I couldn’t get a park out the front and I couldn’t leave Tallulah in the car in case she woke up and needed attention. Consequently, as a 50 something woman, I was left walking down the street carrying a baby doll.

It was very interesting to see how people responded to Tallulah. I could see drivers being extra careful when when I was walking across the pedestrian crossing. They definitely registered “baby” and altered their demeanor. After all, they wouldn’t be expecting me to be carrying a doll around.

I loved the way she put her little arm up like this just like our kids had done.

Then, I had a further opportunity to gauge the reactions of others during my zoom Bible study tonight. The doll was supposed to be turned off while Miss was at dance. However, Tallulah woke up screaming with 15 minutes to go. I abandoned Zoom and ditched my headphones racing to Miss’s room as though Tallulah’s life depended upon me. I managed to find everything I needed to settle her down again except the logging on device. So, I returned to my zoom with a screaming baby the group knew nothing about. The instant they saw her, there was an immediate emotional response, and I even sensed a touch of joy. They didn’t know what was going on at the time, and Tallulah looked real enough, and they wouldn’t have been expecting a fake baby who was my daughter’s homework. They were just humans reacting to what they thought was a real baby.

Even Rosie took an interest in Tallulah, but not without close supervision!!

So, it seems I wasn’t the only one who had an emotional response to Tallulah, and it’s interesting to consider that this baby simulator can stimulate these very emotional (and probably innate) responses when it’s just a piece of plastic. I don’t consider myself particularly into babies and young children and tend to prefer older children. So, the fact this doll (let’s call her by her name – Tallulah) drew me in, says a lot although I wouldn’t say that I love Tallulah. Also, as far as babies go, she was pretty easy going.

This raises an interesting point. If these dolls establish an emotional connection with their carers, are they really an effective deterrent when it comes to teen pregnancies? Could they in fact be encouraging them to want their own real baby instead? On the other hand, they do get a feel for how time consuming a baby can be and unlike Tallulah, they can’t just be switched off while they’re at school or in a dance class.

Anyway, I had a bit of fun being grandma and taking a few photos. While most of our kids’ toys are stored away in our roof, I did manage to find a sheepskin teddy bear which our elderly neighbours gave her. I also found a sheepskin a school friend had given me. She’d used it for her daughters and we used it when Mister was born. Indeed, I’m going to check whether my friend’s daughter has had a baby yet. She might be wanting it back.

While I’ve mainly focused on the upside of having the doll here, I have a few concerns. Firstly, I’m not supportive of the one student having sole responsibility for the doll/baby and there should be capacity for family members to help. After all, we keep saying it takes a village to raise a child, but then putting all responsibility back onto the mother and there are also some quarters who also complain about the declining birth rate. In many ways, it’s good experience for all of us to have experience of a screaming doll-baby who won’t stop crying before we have our own so we have realistic expectations of parenthood. I don’t know whether there is a debriefing process in place when students return the dolls/babies. However, failing could hit a some people fairly hard and while they might be wanting to prevent teen pregnancies, the aim is not to turn young people off having children altogether. It would have been hard for probably all of us as new parents to have been scrutinised like these students caring for our own children We all made mistakes. All had times we struggled to cope. Yet, an important aspect of this program which goes a bit more under the radar is the importance of not shaking your baby and it does raise awareness of these dangers to young people. So, these dolls are not just about sex education, but also give some insights into how to care well for your baby and what will be involved.

Have you or your family had any experience of baby simulation dolls? I’d be interested to hear from you!

Best wishes,

Rowena

New Arrival Due Today!

Thought I’d better warn you before you’re totally shocked. That said, I’m sorely tempted to spin a little story if only my beloved daughter’s reputation wasn’t going to be on the line. What feels like tomorrow, is actually today and Miss will be bringing her “baby” home from school.

“Baby” is one of those baby simulator dolls they send home with teenagers to turn them off teen pregnancies, although apparently studies show that teens who’ve taken these dolls home are actually more likely to have a teen pregnancy and go through with it. That concerns me a little and if she had a boyfriend, perhaps I’d be sending that baby doll straight back to school. However, Miss has been looking forward to this ALL YEAR and it’s been a big motivation for taking her child studies class.

Of course, we never had anything like this when I was at school. Indeed, we didn’t even get to lug around an egg or a bag of flour to get a taste of parenthood in a warped kind of way. After all, there’s very little correlation between a sack of flour and a living, breathing, screaming human baby. Besides, I don’t think my school believed in teen pregnancies, at least ones which went ahead.

Meanwhile, this high tech baby doll does a pretty god job of simulating a human infant (at least according to the promotional video.) It needs to be fed, have it’s nappy changed, cuddled etc Like a real human baby, supporting it’s head is very important and if they don’t support the head properly, the baby gives a pained scream. Ditto if its mistreated. It seems like this baby has all the state-of-the-art computer monitoring capabilities Big Brother would be proud of including a full record of how the student interacts and cares for the baby. So, there’s no covering up poor or mediocre parenting (Or, heaven forbid…a FAIL!!). Indeed, I am hoping I might gain a bit more appreciation after this experiment is over. More understanding. How would you rate my chances?

Anyway, one good thing about this baby is that it only responds to my daughter, who has been given a wristband, which she uses to interact with the baby.

That means I’m let off the hook. No babysitting duties for me.

Well, I’m not sure I’m even going to meet this baby let alone have a photo shoot or spend time together.

I’ve been told it’s hers.

That’s fine.

Here’s to switching off and having a goodnight’s sleep…oh pretty please!

Have any of your kids had one of these baby simulator dolls come home? How did it go? I think I want to know…maybe not!

Best wishes,

Rowena

Couldn’t resist this photo of our beautiful Miss when she was only a couple of days old.

Charles Ernest Pierotti…A Father’s Great Love.

This morning I was reading was reading in the Good Weekend about Keith Austen’s visit to London’s Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. Although I’ve been to London, I haven’t been to this museum and it was simply something interesting to read about while having my morning cup of tea and bowl of porridge. Unfortunately, coffee’s verboten as part of my daily ritual these days and I restrict myself to cappuccinos in cafes once or twice a week, where I also allow myself two spoonfuls of sugar, which are also outlawed. Mind you, just to be deliciously inconsistent, chocolate in whatever guise it arrives in, is allowed free reign. I mightn’t have the most agreeable digestive tract and I might be generously proportioned, but I’m not on life support yet. I deserve a few of life’s simple pleasures.

In between mouthfuls of porridge and sips of tea, I read about what could possibly the world’s most tragic tribute ever produced by a grieving parent. Following the death of his infant son Patrick, famed English doll maker, Charles Ernest Pierotti, made an incredibly life-like replica which is on display in a glass case at the V & A.

Austen writes:

“To me the creepiest exhibit is also one of the most beautiful. It’s a pecularly life-like doll which lies in state in a glass cabinet, a wonderfully realized baby boy with curly blond hair and pale blue eyes. He is wearing a simple, embroidered christening gown. Then, you read the label: “Wax-headed baby doll, about 1900. Patrick Enrico Pierotti died as a baby. His father, the English doll-maker Charles Ernest Pierotti, made the dollas a portrait of him.”

Patrick Enrico Pierotti2

Charles Ernest Pierotti: Patrick Enrico Pierotti. Photo: V  & A Museum.

A quick Google search, took me straight into the V&A vault and I could almost reach out and and hold baby Patrick. Feel the weight of a thousand tears and their family’s grieving hearts. Most of us know someone who has endured the grief of losing a baby, or perhaps we have been there ourselves. It’s a shocker…an angst without end.

Interestingly, however, the online catalogue describes the doll in clinical detail without a drop of emotion:

“Wax portrait doll of a young male caucasian child, with blue glass eyes and blonde human hair curls inserted into the wax. It has a pink poured wax shoulder head, with a stuffed cloth body. The doll is dressed in in a long white cotton gown, with ribbon and a whitework trim and rows of tucks. There is also a cream carrying cape of cream patterned cotton, lined with cotton, trimmed with lace and ribbon ties. Long petticoat of coarse linen and whitework, a second petticoat of cream flannel. The chemise is of white linen.”

That I found creepy.

I needed to give this baby more than just a name. At the very least, a start and finish and if I could possibly ever find out, a cause of death. While child mortality was commonplace at the turn of the century, when it came to baby Patrick we have a such a life-like replica which is still in mint condition 118 years later, that I felt he deserved a word story as well as just an image.

Above: Dolls made by Charles Ernest Pierotti Photos: V  & A Museum.

So, I put on my researchers cap and headed off in search of a date of birth, a date of death, which I fully expected to find during that period. However, I found nothing. Nothing official to acknowledge that baby Patrick Pierotti was ever here.

I have to admit, that I’m a bit surprised, especially when this doll made in his very likeness is in the public eye. Surely, I’m not the only one who has probed a little further and asked these questions? So, now I’m off to contact the V & A Museum of Childhood and see if they can shed any light on it, and I’ll keep you posted.

There’s something for you to digest over your breakfast or whichever meal is next on your agenda. It’s rapidly creeping towards dinner time here and I still don’t feel like I’ve fully woken up yet. It’s a miserable, rainy Saturday and after doing my morning errands, I returned to my PJs and had a balmy nap with my electric blanket on. Life is good. That said, it could be a bit more productive.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS While researching this story, I came across an excellent post at Diyala’s blog regarding  Momento Mori: What is it? where she’s produced a very haunting piece of art featuring this baby doll.

 

Bride Doll Leads Me Astray.

There are time you REALLY don’t want to run into someone you know and being seen photographing a doll in a cemetery could very well top the list.

You see, rewinding back to Monday, I am still on my way home from my train trip to Surry Hills and the medical appointment, which really was the reason for the whole trip, not the deviation I’ve portrayed it.

You can read about the train trip down here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/08/19/me-myself-i-writing-a-complex-character-profile/

And the trip from Surry Hills to Gore Hill here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/08/20/surry-hills-to-gore-hill-sydney-a-hill-climbing-odyssey/

So, I go to my doctor’s appointment and am told I have mild Barrett’s Disease, caused by reflux. They change my medication but are concerned about the stomach acids damaging my lungs and so they want to see me in a month and there’s talk of a small operation. On the upside, the tell me that I won’t need another endoscopy for two years. However, it was looking like I wasn’t going to need another one at all.

One thing is certain. No more chocolate or other snacks just before bed! I don’t drink. I don’t smoke and yet again my one vice comes under attack. What did I ever do to deserve this? Humph! Sometimes, I swear the Wowsers* are out to get me!

I haven’t really given the latest too much thought but there are a few warnings there. The most obvious being “see you in a month”. That’s not a good sign. That’s doctors’ speak for: “Danger, Will Robinson!”

It’s no wonder I’ve been posting quirky photos on my blog…distraction.

The bride doll on the train.

The bride doll on the train.

Anyway, as you might recall, I bought a vintage bride doll for my daughter from the Salvo Store in Surry Hills and I’m lugging her around in a huge Ikea bag along with a chenille bedspread and a cookbook, despite the long trip home. I’m someone who takes their bargains seriously but even I thought it was a bit mad trying to lug this lot up hill and down dale and on multiple trains…especially as I’m not exactly well.

One of my attempts to create a ghost.

One of my attempts to create a ghost.

But these are the sort of feats which build resilience and it could just be that one day that resilience could save my life…if it hasn’t already.

Gore Hill Cemetery in Bloom.

Gore Hill Cemetery in Bloom.

Anyway, not unsurprisingly, there’s an old cemetery just across the road from the hospital: Gore Hill Memorial Cemetery. Established on 19 May 1868, the first body was interred in 1877 and it closed in 1974. I have a few relatives buried there, although I’ve never found their graves.

These days the cemetery is almost used as a park and there are park benches and in Spring, the place comes alive with a diversity of flowers.

DSC_3052

Anyway, since I was walking past, I thought I’d photograph the bride doll, which I have since named Lucinda, in the cemetery. I wondered if she would come out looking like a ghost with the long white dress and I thought there might be some good backdrops as well, given the age of the place.

Looking very glamorous!

Looking very glamorous!

However, even though we are at the tail-end of Winter, very few flowers were out but photographic conditions were perfect so I decided to mostly just take advantage of the light.

This one looks quite eerie, especially with a bit of help from Photoshop.

This one looks quite eerie, especially with a bit of help from Photoshop.

While I find the idea of taking photographs in the cemetery intriguing, I am, of course, mindful that these are not just names etched in stone but the remains of loved ones, which need to be respected.

So, after a few photos, Lucinda and I caught the train home and I was able to find out a bit more about her on Google. She is a Mighty Star Doll and was made in Canada during the 60s or 70s. I am thinking that she might have been used to model wedding gowns. I’m not sure. The clothes have actually been sewn onto her. If anybody knows more about her, I’d love to know.

It’s also a bit intriguing how she came to Australia. No doubt brought over by a little girl or perhaps brought back here as a gift.

Hard to believe how much I managed to cram into one day and how many new ideas are peculating around inside my head.

There is such a thing as creative overdrive!

xx Rowena

*Wowser: In Australia, it is a derogatory word denoting a person who saps all the fun out of any given situation. Derived from the temperance movement in Australia and New Zealand at the turn of the C20th, when it was hurled as an accusation towards conservative teetotallers who were too prim and proper to relax and socialise, it has become a more generic term that can be assigned to any straight bore lacking a sense of humour, especially petty bureaucrats and Aussies politicians. http://www.urbandictionary.com