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A reborn doll is helping this teenager overcome her miscarriage.

She says she considers Lexi to be her real daughter.

Warning: This post deals with miscarriage and loss and may be upsetting for some readers. 

Like many parents, the waking in the night is the toughest bit, but 18-year old Natalie Harcourt does it devotedly, every two-hours waking to check on baby Lexi.

She follows a routine to ensure that Lexi has the best care – waking her at 9am before settling her in front of her favourite kids TV shows and giving her breakfast.

Natalie and her “baby” Lexi.

They then go out, mother and daughter, Natalie pushes Lexi in her black spotted pram and they walk to the local park to feed the ducks, or to or visit friends.

The only difference between this young mother and the other mums she meets on the way is that her baby, Lexi isn’t alive.

Lexi is fake – a “reborn baby” or a doll that Natalie cares for just like she was her own child.

She treats Lexi just as though she is a real baby.

Natalie Harcourt, from Bridgend South Wales has spoken to The Mirror about how caring for Lexi has helped her overcome a miscarriage she had when she was just 16.

The teenager, who says she suffers from depression, was given the reborn baby as a way to cope with her pain.

She told the newspaper that Lexi is her world.

“I was ­absolutely heartbroken when I lost my baby. I’ll never forget the baby I have lost, but Lexi is a great comfort to me.”

Now in a new relationship – and engaged Natalie’s Facebook page is filled with images of recent and happier days.

Natalie and partner, BJ. “Having that baby in our life is the vest [sic] thing ever we are a family”

Writing: “Having that baby in our life is the vest [sic] thing ever we are a family”

For Natalie baby Lexi is just like having a newborn and she is determined to have a “real parenting experience”, even setting an alarm every two hours during the night to check on her and spending thousands on a pram, cot, bouncer, clothes and accessories.

“I know people might think it’s a bit strange that I’m just 18 and sitting indoors with my reborn doll while my mates are out clubbing on a Saturday night.

“But at least I’m not spending on drugs or alcohol. I think I’m quite sensible.

“I’m desperate to have a real baby one day – hopefully a girl so her and Lexi can share clothes. I will take them out in a double buggy together.” She told The Mirror.

Natalie and her partner, KJ even use a baby monitor to keep a close eye on Lexi when she is placed down for a sleep in her cot.

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Natalie says that when falling pregnant at the age of 16 to her boyfriend at the time she knew that having a baby was all she ever wanted.

“Losing the baby was devastating and I felt like I was in a very dark place and have never really recovered fully. I went to the doctors and they gave me antidepressants.”

She says that Lexi is helping her cope with her grief.

Natalie said: “People sometimes just think she is real or stop and ask if she is a doll. I tell them the truth and move on. Sometimes they ask to hold Lexi and I let them but tell them to be careful. But there is a huge stigma attached to having a reborn and people laugh at grown women playing with dolls.”

“I know people who have them and don’t tell their family because they are embarrassed and worried they will be made fun of. But reborns are so much more than dolls. Lexi is like my therapy – she helps with my depression.

Rebecca Martinez, a photographer who has extensively documented the Reborn movement,  spoke to The New York Times about women who use reborn dolls.

“Many of them have a very, very strong genetic makeup to nurture and they love babies, and many are mothers. A lot of people think these are people who can’t have children. Some are, but many of them have children and love the baby stage of nurturing. They can love a baby, they can nurture it in a permanent way.”

Natalie says all she ever wanted was a baby.

Psychological therapist Emma Kenny told The Mirror that Natalie’s obsession with the doll was an extreme reaction to grief but that it may not be helping her in the long term “The problem is that by using this doll as a prop, she’s not necessarily working through the genuine loss she has suffered. She feels safe and completely in control because the doll can’t die.”

Rebecca Martinez said that we shouldn’t be so judgmental about what women choose to invest their emotions in.

“It is a personal choice, where we put those emotions,” she said. “People will love people and living creatures, but when people choose something that’s not real, and project all this love into that, I do my best to try to understand it.”

“People are less judging when men choose to love an inanimate object like a racing car,” she added. “Why are people so judging when women choose to love something that looks so real?”

For Natalie Lexi is a way of preparing her to be a mum when the right time comes.

“I have always longed to be a mum so I can give a child something I never had. I love babies and children and think I have a lot to give as a mother.”

For pregnancy loss or stillbirth support contact SANDS.