Probably few people ever experience the spectrum of emotions on both sides of the adoption process like Mary Beth Wells. Her anguish ranged from making the painful decision as a young unwed teen to give up a birth child to a couple who could better care for her, to discovering, years later as a married woman who longed for a family, she could no longer have a child of her own. Then she moved through the slow, nail-biting process of adopting a daughter from Guatemala.
Years later, this emotional roller coaster led to yet another birth—the launch in May 2006 of the Precious Baby Doll Co. With the help of award-winning dollmaker Virginia Turner, Wells created a line of ethnic baby dolls designed to ease parents and children through the difficult adoption process.
“The idea for me to start this doll company was based on my personal story from birth mother to adoptive mother. Yet there is much more to it,” Mary Beth explains. “It’s about celebrating the beauty of one’s heritage, about reaching beyond the boundaries of race and color with open hearts and arms, and loving these children with every fiber of our being.”
First produced was an American doll named “Kimberly Caryn,” the name the young Mary Beth secretly gave to her birth daughter. Second in the line is “Sophia Allesandra,” a sweet-faced Guatemalan baby named after Mary Beth’s adopted daughter. Dolls from other nations soon followed.
Each 17-inch soft-body, vinyl doll comes with a beautifully illustrated book depicting the two worlds that will forever belong to each adoptive child. Written by Mary Beth’s sister, Caryn Wells, they show the triangle of the birth mother and adoptive parents both loving the baby in the middle.
“Adoption is a beautiful and heart-wrenching experience. I watched my sister go through the anguish of losing her birth daughter through adoption and the joy in finally adopting her precious daughter from Guatemala,” says Caryn. “Birth mothers never forget the sacrifice they make to allow their children to grow up in a world that offers a new beginning. That’s why it was important to me to tell the story in such a way that would honor the birth mother and the adoptive parents. That concept became the driving force behind the books.”
Tammy Medlen of Thibodaux, La., had searched for an authentic-looking Guatemalan doll for her adopted daughter, Anna. Her search ended when she discovered the “Sophia” doll. “Mary Beth and I both adopted children from the same agency, which is why the story in the book is nearly identical to my journey,” Medlen says. “It chronicles our entire adoption process and places the feelings we had in book form. This doll is a great way to share Guatemala with my little girl.”
Anastasha Lynn of Tucson, Ariz., had difficulty conceiving a child. Several years and more than $30,000 later, she was totally frustrated, just wanting someone or something to hold onto. Years later she learned of Mary Beth’s dolls. “I ordered one of the dolls for my stepdaughter who is also having fertility issues, so she would have a life-like baby to hold onto while trying to conceive,” Lynn explains.
Joanne Joseph of West Hill, Calif., inherited a collection of international dolls. Over the years she has added a few special pieces to that collection, including Mary Beth’s dolls. “Mary Beth is a beautiful person, both inside and out,” Joseph notes. “The Precious Baby Doll Co. is truly a labor of love. She wanted her dolls to be top quality so she selected a top doll designer and worked closely with her to make sure her dolls would be life-like and beautifully crafted, but I especially love its uniqueness as a gift for any family currently going through the adoption process or who has successfully brought their new baby home.”
When Mary Beth first approached Turner with the idea of creating her doll company, the dollmaker wanted in. “She told me her story of giving up her birth daughter for adoption when she was a teenager and living so many years with a deep sense of loss and unrest, and I knew I wanted to make beautiful faces for her,” Turner explains. “Mary Beth provided me with a picture of her adopted daughter and one of her birth daughter, and I created renditions from those. I did not want any of the faces to be sad because adopted children are chosen, and are very special.”
Mary Beth was thrilled with the results and grateful for the help. “I don’t know where I would be in this venture if it were not for Virginia who creates the wax molds for their faces and limbs. Her work is absolutely beautiful and the faces are so full of expression that most people think the dolls are real!”
After years of searching, Mary Beth finally found her birth daughter, but respected the adoptive parents’ request to stay out of her life until she was an adult. It wasn’t until Leslie Parker was 26 years old that the two met face to face for the very first time in 1997, and part one of the healing process began.
“I have always been able to empathize with Mary Beth’s emotional struggle in giving me up for adoption,” says Leslie, who is now married with a son and daughter of her own. “I know if I were ever in that position, I would always wonder about my child, what she looks like, what she likes to do, whether she’s happy, what her parents are like. These questions would haunt me and I don’t think I would be able to have peace until I met her and learned all the answers and held her in my arms.
“Then to turn around when you are finally married and learn you are unable to conceive would just be the most terrible news,” Leslie continues. “I could not imagine it! I had always hoped Mary Beth would look to adopt one day because I know what a loving, warm and wonderful mother she would make and wanted her to be able to share that love with a child.”
Mary Beth discovered the process of adopting a child was also difficult and anxiety-ridden. After working her way up the waiting list to receive a child, she had to wait nearly six more months after the baby was born before she could bring her home. During that time she made four trips to Guatemala. “It was always so painful to leave her behind, but I knew she was being extremely well taken care of by the adoption agency. Adopting Sophia is the greatest thing I have ever done, and I love her more than I could ever begin to tell.”
Sophia became the second step in the healing process. At last, Mary Beth had two daughters; the circle of adoption to adoption was complete. But the new mother’s trials did not end. The emotional roller coaster she had endured left scars that could not heal. Mary Beth and her husband divorced the following year, leaving her a single mom with a daughter to support.
“There were times when I would cry from being too tired and maybe a little afraid, but I am a very spiritual person and find strength in my faith,” Mary Beth confides. “If I had to speak to people on facing challenges I would say, you have the strength within; find it and move forward.”
Taking a healthy dose of her own advice, Mary Beth started her own doll company, yet another step in the healing process. “The doll company is now my livelihood, but I know I have a wonderful product with a strong message and it keeps me moving forward,” she notes.
Today, Mary Beth is going through the adoption process once again, this time as a single mom trying to find a sister for Sophia. For her, the future couldn’t seem brighter. “I’m so excited because I just found out I am now number two on the waiting list! I can hardly wait to bring home a new sister for Sophia.”
Meanwhile, as the circle of love continues, collectors can look forward to even more precious baby dolls from many more countries.