On arrival to Babyland General you can expect to wend your way through a pack of 6-year-olds as the woman in a nurse’s uniform advises them on which way to start the tour.
You will then proceed to wander through room after room of themed nurseries filled to the brink with stuffed, dull-eyed, yarn-coiffured babies. One should be prepared. Those born after the eighties or who simply weren’t paying attention during the decade may have missed out on the squash-faced, soft-bodied dolls put out by Coleco known as Cabbage Patch Dolls.
Coleco bought the rights earlier in the 1980s from an entrepreneur extraordinaire – Xavier Roberts. Xavier had sewn these dolls and effectively marketed them in the 1970s. The lure of the soft-bodied toys was that they weren’t really “dolls” at all but real “babies.” You couldn’t just buy one; you had to “adopt” them. Just as in a real adoption, you signed papers, showed ID, received certificates with a clumsy moniker. Xavier’s name was cheerfully emblazoned on all the new adoptees’ butts.
As part of this, Xavier set up a “hospital” in an old abandoned medical facility on the main drag in Cleveland. He fashioned a fantasy land where scores of children could be shuttled through rooms with large glass windows. Behind each window, women in nurse uniforms would tend to the needs of hundreds of the cabbage-born babies. The BIG room came shortly after. Babyland General Hospital moved into a new and much larger facility in 2009.
The major attraction of the complex is a glittering carnival of over-stimulation. In the center of the room is a giant fiberglass tree with crystals hanging from its branches. Suspended flying bunnies with crystal wands are supposedly responsible for “fertilizing” the cabbages, though exactly how this is accomplished goes unsaid.
A perimeter surrounding the Magic Birthing Tree features fabric cabbages that hold the disembodied heads of “babies” about to be born. In the center is a large cabbage with a dark television screen behind it. Over towards the adoption office, someone (often a girl in her late teens) wearing surgeon scrubs will call out a doctor’s name and announce “We have Code Green – mother cabbage is now six centimeters dilated…” When the dilation reaches 10 centimeters the lights go down.
At this point in the birthing process, the plastic crystals at the base of the cabbage start to glow. A man dressed like a doctor pops up from places unknown. The announcer will then note that the mother cabbage is fully dilated. But in order to have the cabbage baby she will need “10 CC’s of imagicillin, stat!” A long cable with a fat end is then wedged into the cabbage and the dark TV screen will glow a hot pink, thereby determining the baby about to be born is, in fact, a girl.
A long pair of salad tongs is produced and used to fold back the green fabric cabbage “leaves” from which the baby is being birthed. Everyone is asked to hold their breath to aid the mother cabbage in the birth. The fake doctor will then suddenly thrust his hand into mother cabbage all the way up to his elbow and pull out a pudgy fabric newborn with blue eyes and curly blond hair.
The doctor then holds up the fabric baby by the feet, slaps its naked butt cheeks, and pronounces it healthy.