Where do babies come from? According to an one baby doll factory, there are no storks involved—only cabbages. If you've ever wondered how the iconic Cabbage Patch Doll is actually born, a visit to North Georgia's Babyland General Hospital may render you and your family speechless (and provide a fun and unexpected daytrip from Atlanta).
BabyLand General Hospital, the birthplace of the iconic Cabbage Patch Doll, was the first stop for us on a day trip visit to the North Georgia mountains. After being confined at home for weeks, the hour and fifteen minute drive from Atlanta's suburbs to Cleveland, Georgia proved a beautiful journey amid the rolling hills and vast green spaces in North Georgia. Not only that, but a visit to BabyLand General Hospital is free.
Those Cabbage Patch Doll faces take many of us back to our own childhoods.
Truth be told, a tour of a baby doll toy factory was not at the top of my two boys' list of choices for a Saturday afternoon activity."It will be fun and I'll buy you a souvenir," I urged, excited at the prospect of revisiting my own childhood memories. As a young girl, I loved the idea of "adopting" one of these unique, handmade dolls that were such a part of the fabric of growing up in the '80s. I remember their squished faces, the excitement of going to pick one that I could call my own, and the feeling of responsibility when getting to sign "adoption" papers for my new baby doll.
Touring the Grounds of Babyland General Hospital
The grounds of Babyland General Hospital are vast (about 650 acres) and well manicured, the building and surroundings resembling a palatial plantation style home, adorned with American Flag ribbons. The building was originally a medical facility, built in 1919 and converted in the '80s to become the famous BabyLand General Hospital.
As we approached the building, we were greeted by a "nurse" in her scrubs, taking the names of our party, which would be called when it was our turn to walk through. Like in a real hospital, all guests are required to sign in.
Newborn Cabbage Patch babe in the nursery...
Entering the hospital, guests are greeted by a nurse and given courtesy paper nurse hats. The corridor passes by a glass encased nursery, where a Cabbage Patch Doll nurse oversees the babies in their incubators.
The rest of the corridor and entrance serve as a museum that traces the history of the Cabbage Patch Doll, from its inception to modern day.
History of The Cabbage Patch Doll
During the self-guided tour, we learned that Little People soft sculptures were the original Cabbage Patch Dolls, created by artist Xavier Roberts, a native of Cleveland, Georgia in 1978. The dolls were touted as one of a kind, and came with adoption papers that children—and soon collectors—would delight in.
The dolls' popularity gained world reknown throughout the '80s and '90s, hitting milestones that few toy dolls have reached. One doll became part of the US space program (and was launched aboard a US shuttle); a Cabbage Patch doll also earned the title of official mascot of the 1996 US Olympic Team (the year the games were held in Atlanta), and another was the subject of a commemorative US postal stamp in 1999. The dolls were featured as ambassadors at a meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Belgium to showcase a holiday in the Southern United States.
After displaying the history of the doll, the corridor leads (unsurprisingly) to a vast and plentiful gift shop, where visitors are welcome and encouraged to shop for a new Cabbage Patch Doll, among other toys. Keeping with tradition, there are also several "adoption" rooms where new parents can sign adoption papers for a new Cabbage Patch Doll.
There are several price points for the dolls; the ones that are mass produced cost around $69, while the originals sell for around $159—the latter coming with the coveted adoption papers.
The crowd gathers for a live birth. Photo courtesy of Babyland General Hospital
The Cabbage Patch Doll Live Birth
The gift shop is centered around a large willowy tree that is the original Cabbage Patch family tree. At the tree's base lies a rock formation lovingly referred to as "Mother Earth," which sprouts Cabbage Patch baby heads.
Here, at the tree, guests are able to witness the live"birthing" of a Cabbage Patch Doll.
Approximately every hour during gift shop hours, an LPN (Licensed Patch Nurse) addresses the audience and assists in the labor of the baby. Simulating a human birth, the LPN uses a metal forceps instrument to check if "Mother Earth" is dilated to a "full 10 leaves."
For some of us, the sight of forceps and the, er, spreading of cabbage leaves may be a little too close for comfort. Just as all the mothers in the audience started to shift uncomfortably, the nurse injected the "epidural" into Mother Earth with a potion that "loosens her leaves." For real.
I wondered if the epidural was a straight shot of vodka.
The LPN encourages the audience to "push" along with Mother Earth, then she shoves her hands into the earth to pull out the baby. And just like that, a Cabbage Patch Doll is born.
"It's a Girl!" exclaims the nurse, displaying the new bundle of joy with big brown eyes and a full head of blonde hair. She then solicits name suggestions from the assembled birthing assistants in the audience.
Even big kids can't resist these dolls.
My kids were non-plussed by the birthing experience and were ready to choose their souvenirs. Even my older son (the one who's too cool for dolls) begged for a small version of a Cabbage Patch Kid. He chose a mini doll dressed like a dragon, declaring it "not as cringey as the others."
Personally, after vicariously laboring with Mother Earth, I was ready for a drink. As luck would have it, Cleveland is also birthplace to a multitude of wineries that beckoned for our next stop on our tour of North Georgia.
This was a factory visit I could easily embrace.
Current protocols during the COVID-19 epidemic require visitors to the grounds and hospital to tour at staggered times, and all guests are required to wear masks to protect other guests (and the "babies," of course).
Photos by the author unless otherwise noted