January 16, 2012

My Thoughts on the Duggars

Last month I saw a lot of posts and articles on the Duggar family and the recent tragedy they suffered when they lost their 20th child at 19 weeks gestation. I had a lot of thoughts on the matter at the time and still do so thought I'd share.

Just a little background for anyone unfamiliar with the story, the Duggar's have 19 {living} children and at a routine appointment at 19 weeks, the Duggar's learned that their baby girl, their 20th child, no longer had a heartbeat. Michelle Duggar naturally miscarried a few days later. Had this happened just one week later, Michelle Duggar's loss would have been considered a stillbirth and not a miscarriage. The defining line between the two being at 20 weeks gestation.

My first thought was two-fold and maybe, probably, a little harsh of me. But I thought what a shame it was and I felt bad for their loss, but I also thought "I'm not surprised after that many kids!" Maybe that's cruel of me, but I lost my first child. Even now I think my successful pregnancy outcome is only 1 out of 2. So this somewhat jaded part of me knows that it could be worse than 19 out of 21 (she had an early miscarriage several years ago in addition to the most recent loss). But like I said, that's probably a little harsh. And that's the part of me that thinks they are nuts to want/have that many children in the first place, especially with the health issues of their 19th baby who was born severely premature.

But there's this other part of me who thinks big deal! So they want to have a lot of kids? They are decent people and raise children with wholesome values and they just have a really, really strong sense of family. I may not agree with them or their views, but I've yet to see one of their children commit a crime or be a menace to society. They can afford their children and provide for them. So what's the big deal if they want to have a plethora of kids? (obviously there are a lot of counter arguments to this notion)

And above all else, I mostly feel sorry for them. I feel sorry for the little girl who only lived 19 weeks in utero and sorry for the family who loved her, wanted her, and misses her. And I feel especially sorry for the scrutiny they fell under last month over the pictures they took of their child, of little Jubilee.

I read this article and was a little upset with this part:

“It just seems too public and almost seems like, ‘OK, we’re stars, everybody wants to know abut us,’” said Susan Newman, a social psychologist who has taken the Duggars to task for continuing to procreate in two columns for Psychology Today. “From what I know of parents who have lost children, it’s horrific. It’s not something you want pictures of.”

Clearly ole Susie has been fortunate enough never to lose a child. Yup, losing a child is horrific, I'll give her that. But it is something you want pictures of. She makes it seem as if there is something wrong with them for taking photographs of their child. But I think what's most upsetting is her viewpoint is probably a pretty common one in our society. Fortunately part of the article comes to the defense of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, the organization that photographed Jubilee Duggar. I'll admit, when asked if I wanted to take pictures of Cale, my first thought was no. I thought it'd be too hard and that you only take pictures of happy outcomes. I didn't think it was wrong to ask, or wrong to do, but it just didn't feel right. Given the total shock we were in, nothing felt right. But fortunately my nurse took pictures anyway. And I looked at them the second I got home without my baby boy. And have cherished them every day since. And I wish I had more. My two biggest regrets of our time with Cale was that I didn't hold him longer (although forever wouldn't have been long enough) and that I didn't take more pictures of him. I wish I knew about Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep and I wish they could have captured beautiful pictures of my beautiful son. So I think it's wonderful that the Duggar's were able to do this. I think it's wonderful that they will have reminders of the little life that existed, if only for a short while.

And after reading most articles and comments, I feel good to know that it seems most people, especially those in the baby loss community, are supporting and understanding of why the Duggar's took these pictures and sympathetic to their pain and their loss. In fact, I have yet to read a negative response to any of the articles I've seen. Everyone is certainly entitled to an opinion, but frankly, my opinion on the matter is that if you think there is something wrong with a picture of a lost child, then I think there's something wrong with you.

There is also this good article which also defends their actions and looks at our views on death. I think this paragraph sums it up nicely:

"We live in an age in which we can chronicle every moment of our lives via our omnipresent cameras, yet we shudder at the idea of taking – and sharing – the image of a lost baby. For families who’ve endured the pain of pregnancy loss, though, that image will forever be all they have. Sure, not everybody copes with a miscarriage by holding a memorial and passing around pictures, but who’s to decide that grief has to be private? And who’s to say that what is to some just a “sick” photo of a dead fetus isn’t, to her parents, simply their child? And when it later becomes, as it inevitably must, easy for others to forget a life that never began and a hope that was quickly dashed, it’s understandable why it would be so important for the parents to have something to make sure they don’t. A picture. Something that proves that the child they desired was real. And that, just for a moment, they could hold her hand."


  1. I think I would have have written every single word above. Except... I have seen them scrutinized and rude comments that disgust me.

    Losing a child is horrific. Pictures of dead babies... not something any of us wanted to have. Until that is YOUR baby, then there is absolutely no grounds to stand on in judgment.

    They will always miss that baby girl... and I think it's only fair that her life is remembered. However they choose to remember her life will be appropriate to them.

  2. Yes, I too had mixed feelings about the whole thing considering the medical issues they dealt with before but that was still a life, a baby to be loved!
    Every life is precious no matter how they come into the world! I'm sure to you and them until you're in that position there's no room for others to comment on what should be or should have been.
    I pray that family have the peace they need to walk through this whole journey.

  3. I agree with everything you've written here, Caroline. In fact, your initial response to the Duggars' loss was a lot like mine. And your additional thoughts, too. It's heartbreaking, and while the decision to take and share pictures is personal, there is no rule (except socially constructed "norms") that says grief has to be more private than joy. I think we'd all be a lot healthier if we could openly acknowledge our pain as well as our happiness.

  4. I think I had the exact same thoughts as you as well. Definitely mixed feelings. However regardless of how you feel no parent who has lost a child should be judged on the way they choose to grieve that child. Until you've walked in these shoes you have no right. Ugghh.

    I had the same thought as you when our nurse asked if we wanted NILMDTS to come and take pictures of Aiden. "Why would I want pictures of such a sad day?" But thank God my nurses talked me into it. I treasure those pictures with my whole heart....and like you I wish I had more.

  5. I remember reading recently (before their miscarriage) that they had extreme complications with one of their earliest pregnancies (possibly the first set of twins?) and Michelle said if they had decided not to have more based on their previous complications, look at all the blessings they would have missed out on...

    Though many of us would never DREAM of wanting that many children, I think that any loving parent with more than one child knows that no matter how overwhelming the pregnancy can be, once you glimpse him or her it's impossible not to love your baby more than life itself. It was so hard to imagine loving a second (or third or fourth) baby as much as my first, but the moment they came in to my life, my heart began bursting with love for all of my babies. My heart breaks for the Duggars, and I'm so very glad that they were able to capture some permanent memories of the little time they had with their sweet girl.

  6. I agree with everything you've written. I initially judged when I read they were pregnant with Jubilee. I thought selfish things such as, "of course their baby will live because nothing bad ever seems to happen"... And I believed that, until something horrible happened to them, too.

    But when I read the comments about the photos, about how they put on a spectacle by publishing photos of her hands and feet/etc.. I was enraged. Of course they want photos, they're grieving like any blm/bld does. I feel bad that they're in the public eye, and thus at the mercy of ignorant people telling them when/how they should grieve. I'm thankful on being able to have as much (and also as little) as I like.

    Good post lady!

  7. I tried not to read anything about their loss bc I knew I would be upset at the reactions of others. I accidentally read a comment about the pics of the baby being abuse of a corpse. Made me ill that people are so ignorant.