Family Matters

19 Kids and Counting: Why the Duggar Family Keeps Having Kids

Even fans worry that Michelle Duggar is toying with her health by attempting future pregnancies.

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Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar of "19 Kids and Counting" speak at the Values Voter Summit, which drew nearly 2,000 people to advocate for conservative causes, on Sept. 17, 2010, in Washington, D.C.

Michelle Duggar isn’t big on leaving well enough alone. Well enough, in this prolific procreator’s case, is 19 children. This week, we learned she wants more.

In December, she suffered a much-publicized miscarriage of a girl she and her husband, Jim Bob, named Jubilee Shalom; she would have been the couple’s 20th child. On Tuesday, the Duggars made their first public appearance since losing that pregnancy, where Michelle Duggar told Ann Curry on Today that “I would do it again.”

She clearly loves babies, and I get that. But at some point, it would seem prudent to be happy with your (abundant) lot. Duggar is 45, well into the gray area where pregnancies are more apt to go awry. The Duggars seem so sincere that it would feel downright insincere to question whether their desire to welcome another child to their brood could have anything to do with the continued relevancy of their nine-season reality show, 19 Kids and Counting. The season premiere aired Tuesday night, after their Today interview, and focused on the recent miscarriage.

MORE: George W. Bush, His Mom and Her Fetus: Not So Weird After All

The episode chronicled the wrenching moment when a routine ultrasound revealed that Jubilee’s heart was no longer beating. I’ve been there too, so it’s not that I have no sympathy for the Duggars’ grief. And kudos to them for allowing the footage to air, believing, as Michelle Duggar told Access Hollywood, that “it was a way to help other families go through difficult situations.”

But I wonder why they can’t seem to find sufficient satisfaction in the bevy of kids they have succeeded in bringing into this world. “Every child is a blessing from the Lord,” Michelle Duggar told Curry. But how can you truly appreciate your blessings when there are so very many?

At BabyCenter.com, Sara McGinnis worries that “the Duggars’ convictions play dangerously with Michelle’s health (19th child Josie was born very prematurely via emergency c-section due to pre-eclampsia)…[and] as a fan sitting on the other side of the television screen [I] feel fear that this family might have to go through such an experience again — or worse.”

MORE: Women Grieve Miscarriage for Years, Even After Having a Healthy Baby

In response, one reader wrote: “They will be trying (or at least not preventing) until she is in menopause and/or until she dies in delivery — whichever happens first. They obviously have no regard for limits or caution or whatever…” Another commented: “I feel bewilderment and frustration. 19 kids and two grandkids to take care of and love! Time to take all of the blessings they already have and make the most of that.” But others — many others — praise their faith in God.

Yet I can’t keep thinking that there’s a reason most people have a kid or two, maybe three or even four, and then blow the whistle. Kids demand — and deserve — attention. I can’t fathom how two parents can possibly do laundry for 19 children, let alone spend time with each of them. Then again, I don’t have to contend with Nielsen ratings.

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