19 Kids and Counting, the reality show follows the lives of Jim-Bob and Michelle Duggar as they raise their rather large clan in Tontitown, Arkansas. On Tuesday, the entire family paid a visit to the Today show to announce that they're expecting their 20th child.
Twenty kids. All conceived and brought into the world by one woman. My body hurts just thinking about it.
The Duggars have already received their share of criticisms over the years especially after their 19th child, Josie, had to be delivered three and a half months prematurely in order to save Michelle's life. The baby weighed only one pound six ounces, was born with a perforated bowel, and had several medical emergencies while the mother suffered gall bladder problems and preeclampsia during the pregnancy. Not only does this put her at higher risk for preeclampsia in subsequent pregnancies, but doctors also say Michelle could face a higher chance of excessive "bleeding after delivery if her stretched-out uterus can't contract to its normal size as well as it used to." And so people are wondering why the 45-year-old is willing to risk her life for a 20th child.
The family has their child raising down to a set order: older siblings are paired with a younger child to mentor and look after; everyone is home schooled, restricted from using the Internet and television shows, and are taught to play an instrument; they follow fundamentalist Christian beliefs and rules on politeness; and the older children practice chaperoned courting instead of dating around and abstain from physical contact until marriage. To the girl who grew up in a completely different world, some of it sounds stifling, but how would you keep order in a house of so many? Obviously we're only shown snippets and moments in their day that are then strung together to create these episodes, but calm and cheerful Michelle seems to have the job under control.
My parents come from fairly big households, which is not uncommon in the Dominican Republic. My father is the youngest of seven siblings while my mom comes from a home with 11 children. In my mother's case, the older kids had to grow up quickly, abide by some fairly harsh rules, raise the little ones, maintain the house, and, in many cases, put their education and career dreams aside to earn an income. Though they were well off by the village's standards, I've wondered why my grandparents would take that extra strain on. To make sure at least one of their children made it somewhere? Would the kids have had a better shot if their resources didn't have to be divided as much?
And for those who think TLC's programming is a bit procreation happy (though I have to admit I did love me some Jon & Kate Plus 8 back in the day and was quite sad when they split), I recently attended an event for the channel's second season of A Conception Story. This one follows six couples going through different fertility issues as they try to have a baby. The four couples present at the press gathering were all so open and honest about a topic that typically carries shame and secrecy and I really appreciated that along with the humor they still managed to inject into the situation. I do wonder how they feel about the Duggars and if they ever look to them with envy or pain because it seems to come so easily for them.
In addition to coming away with questions about whether or not my petite self would have problems when I'm ready for a family, I also received a pink bag full of First Response ovulation, fertility, and pregnancy kits and more sticks to pee on than I know what to do with. They're stored away for now (and to keep A. from getting nervous), but I'm sure they will come in handy years from now when I decide to have a child or two at most.