Monday, December 19, 2011

Thank You, Duggar Family

Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar became household names thanks to their TLC reality show "19 Kids and Counting."  The family made headlines this fall when the family announced they were expecting another child in April 2012.  Public opinion swirled around whether or not Michelle was too old, if they had too many children, what kind of parents they must be, whether they were exploiting their children for monetary gain, etc. 

Michelle went to her routine 19-week ultrasound to find out the baby's gender on December 8th, and a heartbeat could not be found.  Michelle miscarried the baby naturally on December 11th.  The Duggars named the baby Jubilee Shalom.  In a video message Michelle recorded for Jubilee, she says that her name means "joyful celebration of peace."

Unfortunately, this time of loss did not escape public scrutiny.  After the Duggars learned at their ultrasound that their baby had died, they decided to have portraits of Jubilee taken through Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep.  Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (NILMDTS) was created in 2005.  According to their website, 
"The Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep mission is to introduce remembrance photography to parents suffering the loss of a baby with the free gift of professional portraiture. Thousands of families from many different backgrounds and faiths have received services as a way to capture these precious images of their baby. Many families are unprepared for the loss they will suffer. Sometimes having only moments with their child, these images provide tangible proof that their child was real. For many, this is an important part of their healing process. NILMDTS has a network of 7,000 photographers worldwide."
The photos, leaked somehow to the media, have become the center of a controversy.  Some seem to think that the photos are too graphic, that the family is disgusting for posting images of their dead baby, and that this is all part of some publicity stunt.  (How someone can post such hateful and ignorant comments about a family suffering the loss of their baby is beyond me, but that's another post.)  My impression is that those troubled by the images are troubled with the reality of the images.  Jubilee Duggar's little hands and feet are those of a baby, not a mere blob of tissue. 

Image from TMZ
Regardless of how the media came upon the pictures of Jubilee (which were intended for the memorial service and family use), Jubilee's little 19-week-old hands and feet are giving the world a beautiful pro-life message.  A photo of Michelle holding Jubilee's little feet on the family blog has the caption, "There is no foot too small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world." 
The stories in the secular media exclusively talk about the Duggar family losing their "baby," not a "fetus."  Almost overwhelmingly, the online news story comment boxes are full of support for the Duggar family and the loss of their baby.  Here's an LA Times story, and here's a People Magazine article.  Unlike previous news stories about the family, the comments generally say that regardless of their personal opinions of the number of children the Duggars have or how they raise their children, they are sad for the family's loss.  The vitriolic and hateful posts are refreshingly few and far between.  

Thank you, Duggar family.  

Thank you for being unapologetic in your love for your baby and your celebration of her.

Thank you for giving your baby a name that we now associate with those pictures.

Thank you for showing all of us that Jubilee's life was not too short to be commemorated in a beautiful memorial service.  

Thank you for showing us that taking pictures of the children lost in the womb or shortly after birth is a beautiful, healthy, and special treasure for grieving families.  Thank you for indirectly bringing about awareness of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep and other bereavement resources through the images of Jubilee. 

Thank you, Michelle, for reminding us to always count the babies here and in heaven.  In her audio message to Jubilee, Michelle says that from now one when someone asks her how many children she has, she will respond by saying 21, explaining "19 here, and 2 in heaven."


  1. My dear friends in Raleigh had their son at 29 weeks on Oct 29. He was thriving until unexplainably, he developed a blood clot that they now know was the reason for his case of NEC. They had 12 days with him on earth until he passed away. The hospital continually asked if she wanted professional photos taken, this while he was alive and all signs pointed to him growing up into a healthy little boy. She declined. They offered her NILMDTS the day he died, but obviously she and her husband were in no state to think of that when they just needed to hold him and say good bye. There was a photographer in their hometown who mentioned the program to me the day before the funeral. It was completely overwhelming and stressful to mention it to them, but I knew I had to. They wound up doing a session (at absolutely no cost) at the funeral home and though it was difficult, they got to hold him again before having to bury him. The photos they will have from that session will be some of the only ones where they could see his face without the tubes and tape, the only ones where he was wearing an outfit. No matter what people think, they truly have no right to judge this program until they have had a personal experience with it. Grieving parents of angel infants need to cherish every moment, every poop, every smile, every look... everything. If pictures will help them heal, they need to take them, even after the child is gone.

    Shame on whoever leaked the Duggars' photos to the media. It is a personal and intimate decision to take them, and even more to share them with others. That should have been their decision and no one else's. I hope the Duggars will soon find the peace and comfort I know they need right now. -Beth Ann

  2. Beautiful post, Beth Ann. I'm sure it took a lot of courage for you to encourage your friends to have those portraits taken. What a good friend you were to risk offending them or overstepping some boundaries in the hopes of helping them to heal. It's a gift for these families to have good friends like you to encourage them to do things that they may not even think to do (i.e., have portraits taken of their baby) in their moments of grief. Thanks for sharing your story!