Yesterday Michelle and Jim-Bob Duggar and their 19 kids, daughter in law and two grandchildren were on the Today Show to gleefully announce Michelle’s pregnancy at 45 with what will be her 20th child. The collective response seemed to be “give it a rest already,” “don’t you have enough?” and “this family is a cult.” It was bizarre to see how happy the parents were compared to how understandably dazed all of their children seemed during the announcement. Plus Michelle acted like it was no biggie to her that both she and her last baby almost died while giving birth the last time. She had the time to work out an hour a day, she explained, and this was the longest she’d ever gone between pregnancies. Well now Michelle and Jim-Bob are defending the fact that they’re having even more kids. They say, predictably, that every child is a gift from God, that they spend a lot of time with their kids since they homeschool them (and ensure they’re not exposed to any scientific concepts that would put their beliefs into question) and that there’s no reason not to have another baby just because Michelle had so many medical problems during her last pregnancy.
“Every child deserves to be excited they are a part of life,” Michelle tells PEOPLE after just revealing that she is pregnant with her 20th child. “Even when we were having our 5th and 6th [kid] … we would celebrate each pregnancy.”
The reality stars have faced mounting criticism over the size of their family and the risks of Michelle’s new pregnancy following the premature birth of their daughter, Josie, in Dec. 2009. But the couple insists that Josie’s frightening premature birth and Michelle’s life-threatening preeclampsia were not enough to convince them that 19 kids were enough.
“If we felt that way, we would have stopped back with our second birth,” insists Michelle, 45, who experienced preeclampsia during her second pregnancy with twins John David and Jana, now 21. “There are many women who have experienced preeclampsia and have gone on to have more children.”
“That whole mind set that you stop after a problem pregnancy isn’t realistic,” she continues. “You may encounter struggles along the way. You may not have a perfect pregnancy, but each child is a precious gift.”
The Duggars, who star on TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting, live debt free in a house they built themselves in Tontitown, Ark. They have also come under fire from those suggesting that their older kids have too much responsibility caring for the younger ones and that they don’t pay enough individual attention to their kids.
“We homeschool, so we are around our children day in and day out,” says Jim Bob, 46. “Because I am in real estate, I am home and can be with the children a lot. When we go to the store or run errands, we take the kids one on one and we get to spend more time individually than a lot of parents do.”
Michelle, who is under the care of a high-risk pregnancy doctor, agrees: “The beauty of being in a large family,” she says, “is that everyone works together as a team and it is about teaching our children responsibility.”
And, she says, the family doesn’t take their critics to heart.
“There are a lot of good things we can learn from our critics,” she says. “We really believe we are following our faith and there are sometimes going to be people who don’t agree and we aren’t going to worry about the negative things stated.”
“We are thankful for those out there who are happy,” says Michelle, “and we are grateful for each and every gift of a child.”
Michelle is not fulfilled unless she’s pregnant or currently has a baby under one. It makes me wonder if she’ll have some sort of breakdown after menopause, or if she’ll finally start to pay attention to her older kids. Maybe she’ll become more self-centered and get a new hairstyle for once. As I’ve said before, I do hope that this pregnancy is a healthy one for her. I just hope it’s her last. She surely doesn’t feel that way.
All photos are from The Duggar Family website, where you can learn all about creationism.