Maternal Martyr, Michelle Duggar, Willing to Risk Life for Baby #20

Maternal Martyr, Michelle Duggar, Willing to Risk Life for Baby #20 November 8, 2011

by Vyckie Garrison

Mega-family parents, Jim Bob & Michelle Duggar of TLC’s “19 & Counting” fame announced on TODAY they are expecting baby #20 – due in April 2012.

Despite a difficult pregnancy and premature delivery of now-23-month-old, Josie, Michelle told TLC viewers she is willing to “lay down her life” for another baby.

“We do not take for granted the wonderful blessings of life that God has bestowed upon us!” writes Michelle on The Duggar Family website. “Many years ago, Jim Bob & I gave this area of our lives to God, allowing Him to grant life as He saw fit.”

The flip side of the Quiverfull ideal of “trusting the Lord with our family planning” which Jim Bob & Michelle embrace and promote through their TV Reality show, website, and numerous books, is that Michelle also accepts the possibility of her own or her baby’s deaths, should such tragedy occur, as God’s will.

In her book, The Way Home, Beyond Feminism and Back To Reality, Quiverfull proponent, Mary Pride explains that mothers who risk their lives for the sake of building the Kingdom of God are to be honored the same as missionaries:

“Routinely we send missionaries off to work in unsavory climates, knowing full well that they will probably come down with amoebic dysentery, be overheated (or frozen), receive inadequate medical care in second-rate hospitals, and on the average live ten years less than other people. But we don’t tell people not to be missionaries. Instead, we commend missionaries for their courage.

“Missionaries go to foreign countries to beget new Christians; mothers get pregnant to be beget new Christians. Even if maternal missionary work has some hazards (and what missionary work doesn’t?), the noble way is to face them with courage. Likewise, we really ought to honor women with medical problems … diabetes, asthma, quadriplegia, arthritis, heart problems … who are willing to serve God with their bodies as mothers.  These are the unsung heroines of the modern church.  (p. 57 emphasis in original)”

To further understand Michelle’s willingness to risk her life, consider that Quiverfull leaders routinely downplay the health risks when questioned regarding the prudence of prolific motherhood.  Again, Mary Pride, citing page after page of examples of supposedly bogus health risks and throwing in as an added bonus, the “medical dangers of not having children,” encourages women to trust the Lord in the face of suffering:

“Devotees of evil will sacrifice all they have — money, health, reputation — to maintain their lifestyle.  If the actual threat of venereal disease or AIDS does not deter the wicked from their pursuits, why should the mostly phantom threat of “medical problems” deter us from ours?  God will stand by His daughters who are willing to serve Him.”

I explain this idealism which led me to repeatedly endure high-risk pregnancies and life-threatening deliveries in greater detail at No Longer Quivering: here and here.

Quiverfull moms are nothing if not consistent in their submission to the will of God – for better or worse.

Discuss this post on the NLQ forum. Comments are also open below.

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce

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  • Lilah

    One thing that bothers me about the whole Quiverfull movement is that its adherents seem to see childbearing and childrearing as a sort of missionary activity rather than as a way to build a family simply for the sake of building a family or establishing a happy, loving home base. Not only that, but I wonder how securely bonded all the children are to Mom and Dad here. After all, it’s usually the older “buddies” who do most of the hands-on work with the younger kids rather than the parents themselves. And I’ve also seen some of their homeschooling sessions on TV. To me, Michelle Duggar comes across more as a schoolmarm rather than as a mother. And that’s not to mention the fact that I wouldn’t even want any kid of mine to share a classroom with 19 or 20 other kids, and I’m sure a lot of others feel the same way I do about that. But then again, as we have already seen, individual attention isn’t something that is high on the Duggars’ list of priorities.

  • I know a family with eight kids whose mother died because of a respiratory illness between baby 7 and 8. So- ‘laying down your life’ is NOT romantic when loads of kids and a semi-clueless husband is left behind.

    I have 4 children- a late miscarriage between 2 and 3 pointed to some physical problems with me- I risked a bit to have 3 and 4 with hormonal and blood-thinning help. But enough is enough. My kids need me more than a potential sibling. I have never used any form of artificial contraception- using NFP well works just as well to avoid or space- so if I did have a 3-5% surprise, I would embrace it- but the Duggars are ASKING for suffering.

  • Kat

    Even though they’re already grandparents several times over, the last pregnancy almost killed the baby, and they rob their older kids of their childhood and receiving any rearing themselves by turning them into mini-parents, they honestly think it’s still their duty to spawn?

    How is this insanity “pro-life” or “pro-family”? When you’re willing to let a baby suffer and die for your stupid philosophy and strain your resources to the detriment of the other children, I think you’ve missed the entire point of either concept.

    “God will bless me…. until He doesn’t, then I can just say all the consequences of my own stupid choices were his divine plan all along!” Uh yeah, that’s some really dangerous circular logic there.

  • “Missionaries go to foreign countries to beget new Christians; mothers get pregnant to be beget new Christians. Even if maternal missionary work has some hazards (and what missionary work doesn’t?), the noble way is to face them with courage. Likewise, we really ought to honor women with medical problems … diabetes, asthma, quadriplegia, arthritis, heart problems … who are willing to serve God with their bodies as mothers.”

    I remember Jesus telling his disciples to go into the world and make disciples in every nation. I just can’t find the place where he supposedly said women were to have babies in order to make disciples. I remember a verse that says to glorify God with your body. That one’s about staying away from sexual immorality. I can’t find one that says women having babies is serving God. There are verses that talk about loving your children. I can’t find one that says “have more children.”

    I sure wish Ms. Pride would show me where she got all these “biblical” ideas. It looks reckless and irresponsible to me, to tell women that to have child after child after child, is how they should serve God. It doesn’t look to me like Jesus, or Paul, ever got that memo.

  • Andrew

    Not only did Paul not get the memo, Paul wrote that the ultimate Christian life is where one remains single regardless of Gender. Paul taught that the single woman can dedicate herself to serving God while the married woman cannot but needs to spend time pleasing her husband (like cleaning house, raising kids). Paul’s teaching on marriage is for those folks who can’t control their sexual desires and therefore should marry in order to satisfy their sexual desires.(Ideally, but unfortunately we still have a sin nature).

    While I personally respect any couple’s decision to have a large family I realize children is usually a natural blessing not a spiritual blessing. But I also suspect a gluttony problem with so many children in the Duggars case.

  • Pat

    I find myself getting angry about these people for many reasons. One is the way women are just property for having more babies to take of the world. Another is the whole “children are a blessing” bit. What about the couples who are infertile? Is God punishing them? When you are trying to get pregnant and can’t, you think “why me? What did I do wrong?” I have known some wonderful, caring, loving people in my life who never were able to get pregnant. If children are a blessing from God, why didn’t God “bless” them?

  • Sarah

    I look at this family, and all I can think about is the millions of women who died giving birth before birth control was invented, the horrors they had to endure, and the children they left behind. Usually I’m very much a “live and let live” person, but these people absolutely bring out the worst in me.

  • Calulu

    To Pat: Yes, that mentality does equate inability to have children with sin. I was a QF mom for years that suffered 9 miscarriages while being told by the other QF folks around me that God was punishing me for some sort of sin. Years later I found out I had a uterus tilted the wrong way, massive scar tissue starting from my teens and other abnormalities dating back to my birth. So by their thinking I was being punished from forming in my mothers womb til I had that badly needed hysterectomy? Does make any sense. However I am now glad that I only managed to have three kids spaced far apart. I have been able to pour into them, bond with them, raise them in a way I could not have done had I had twenty like the Duggars. Also the small family number allowed us to pay for college, vacations, private lessons, private schools, etc, that we would not have been able to with a crowd. Everything worked out for the best, I know I did nothing to cause my fertility issues and people thinking the number of kids equals God’s favor and righteousness are deluded folks taking the Bible too literally.

  • MST

    @Kat – Although I was never involved in the Quiverfull movement, I am prolife, and I don’t think risking your health to have a baby is prolife or pro family, either. I also believe that we should be good stewards of the earth, and realize that it has finite resources. Maybe I’m a “bad” prolifer, but I think that having this many children is selfish and irresponsible.

  • Vyckie, thank you so much for stressing how in Quiverfull -and associated universes-women like you or me, who have medical risk issues with pregnancy, are so trivialized and disposed of, with any children we might conceive.

    And thank goodness, thank goodness, for birth control!

    My response to your article & my own story of medical risk & pregnancy are here:

  • What I can’t stand is that while we all focus on Michelle’s self-destructive choices (and she does deserve to have these criticized) Jim-Bob is in the clear, as far as most people are concerned. If he’s the head of his household, he should be saying “We are going to take a break and give you time to heal.” In their model of family, he has taken on responsibility for his wife, which includes responsibility for her health. He is ignoring this completely, and risking her life. I don’t think there’s a clearer example of how toxic this kind of marriage is to both partners.

  • Not giving Jim Bob a pass here. Though I could have said something on that point & wish I had. Just that Vyckie’s article focuses on women with pregnancy risks & so does my response. Jim Bob or any other Quiverfull patriarch doesn’t have to worry about preeclampsia or delivering a premature or dead baby from his own body-therefore it’s not a big deal, right?

  • Julierae

    If she is exercising an hour a day and getting plenty of rest who is taking care of all the children. The homeschooling, shopping, cooking and cleaning? Be glad you are not one of the older girls because you are a stay at home mom already and will be until JimBob find you a husband so you can have your own army of children.

  • They conflate ‘life’ with ‘existence’.

    Normally I try to stay neutral on other’s decisions (I mean, sure I have my opinions–I am human–but I keep them to myself unless asked), but this mindset is downright dangerous. As you pointed out, not only is there the dangers to the mother and incoming child, but a lot of psychological damage is done by telling people what they ‘need’, instead of asking them. They also forget that we all need a little bit of selfishness in our lives to stay emotionally (and physically, depending) healthy. Ignoring that is not only bad for yourself, but also the family as a unit.

    Don’t even get me started on the whole obedience thing…

  • MissAnnThrope

    I found your blog following links and well, I was looking for another subject entirely. But I started reading.

    I don’t understand the Quiverfull mentality. As a matter of fact, as I never watched the show the Duggars have, nor read their books, I’ve been blissfully ignorant of the entire thing. That said…

    I find the entire idea of this couple claiming to be Christian and putting her life at risk for the sake of another child distasteful. Is not suicide considered one of the worst sins a person can commit? At least, I was raised being told that it was the worst sin that one can commit, but I was raised Catholic.

    However, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 states, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.”

    That says to me that Michelle Duggar going into a high risk pregnancy where she could die is dishonoring her temple. Jim Bob is just as bad, treating her like livestock. No respect for her body as a temple, he is accountable in destroying her temple should she die. The instant her last pregnancy was over and done with, she should have had her tubes tied, to preserve her temple. Cult mentality or no cult mentality, this couple needs to bone up on their bible study.

  • BTW

    “Routinely we send missionaries off to work in unsavory climates, knowing full well that they will probably come down with amoebic dysentery, be overheated (or frozen), receive inadequate medical care in second-rate hospitals, and on the average live ten years less than other people. But we don’t tell people not to be missionaries. Instead, we commend missionaries for their courage.”

    So you willingly let your husbands go through all kinds of pain and agony to spread a religion that WILL be used to oppress, marginalize, and eventually erase the culture they give it to. Such precious little angels you are.

  • Cassie

    Hi Vyckie,

    I’ve been following the Duggar family and the Jeub family for some time, and I’ve been very impressed with them. I’ve also seen you on a special on WEtv called “Secret Lives of Women” where you told your story about your experience living in a quiverfull family. Several anti-quiverfulls have recommended your website to me.

    I have a question that many in my position are asking. It seems like on the one hand there are indeed all of these quiverfull families that work well, then there are many (I’ve only seen yourself so far) women who left the lifestyle, usually after a divorce (I assume) and may be feeling- dare I say- a bit bitter about the whole experience.

    My question is, how much accountability do you take in the fact that you and apparently many other women chose to marry your husbands, who then turned out to be abusive? It seems like no God or other religious people put you up to it, you guys did choose to marry out of your own free will. So on the most superficial level, I’m sure you’re aware, this could seem to outsiders like you may be bitter because while a Michelle Duggar got the “good one”, you and the other sufferers got the bad ones and may be feeling a little upset about your choices, now bent on insisting that all other quiverfulls are just as miserable as you guys were. Do you understand what I mean?

    On the most superficial level, possibly on the most real level, it seems like there is a definite bitterness to the aftermath of your story. Many people see it as “well, she chose to marry him. It’s no one’s fault but hers.” But you seem to be saying it is the fault of a philosophy, or a religion, and that ultimately all who follow this philosophy are just as miserable as you were, and that all the men are also abusive. Is that what you are saying, that someone like Jim Bob Duggar is abusive, and that Michelle Duggar is to be looked down upon because she cooks, cleans and has babies to no end? Just because they subscribe to the same birth philosophy that you and your ex-husband did?

  • dsatitra1

    […] The Duggars are culture warriors of the first order. Jim Bob Duggar is a perennial Republican candidate, and their lifestyle is about patriarchal, authoritarian narcissism. Like right-wing settler families in the West Bank boasting prodigious birthrates, they are trying to outnumber the godless no matter what the cost: […]

    The Orthodox Jews, it’s worldwide, not just the ones on the WB, prolific breeding is just as wrong as what the Duggars are doing.

  • Another Halocene Human

    That’s because that doesn’t come from the Bible, it comes straight from the Nazi party. The Nazi regime gave women who’d had multiple births special medals to wear that entitled them to priority seating on public transport. At that time in Central Europe it was common for veterans to be given priority seating. So they were saying that the multiparous woman was equivalent to a war hero for the Fatherland.

    The most “genetically pure” (not Jewish) young party members joined the SS or, if female, were assigned to so-called SS “stud farms” where they were supposed to have SS officers’ babies–married or not. The Nazi state was pro-marriage (to encourage Aryan babymaking) and censored publications–even comedians–from making statements disparaging to the married state. But when it came to fertile young people, the Third Reich looked the other way–pregnant was good.

    (Pregnant by a Polish farmhand, however, and the Gestapo was looking for someone to string up… Supposedly, however, Catholic Germans were rather less eager to rat out the equally-Catholic Poles than they were to rat out Jews to the Gestapo in the waning days of the war.)

    Many of the SS were aficianados of an esoteric neo-Paganism, even holding special “Aryan” weddings with swastikas aplenty. However, the Churches are not immune to criticism, as the German Lutheran church quickly fell into line with Gleichanschaltuung, while the Catholic Church gave the Nazi regime early legitimacy with the Reichskonkordat (which, however, gave the RCC permission to pass diplomatic packets unmolested and, in a very small way, allowed the wartime Pope to save some few thousand people from the death camps).

    But, essentially, eugenics is a product of the 19th century. Ascribing such ideas to the Bible is sheer anachronism. The Biblical God promised the patriarchs descendants because on a farm many children translated into wealth. Not because God was trying to raise up spiritual cannon fodder. In fact, there are many times in the Bible in which God prefers the few over the many, such as the tale of Gideon’s army. Food for thought.

    (Btw, I am no longer a professing Christian.)

  • Another Halocene Human

    Gluttony? Perhaps a spiritual gluttony. Pride, fear, envy, an all-encompassing need to control others. (You control others in America by outspending them and outnumbering them, especially the latter in evangelical circles.)

    It’s a form of malignant narcissism.

    You are quite right about Paul. Early Christians believed the end was nigh and were very big on sexual continence. They also partied at funerals. 🙂

  • Another Halocene Human

    Take this Bible and shove it!

  • Another Halocene Human

    Amen to that. My Bible-believin’, sister-rapin’, ass-whuppin’, unlettered German-American forbears did have some inkling of sense–they did NOT have “Irish twins” because they believed it was the duty of the man to “leave his wife alone” or “give her a rest” after she’s just had a baby. (And, believe you me, their tongues clucked when other farm families popped them out too close together–they blamed the MEN.)

  • Another Halocene Human

    It’s a narcissist’s dream: narcissism enacted upon one’s children with SOCIAL APPROVAL.

    Most narcissists who control the **** out of their kids have to be sneaky about it because other people peg onto the fact that something’s not quite right…

  • Another Halocene Human

    You obviously haven’t read enough of this site’s content. The belief system that Quiverfull is a part of gives cover to abusers and enables their abuse. It also encourages or even compels cruel and abusive behavior by people who love their spouse/child but have been told this is the “godly” way to act. They comply out of fear because they attribute order/success/improvement in their lives to an extremist version of evangelical xtianity and so, psychologically, cannot doubt a word of it or (they believe) they will physically, mentally, and socially disintegrate.

    Fear can make people do terrible things. So can obedience to authoritarian power structures (which is heavily motivated by unconscious fear). Some very famous psychology experiments come to mind here.

  • MeganD

    Actually, it DOES come from the bible. Genesis 1:28. “28And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

  • I do not watch reality TV. I personally find it a waste of my time and make the choice not to fill my brain with unnecessary details about the lives of people I do care to learn about. That said, I resent having those dramas invade my “real” life but feel the need to comment on the way that I see these shows impacting women.

    Some argue Michelle is a feminist as she chooses to have more kids, while others say feminists believe women should work and maybe have two kids. I think plenty of feminists do not work outside the home, and it isn’t against the feminist club to have a child.
    I support personal choice, but there is a point where certain choices overpopulate the planet and reduce resources for the rest of us. It pisses me off to no end that people say something is “God’s choice” and it is “His will” that something happens (or does not happen) as the Duggars employ as their guilt-free reasoning of having so many kids. What liberation of the self must be enjoyed when we let any savior or God determine our life and give us no ownership of personal control in life, choosing to leave us powerless.

    God might actually want you to use a condom, how do you know? The obvious way would be to drop by with a post-it note by your bedside table with a little box of condoms saying “use me”. So that would be absurd but silence is not?

    While I’m on this tangent, I abhor hearing things like:
    “I just failed my math test. God willed it. Not my fault.”
    “I just got pregnant again for the fourth time in 6 years. It is His will. I am having another baby!”

    Are these Duggar kids going to be given as much attention as they would in a home with one or two other siblings? Probably not. A friend of mine has six siblings and resented having to take care of her younger sisters and brothers because her parents would not stop having kids. She missed out on a lot because all the love, attention, finances, etc had to be spread around seven kids. She went to college far away from home to avoid what she called the circus of home. Needless to say, she will not be doing any reproducing anytime soon.

    There are more than seven BILLION people on the planet. If the Duggars want to increase the size of their household why don’t they adopt some of the children around the world who have nothing? Is that not the more socially responsible thing to do?

    When it comes to the point that having children risks your life and potentially leaves your kids motherless for the rest of THEIR lives, be responsible and stop having kids!

  • Cassie

    Interesting editing of the comments that happened after my, dare I say, somewhat controversial one (in the context of this emotionally charged site).

    My questions went unanswered as I knew they would. I was accused of blaming the victims (for choosing to marry who they did, and not being accountable for that decision), yet since all quiverfull wives are supposed to be abused, why does Vyckie Garrison not hesitate to abuse and ridicule Michelle Duggar? Isn’t Mrs. Duggar just another abused victim of patriarchy and male authority?

    Sheesh, another obvious question that comes to mind is if male authority is so evil, why in the world did Vyckie’s daughter join the military where she will be yelled at by men for four years?! These questions never get answered, it’s why the anti-quiverfull movement will never make any ground, it can’t even show its face and properly identify what abuse is. Anonymous finger pointers and mentally ill pill poppers who chose bad husbands (according to mentally unstable wives) they threw under the bus. Good luck getting anyone but Christianphobes and other imbalanced hateful people to sympathize.

  • LiberalJesus

    Can you stop, I dare say, saying “I dare say” as if you are an aristocratic nobleman? It paints this lovely picture of you sneering down your little nose at everyone on this forum and we can all feel it. You are being pretentious and, dare I say, trollish. If you don’t agree with what she’s said, give reasons against what she’s said and not a strawman arguement that cruely attacks abuse victims. Because, dare I say it dear, you are coming off as quite the bitch. Hm, yes. Quite.

  • LiberalJesus

    PS. They let women into high ranks of the military now too. I know, so weird right? Just FYI before you embarass yourself furthur.