Between two highly publicized weddings and the controversy surrounding their stance on homosexuality, the conservative Christian stars of TLC’s reality show 19 Kids and Counting have made some prominent headlines this year.
More recently is the latest Duggar pregnancies. Jill Duggar (Dillard), the family’s fourth child, married Derick Dillard, 25, on June 21, 2014, before 1,000 onlookers. Then, on August 20, the couple announced to friends and family that they will be expecting their first child.
She was less than eight week along.
Announcing the news raised some eyebrows. Some speculated that Jill was pregnant before her wedding day, sending the rumor mill into overdrive. Others expressed concern that the couple announced the news too soon—before the end of the first trimester—when miscarriage risk is still very high.
Earlier this month, the Duggar’s oldest, Josh, and his wife Anna announced that they, too, are expecting. She was only nine weeks along when they announced the pregnancy.
In an interview with New York Post’s Page Six, Dr. Christine Proudfit, the assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Center, noted the risk of miscarriage drops significantly at after 12 weeks, which is also when Down syndrome testing occurs. This is why most couples wait to announce their pregnancy news. By keeping the matter private, many couples feel they are protecting themselves should the pregnancy end in an unexpected loss.
So why did the Duggar kids break the news so soon when the risk of loss is so high?
While speaking with the New York Post’s Page Six, Jill defended her decision saying, “Understanding that the majority of miscarriages happen within the first trimester, and believing that every life is precious no matter how young, we decided to share our joyful news as soon as we could.”
When the couple found out they were pregnant during the first month of marriage, they decided to share the news after praying about it together.
“Most people, the reason why they wouldn’t share pregnancy news early, [they] are afraid of miscarriage risks,” Jill said in an interview with People, “…the film crew asked us if we wanted to wait. But we knew we would share if we did miscarry. We believe that life is precious no matter how young and you would still want to remember that baby.”
Jill is obviously following in the footsteps of her parents, Jim Bob and Michelle, who announced the miscarriage of their twentieth child.
So is Jill right? By not announcing a pregnancy right away is it somehow minimizing the pregnancy? Is she setting a new standard for conservative Christian audiences?
There’s no questioning that the Bible says life begins at conception. Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you…”
And Psalm 139:13, 16 says:
“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb… Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.”
While some couples choose to plaster the news all over their Facebook walls after seeing two little lines on a pregnancy test, others hold their tongues the full 12 weeks until the risk of miscarriage lessens. And still others share the news with only a select few, like family members, before making it public to protect themselves from additional pain in the event of an unexpected loss. In this case, should the couple experience a miscarriage, there would be fewer questions to dodge, which can be painful and awkward. In addition, those close friends and family can “bear with them” (Galatians 6:2) through a loss or as they wait to share the news of a healthy pregnancy.
“So many pregnancies do end in miscarriage,” Jill said, “and there are lots of women who grieve the loss of babies in private and don’t have support.”
So is there a right answer?
In short: No.
“It’s really a choice,” Proudfit said in response to the Dillard pregnancy. “If they had a miscarriage, some people would want their family members to know, some people want to keep it private just in case.”
She’s right. The decision is a personal one. But Jill sure has given us a lot to think about.
19 Kids and Counting airs on Mondays on TLC.