Michelle Duggar is a mom for the 19th time, and this time, it’s to a micropreemie. Josie Brooklyn Duggar entered the world at 6:27 PM on December 10th via emergency c-section, weighing in at just 1 lb 6 oz. Michelle, who wasn’t due to deliver her baby girl until March 18, was at The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences facility coping with gallbladder-related issues when doctors decided Josie needed to make her appearance. According to a statement from hospital officials, Michelle Duggar had developed the potentially fatal condition known as preeclampsia prior to Josie’s premature delivery.
A TLC network spokesperson for the Duggar family released a statement saying the Duggar baby is “stable” and that both Michelle and Josie are currently resting. Josie has been admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
As far as premature deliveries go, Duggar baby 19 had just edged her way into the realm of viability before being born at 25 weeks’ gestation. The official golden number for preemies is somewhere between 23 and 24 weeks; prior to that age, most doctors and hospitals will refuse to administer life-saving treatment, saying that the children are too young to survive or that they will grow up facing too many challenges.
According to the Endowment for Human Development, 24 weeks is the target minimum age of gestation because of lung development. Around the 24-week mark, a baby’s lungs will begin to produce surfactant, “a substance absolutely necessary for gas exchange” and by extention, successful breathing.
For the time being, Josie Duggar will need a lot of cautious care, according to Neonatal RCN Sara Dore, who works in a Sacramento, CA-area NICU. Dore estimates a 90% survival rate at her facility for babies born around the 25-week mark, but notes that “long-term disabilities or issues are a huge problem”. Most important for Josie’s future well-being are “ventilation, temperature stability” and just “leaving the baby alone”. Babies born at this age have extremely delicate skin that can tear with even the most seemingly inocuous contact, so it will likely be some time before Michelle Duggar will be able to hold baby 19. Dore notes that Josie Duggar can likely expect a 4-month stay in the NICU, as “every organ is at risk for problems with a baby this small”.
Even after her tenure in the hospital, Josie Duggar will likely face a plethora of complications. According to NICU Nurse Jazmine Keys, who also works at a CA facility, Josie’s premature delivery puts her at risk of developing “cerebral palsy or other neurological deficits”, as well as Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia and signficant problems with her eyes.
As medical technology continues to improve over time, though, there’s a substantial amount of gray area and controversy surrounding whether or not a seriously premature baby should be entitled to life-saving efforts by medical professionals. The question become an ethical one: Who is ultimately responsible for determing the value of a human life? As a parent, I can’t imagine allowing my own perfectly healthy premature baby to die, even knowing that down the line, he or she would likely face physical and/or mental issues. Faith would play a role in my own decision, as it will for Michelle Duggar and husband Jim Bob and the rest of the Duggar family.
Micropreemie.com is a website devoted to Gage Allen King, who was born at 24 weeks back in 2001. The journal entries posted there chronicle his life and development, providing hope to parents of micropreemies, babies born weighing between three pounds.
There’s little doubt that the Duggars’ adherence to the Quiverfull lifestyle will bring a rainstorm of criticism over the next several days and weeks as observers try to make sense of little Josie’s premature birth. Did years of almost factory-like baby production finally take its toll on Michelle Duggar’s body? I had less than two years’ spacing between each of my three children, and can remember my doctor clicking his tongue in my direction each time I showed up pregnant. He encourages his patients to wait 18 months between pregnancies to give the mom’s body a chance to return to a healthy stasis.
To offer your own well-wishes and prayers to the Duggar family and particularly to baby Josie, visit their page on the TLC website.
Duggars welcome baby 19, TLC
Michelle Duggar’s 19th Baby Born After Emergency C-Section, Extra
Prenatal Form and Function – The Making of a Human Suit – Unit 16: 6 to 7 months, The Endowment for Human Development
Sara Dore, Neonatal RCN